Energy from waste technology is a way of life overseas. As REMONDIS’ Stefan Dittrich and Sarah Collins tell Waste Management Review, the technology is inevitable in Australia, but there’s an onus on the waste industry to educate communities and local decision makers of the benefits.
Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities are well established in Europe with around 500 operating plants. By further implementing Carbon Capture in EfW facilities, it is possible to go even carbon-negative and the new standard could be zero carbon emission waste to energy.
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.
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.
The Queensland Government has released its highly anticipated Energy from Waste (EfW) policy following a webinar with the state’s Environment Minister, Leeanne Enoch.
Enoch hosted a ‘lunch with the Queensland Environment Minister’ via zoom last week due to social distancing restrictions, to announce the EfW policy and how it will play a key role within the waste and resource recovery system across the state.
The EfW policy aims to capture embodied energy from residual materials that would otherwise have been landfilled, as Queensland transitions towards a circular economy.
Enoch gave a candid update of the current state of play in Queensland, noted that the policy aligns with both the waste management hierarchy as well as Queensland’s strategic priorities, and provides industry with certainty on how EfW will be regulated and assessed in the state.
As well as establishing an EfW hierarchy to address the differing technologies available, the policy outlines seven outcomes to guide proponents on how environmental authority applications for EfW facilities will be assessed and regulated, detailing requirements that will need to be met to demonstrate operational performance of proposed facilities.
Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO, said QLD’s EfW policy is a “very sensible and well considered document”.
She said EfW draws on international best practice, resisting the temptation that WMRR have seen in other Australian jurisdictions to create poorly thought out interventions that impact confidence and investment.
“The release of the document is a positive step towards offering EfW proponents some much-needed certainty, offering clear pathways to EfW, and importantly, a clear expectation about community engagement and social license,” Sloan said.
“All these steps are pivotal in rebuilding the economy and creating local jobs in the post-COVID world that we are building.”
Mark Smith, Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) CEO, agrees that the EfW policy provides an important building block for the Queensland waste and resource recovery sector and importantly sets out expectations from government to market.
However, Smith said a key challenge for state and local government and the private sector, who are the largest funders of infrastructure in Queensland and Australia, will be how the changes and improvements to waste and recycling management is communicated to the Queensland community.
“Recent research from CSIRO tells us that in order for community to trust and accept upgrades to waste facilities or new facilities being establish, is their confidence in the industry and their confidence in the government bodies regulating the sector,” he said.
“WRIQ is committed to improving the sector’s public brand and wants to ensure our members are supported by government when they decide to make investments to support the Queensland economy.”
Smith said it’s really important that government understand and recognise their role in building community awareness around the “role our sector plays in maintaining the economy and maintaining our way of life”.
WRIQ has congratulated the Queensland Government for releasing the policy and the commitment to releasing further guidance at the end of the year.
Sloan said that WMRR also appreciates the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) strong engagement with the industry in the establishment of this policy.
“We look forward to the development of further detail on how industry can meet EfW requirements in Queensland, utilising what we know is international best practice, including the EU Waste Directives,” she said.
Smith said WRIQ will reach out to DES to also support the development process of the policy.
According to WMRR, during the webinar, Enoch also reassured attendees that resource recovery is at the forefront of many of the government’s decisions, acknowledging that the essential waste and resource recovery sector is a vital stakeholder and contributor to Queensland’s post-COVID economic recovery, particularly as the industry will be able to provide home grown manufacturing opportunities.
A Cleanaway and Macquarie Capital Green Investment Group joint venture will see waste from households and local businesses converted into power, for as many as 65,000 Western Sydney homes.
Cleanaway and Macquarie Capital are co-investing and co-developing the waste-to-energy project, which will eventually be operated by Cleanaway.
According to a Cleanaway statement, the proposal targets red bin waste that cannot be recycled, and will have the capacity to cut Western Sydney’s annual landfill volumes by 500,000 tonnes – almost a third of the red bin waste generated per year in the local area.
Cleanaway CEO Vik Bansal said that with technology available today, there is an opportunity for Western Sydney to become a leader in smart waste management.
