New policy rules out incineration of waste

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has ruled out any incineration of waste under a new ACT energy policy.

The territory government has released its ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25, following ten weeks of community and industry engagement to develop the policy and move towards its 90 per cent resource recovery by 2025, as stated in the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025.

The Waste Feasibility Study, completed in May 2018, found that the ACT is unlikely to meet the 90 per cent target, or move beyond 80 per cent resource recovery, without some form of waste-to-energy.

“The policy establishes underlying principles and outcomes to guide the transition to a circular economy and provides clear direction about the types of activities that are permitted,” the ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25 states.

Resource recovery rates in the ACT have plateaued at around 70 per cent for the last decade, which means that approximately 300,000 tonnes of waste are going to landfill each year.

Shane Rattenbur, ACT Greens Leader and Environment Spokesperson said the policy explicitly bans the “thermal treatment” of waste in the nation’s capital.

According to the policy, new facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT.

“When it comes to managing our waste, as the nation’s climate action capital, we can – and must – do better. We should be a waste management leader, ” Rattenbury said. 

“The new ACT Government policy starts to lay the foundations for this, by ruling out thermal treatment of waste, but still allowing cool technologies for organic waste treatment, such as anaerobic digestion.”

The policy’s key outcomes include anaerobic digestion of waste is permitted and encouraged, production of, but not burning of RDF is permitted, the waste hierarchy is respected and recycling is not undermined, improved resource recovery rates and existing waste-to-energy operations are not negatively impacted.

“These initiatives will continue the focus on improving avoiding, reusing and recycling waste in line with the waste hierarchy,” the policy states.

“Where waste-to-energy activities are permitted in the ACT, only residual waste will be eligible as a fuel.”

All waste-to-energy facilities will be required to have a licence under the WMRR Act, and any proposal that is not consistent with the policy will be refused a waste licence. 

“New facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT,” the policy states.

“Existing waste-to-energy activities will be encouraged to improve their environmental impact over time.”

“There are cleaner, greener and more efficient ways of managing our waste, than burning it. The last thing we need are the toxic emissions or greenhouse gases from burning waste in Canberra,” Rattenbury said. 

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ACT appoints new Sustainability and Environment Commissioner

UNSW Canberra climate scientist Sophie Lewis has been appointed as the ACT’s new Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.

The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment is responsible for preparing State of the Environment reports every four years, conducting investigations into environment-related matters and raising environmental awareness.

Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury said Dr Lewis would bring a strong climate change focus to the position given her research background.

“Dr Lewis has extensive experience in researching Australia’s changing climate extremes, including as a lead author with the International Climate Change Panel assessment reports that are used worldwide to develop policies around climate change,” he said.

“In 2019, Dr Lewis was the ACT Scientist of the Year in recognition of her research, particularly her research on climate extremes and their specific relevance to Canberra.”

Dr Lewis said she was looking forward to working with the community and the government to build on the territory’s success in addressing climate change and environmental protection.

“The ACT is already a world leader in addressing climate change in particular, but there is still a lot to be done to address the challenges and vulnerabilities around our environment and sustainability, and I’m keen to be involved through the Commissioner position,” she said.

“As we have seen with our recent extreme heat, drought and fires, climate change is a huge challenge now and for our future, as it will continue to impact on our environment at local, national and international levels.”

Dr Lewis said she is committed to using her role to promote the involvement of children in finding solutions to environmental challenges.

“There is also much we can do to help children understand climate change and to involve them in taking the essential action we need to achieve zero-net emissions, and have the best possible chance to preserve our environment and their future,” she said.

Mr Rattenbury thanked interim Commissioner Margaret Kitchin for her contributions, initiating and progressing important work over several months.

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ACT revokes all charity bin licences to combat illegal dumping

The ACT Government has immediately revoked the licences of all charity bins operating on public land throughout Canberra, in a bid to tackle a rise in illegal dumping.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the decision was made with the support of charity bin operators.

“This decision has been made due to the growing challenges faced by charity operators in managing illegal dumping around the diminishing number of clothing bins around the city,” he said.

“Despite a range of measures to address the problem, including CCTV and improved compliance, some Canberrans are still continuing to dump goods next to bins, leaving our city untidy. It’s unfair for the charities to have to clean up these dump sites, so they have been withdrawing these services.”

According to Mr Steel, COVID-19 has also impacted the availability of charity workforces to manage the bins.

“I am urging all Canberrans to please stop taking items to charity bins from now. We have already started the process of removing the remaining ones from locations around Canberra, and will continue to do so in the coming days and weeks,” he said.

Mr Steel said the ACT Government remains committed to continued collaboration with the charity sector to ensure opportunities for the reuse and recycling of unwanted items.

“Following the public health emergency, we will seek to meet with the charity sector and other interested organisations to work on the future of textile recycling in the ACT,” he said.

“This will involve identifying alternative collection points in the future, as well as looking to improve textile recycling beyond what is already available in the ACT.”

High quality items including clothing, books and homewares will still be accepted by charities with shop fronts currently accepting goods.

“I would also ask Canberrans to be mindful of the current COVID-19 challenges and to consider storing their items at home temporarily during this time and to avoid unnecessary travel. Poor quality and broken goods should go in the rubbish bin,” Mr Steel said.

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