Underground infrastructure carries all sorts of things essential to the functioning of a modern society: electricity, gas, water, sewage, information. And now, rubbish!
The Council of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia, announced recently: “The Sunshine Coast is again taking a nation leading position by unveiling Australia’s first, high-tech, underground automated waste collection system for a CBD, to be installed in the new Maroochydore City Centre.”
The council’s announcement went on to explain that, rather than using wheelie bins, waste in the new Maroochydore City Centre would be transported from apartments and commercial buildings at up to 70kmh through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes.
“This system will remove the need for garbage trucks and wheelie bins in the Maroochydore City Centre, making the city heart more attractive,” the council said.
“It will also reduce odours and vermin, and the costs of daily street cleaning will be reduced. This technology also increases recycling rates, so our natural environment will benefit too.”
The Sunshine Coast Council might be the first in Australia, but it is certainly not the first worldwide.
As Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson explained when plans for the system were announced back in 2016,“New urban developments in Stockholm, Seoul, Barcelona, London, Singapore and Beijing have all utilised the Swedish-designed Envac waste collection system – but no Australian city has done so - until now.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the technology is not new. Envac says it invented the vacuum waste system in 1961. Today it claims to have systems in operation all over the world - in residential areas, business premises, town centres, industrial kitchens, hospitals and airports.
It explains that the system grew out of its founders’ looking to develop a centralised system to vacuum up dust throughout a Swedish hospital, prompting them to ask: “If we can vacuum the dust from every corner of the hospital in one single system, why can’t we do the same thing with the waste?”
The result was that, in 1961 Centralsug AB, as the company was then known, installed the first vacuum waste system in the world at Sollefteå Hospital. Envac says this system is still in operation today with many original parts from the early 1960s.
It does not say how many of its systems are in operation today, but it’s certainly a substantial business: the company boasts 35 offices in 22 countries.
Some of its installations are impressively large. In September 2017 Envac announced that it had been awarded a contract to install a system in Gangnam-Gu, Seoul’s third largest district that will span 400,000square metres include a subterranean pipe network over 25 kilometres long.
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