“Our proposal, if successful, will turn rubbish that would have been landfilled into a clean source of energy that supplies the grid and contributes to more affordable power for consumers,” Mr Bansal said.
“By diverting waste from our landfills, an energy from waste facility would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 450,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. This is the same as taking approximately 100,000 cars off our roads.”
Mr Bansal said Cleanaway is committed to a comprehensive approvals and consultation process, and if successful, will pave the way for a facility using the world’s best high-temperature combustion technology.
“The emission cleaning systems ensure the emissions leaving the plant are cleaned before they enter the atmosphere,” Mr Bansal said.
“The proposal will be assessed considering the triple bottom line – making sure it creates social, environmental and economic benefits. We won’t spare any effort to ensure the design is leading edge in terms of environmental controls and safe for the community.”
To date, a site has been acquired for the potential facility at 339 Wallgrove Road, Eastern Creek, located in an industrial area surrounded by waste and recycling centres.
Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is underway, which will contain information about the project proposal including environmental assessments.
The statement will be released for public consultation early next year.
Australian Paper and SUEZ have appointed Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) financial advisor for their $600 million waste to energy facility in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
Australian Paper General Manager Corporate Development David Jettner said SMBC would contribute additional commercial expertise to the project during the critical development phase.
“As financial advisor, SMBC will provide specialised support for project development and establish debt financing facilities, as we seek to build a missing link in Victoria’s waste management infrastructure,” Mr Jettner said.
“We are now moving forward to secure waste through the Metropolitan and Gippsland Waste and Resource Recovery Groups tendering processes, establish contractual engineering, procurement and construction arrangements and arrange funding for our project.”
Mr Jettner said SMBC would play a vital role in helping Australian Paper navigate those processes.
“They will also provide sectorial experience to the project as the mandated lead arranger, with 15 successful energy from waste projects internationally including the Kwinana project in WA,” Mr Jettner said.
“Our facility remains the first energy from waste project in Victoria to achieve an EPA Works Approval, and along with SUEZ and SMBC, we are excited to move a step closer to making our vision for Latrobe Valley energy production from residual household waste a reality.”
According to SUEZ Victoria General Manager Nat Bryant, less than one per cent of Australia’s residual waste is used for energy recovery.
Additionally, Mr Bryant said landfill is the only option for household waste from South East Melbourne and Gippsland.
“With the closure of the Hampton Park landfill by 2025, our project will provide a vital solution to south east Melbourne’s impending waste management crisis,” Mr Bryant said.
The public is being invited to comment on the Queensland Government’s Energy-from-Waste policy discussion paper, released earlier this week.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said finding alternative uses for waste was becoming more important than ever.
“The discussion paper is giving Queenslanders a chance to contribute to the development of a new policy, provide feedback on the types of technologies and help us plan for the future,” Ms Enoch said.
“The paper is an important action under the government’s new waste strategy.”
Ms Enoch said the government’s waste strategy outlined priorities and actions to help grow the recycling and resource recovery sector.
“We have set ambitious targets to recover 90 per cent of the waste we generate by 2050 and recycle at least 75 per cent of that waste,” Ms Enoch said.
“But we acknowledge that some wastes cannot be recycled, and it is better to retain the value of these wastes by recovering energy than it is to dispose of them to landfill. This is all part of our broader transition to a circular economy.”
Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) Executive Officer Rick Ralph said WRIQ and its members welcomed the new waste strategy.
“Energy from waste will play an important role in helping to achieve the objectives and targets of the strategy,” Mr Ralph said.
“The release of the Energy-from-Waste discussion paper is a step in the right direction. Industry looks forward to having this discussion with the government in this important initiative.”
Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said energy from waste was a vital part of a sustainable waste and resource recovery system.
“Its technologies are also proven globally, with more than 2000 energy from waste facilities operating safely across the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, many having operated for decades,” Ms Sloan said.
“We look forward to working with the Queensland Government to leverage the technical expertise of our industry to develop a policy that promotes investment in, and growth of, an integrated waste management and resource recovery system that includes energy from waste.”
