SA EPA releases WtE position statement

Proponents of thermal waste-to-energy (WtE) activities in South Australia must engage the community in “genuine dialogue” and ensure the provision of accurate and reliable information, according to the South Australian EPA’s recently released thermal WtE position statment.

“A proposal to undertake a thermal WtE activity has the potential to generate interest and concern within the community, including non-government environmental organisations or other interest groups,” the statement reads.

“WtE projects requiring development approval will be subject to community consultation and/or notification as required by the Development Act 1993 and the EP Act during the development, assessment and licensing notification processes respectively.”

Additionally, refuse-derived fuel produced with EPA approval will no longer be considered waste under clause 4(a) of the Waste to Resources Policy, meaning its use in thermal WtE activities will not attract the payment of the waste levy.

“Thermal WtE activities receiving waste in accordance with the Resource Recovery Criteria, Thermal Efficiency Criteria, and holding an EPA Resource Recovery Approval will not be liable for payment of the waste levy, with the exception of thermal WtE activities receiving kerbside collected MSW,” the statement reads.

“For thermal WtE activities receiving kerbside collected MSW from a council or any other party contracted by a council, it is an additional requirement to demonstrate that the council’s kerbside collection system achieves the current MSW diversion target published within the Waste Strategy.”

Released following industry consultation in 2019, the statement aims to help planning authorities, licensees and development proponents understand the position of the EPA and the regulatory requirements for thermal WtE activities.

“The EPA will use this position statement to assess development assessment referrals and activities of prescribed environmental significance requiring a licence under Schedule One of the Environment Protection Act 1993 relating to WtE activities,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, South Australia’s Waste Strategy supports the efficient recovery of energy from residual waste and niche waste streams through best available technologies that suit local conditions, and can deliver environmental benefits and economic opportunities.

“In keeping with the waste management hierarchy and circular economy objectives, thermal WtE activities using waste that would otherwise be disposed to landfill are supported once sufficient material resource recovery has been undertaken,” the statement reads.

“The production and use of refuse derived fuel from waste that would otherwise be disposed to landfill will be supported where it includes appropriate material resource recovery, as set out by this position statement.”

When assessing a development application referral involving one or more prescribed activities, the EPA has the power to request further information, direct conditions for approval by the planning authority, or direct the refusal of the application as a referral body according to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016.

“Following the receipt of formal development approval, the conduct of any prescribed activity of environmental significance will also require an environmental authorisation from the EPA in the form of a licence,” the statment reads.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia’s (WMRR) South Australia branch is hosting a free members-only webinar on 29 April to deliberate key elements of the position statement.

At the webinar, WMRR members will hear from South Australian EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli and Senior Environment Protection Officer Waste Reform Projects Brian White.

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