Revised NSW EfW policy open for public comment

Revised NSW EfW policy open for public comment

A draft revised NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement, which proposes tightened restrictions on air emission limits, is now on public exhibition until the end of April.

Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said the draft Energy from Waste Policy Statement has been revised and bolstered to align with recommendations from the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.

“My expectation, and our communities expectation, is that we have the strictest air quality standards for energy from waste (EfW) projects, to protect human health and protect our environment,” he said.

“The draft policy tightens restrictions on emissions including hydrogen fluoride, mercury, cadmium, thallium and heavy metals, to ensure that they meet and where possible beat current world leading jurisdictions.

“It also includes the implementation of ongoing reporting requirements for operators of EfW facilities and will require real-time emissions data to be made publicly available online to boost community confidence and transparency.”

According to the policy statement, the EPA recognises that the recovery of energy and resources from the thermal processing of waste has the potential, as part of an integrated waste management strategy, to deliver positive outcomes for the community and the environment.

“EfW can be a valid pathway for residual waste where: further material recovery through reuse, reprocessing or recycling is not financially sustainable or technically achievable, and community acceptance to operate such a process has been obtained,” the statement reads.

The statement notes that thermal waste treatment provides an opportunity to recover embodied energy from waste, offset the use of non-renewable energy sources and avoid methane emissions from landfill.

“However, these outcomes depend on ensuring that any energy recovery proposals represent the most efficient use of the resource and the risks of harm to human health or the environment are adequately managed,” the statement reads.

“Clean air is fundamental to everyone’s wellbeing: poor air quality can be particularly critical to the health of children and chronically ill and older people, as well as affecting the natural environment and amenity of communities.”

The policy statement outlines eligible waste fuels including biomass from agriculture, uncontaminated wood waste, recovered waste oil, organic residues from virgin paper pulp activities, tyres – used only in approved cement kilns, landfill gas and biogas, and source-separated green waste – used only in processes to produce char.

“Eligible waste fuels may be thermally treated using a range of treatment technologies, provided a resource recovery order and exemption has been granted by the EPA,” the statement reads.

“The origin, composition and consistency of these wastes must ensure that emissions from thermal treatment will be known and consistent over time.”

Any facility proposing to thermally treat a waste or waste-derived material that is not a listed eligible waste fuel must meet the requirements to be an energy recovery facility.

If the facility is proposing to thermally treat a combination of eligible and other waste fuels, it will also be subject to the requirements of an energy recovery facility.

“Energy recovery facilities refer to facilities that thermally treat waste-derived materials that fall outside the low-risk ‘eligible waste fuels’ definition,” the statement reads.

These facilities must show they are using current international best practice technologies, particularly regarding process design and control, real-time emissions monitoring, arrangements for the receipt of waste and management of residues from the energy recovery process.

“Energy recovery facilities must use technologies that are proven, well understood and capable of handling the expected variability and type of waste feedstock,” the statement reads.

“This must be demonstrated through reference to fully operational plants using the same technologies and treating like waste streams in other similar jurisdictions.”

THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR PRINCIPLE 

According to the revised policy statement, facilities will be required to provide effective information and public consultation about EfW proposals.

As proposals progress from concept to detailed development, proponents will need to engage in a genuine dialogue with the community and ensure that planning consent and other approval authorities are provided with accurate and reliable information.

“The operators of an EfW facility will need to be ‘good neighbours’ – particularly if near a residential setting but also where there are workers in other facilities,” the statement reads.

“This would apply to waste deliveries and operating hours, but most importantly with respect to readily available information about emissions and resource recovery outcomes.”

The EPA is seeking feedback on the EfW Policy Statement until 30 April.

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