Public consultation is open until 26 August.
FOCUS enviro has secured exclusive Australian distribution rights for UNTHA process engineered fuel shredding technology, as the countries energy from waste market grows.
FOCUS enviro Director Robbie McKernan said the agreement to integrate Austrian company UNTHA’s equipment into the FOCUS enviro range reflects the growing appetite of Australian operators to turn waste into a resource.
“UNTHA’s world-renowned static and mobile XR shredders for process engineered fuel production have been added to our portfolio,” Mr McKernan said.
“We’ve been watching intently the number of resource derived fuel and solid recovered fuel plants that have come online in the UK, Austria, Germany and Denmark. 10 years of industry analysis means we’re now armed with best-practice advice to pass on to clients in Australia.”
Mr McKernan said alternative fuel production lines can be optimised for maximum product quality, bottom line impact and environmental gain.
“As the Australian process engineered fuel market gains traction we need best-in-class technology as robust as our knowledge,” Mr McKernan said.
“We wanted to integrate UNTHA into our offering, but to represent them on an exclusive basis is a real honour.”
According to Mr McKernan, UNTHA’s XR shredder is able to process an array of input material to meet defined fuel specifications, from cement plants through to biomass burners.
“Some Australian waste management companies are producing and exporting fuels but the specifications remain extremely varied,” Mr McKernan said.
“As the market matures – and more small-medium businesses enter with their eyes on best-practice – I would hope UNTHA can help drive standardisation when it comes to fraction sizing, product quality and calorific value.”
UNTHA Global Business Development Director Gary Moore said Australia has one of the most exciting energy from waste markets in the world.
“Alternative fuel production is in its infancy here in comparison to parts of Europe for instance, but landfill rates are rising, environmental pressures are mounting and China’s landmark movement has forced a new direction for the country’s waste framework,” Mr Moore said.
“A number of international waste operators with a presence in Australia are driving a global knowledge transfer programme to strengthen resource security.”
According to Mr Moore, FOCUS enviro has the right technology and service ethos to represent the UNTHA brand in Australia.
“You only have to look at the role they had at the recent energy from waste conference in Melbourne to see they are the partner to talk to in this sector,” Mr Moore said.
“Over 9000 UNTHA shredders are now installed worldwide, and global growth of 25 per cent is predicted in the next 12 months —Australia’s contribution to the overall company turnover will see significant increase over the next five years.”
The ACT Government has begun community consultation on waste to energy (WtE) to help develop policy and provide information for stakeholders.
It follows the results of the ACT’s Waste Feasibility Study which found Canberra was unlikely to achieve a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent without some form of WtE leaving 200,000 to be sent to landfill.
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The ACT Government has launched a survey to gather community feedback and provide information on the different types of WtE to clearly outline the territory’s position on energy recovery. It has also launched an information paper to outline the challenges and opportunities for the technology in the ACT’s context.
The consultation will inform the ACT Government’s consideration of WtE in the territory.
Currently the ACT has a target to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2025 and has implemented a container deposit scheme to also improve the territory’s waste diversion rates.
WtE processing facilities are already in use in the ACT with methane gas captured at the Mugga Lane and West Belconnen landfill facilities used to power around 3000 homes.
The ACT has also set a range of targets to 2020 for secure and affordable energy which involves using clean energy technology.
City Services Minister Chris Steel said in the information paper that a serious conversation about what to do to reach the ACT’s landfill diversion targets is needed and should explore whether WtE is part of the solution.
“WtE technologies sit on a spectrum – not all of these involve burning or heating and some technologies are already in use in the ACT, for example through landfill gas capture at our Mugga Landfill site,” Mr Steel said.
“One of the key recommendations of the Waste Feasibility Study was the development of a WtE policy in the ACT to provide certainty to industry and the community about whether WtE has a role in the nation’s capital.
“As the Minister for City Services I want our community and industry to be partners in co-designing a long-term, informed and evidence-based policy vision for WtE in the ACT.”
The community consultation period will close on 29 November 2018.