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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