New research from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia suggests the “looming waste crisis” is a once in a generation opportunity to embrace energy recovery as an effective way to manage waste and provide baseload power.
With COAG’s waste export bans fast approaching, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Chief Executive Officer Adrian Dwyer said time is running out for governments to avoid a waste crisis.
“Greater energy recovery from waste could help divert 13.7 million tonnes of landfill each year by 2030 and reduce emissions by up to 5.2 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent each year,” Dwyer said.
The report, Putting waste to work: Developing a role for Energy From Waste (EfW), suggests appetite among community and industry stakeholders to reform the waste sector is growing, in response to a decreasing tolerance for landfill and increasing social awareness of related issues.
“This is occurring in conjunction with large infrastructure operators and investors providing significant capital and expertise to meet Australia’s waste challenges,” the report reads.
“With the right policy settings, these factors could be leveraged to create enduring change within Australia’s waste sector.”
Putting waste to work outlines a series of key recommendations to support the roll out of energy recovery facilities and unlock close to $14 billion in private investment by 2030.
“EfW has been used for decades around the world to divert non-recyclable waste from landfill, reduce emissions and produce energy, yet Australia has been slow off the mark in harnessing a role for technology,” Dwyer said.
“Energy recovery is the missing piece in both the waste and energy puzzles, and it needs greater consideration by governments.”
According to Dwyer, a lack of scale, social licence and impetus for change has lead to EfW and other forms of advanced waste processing being underutilised in Australia.
“As we emerge from the COVID crisis and look for ways to stimulate jobs and output, the EfW sector offers a major opportunity to reduce emissions and drive investment,” he said.
The report calls on Australia’s governments to implement five main actions:
Recommendation 1: Governments should define a role for EfW through their recycling and waste management plans and strategies. These documents should openly address energy recovery and the potential role it can play in improving waste management outcomes in Australia.
Recommendation 2: Governments of all levels should help to establish social licence for EfW – broadly and locally – be engaging communities openly on the benefits of advanced forms of waste processing and addressing any concerns.
Recommendation 3: Governments, through the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC), should develop nationally consistent guidelines for the development of EfW projects and other waste management technologies.
Recommendation 4: Governments, through the NFRC, should adopt EU emissions standards for EfW facilities, applied through nationally consistent regulation.
Recommendation 5: Governments, through the NFRC, should seek to establish a national market for EfW, including nationally consistent regulations in relation to feedstock and the development of market opportunities for by-products.