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.
As a waste management and power sector specialist in Europe and Asia, German-born Stefan Dittrich and so many of his global colleagues know Energy from Waste facilities as a way of life.
Arriving in Queensland earlier this year as Project Director for Remondis’ proposed $700 million Clean Energy and Resource Recovery Precinct at Swanbank near Ipswich, Stefan said a priority was understanding and responding to some community misunderstandings about the technology.
“It’s apparent that some people in Australia just aren’t aware of how successful Energy from Waste technology is all over the world,” Stefan says.
“Many Australians just don’t know that [it’s] a way of life and a tremendous solution to waste management problems in densely populated cities such as London, Paris, Copenhagen, Cologne, Zurich, Vienna, Palm Beach and Singapore. Two are situated adjacent to Remondis’ head office in Lunen, Germany.
“Remondis has been in the Energy from Waste space for 30 years. With evolving technology and operating under the strictest international technical and environmental standards, Energy from Waste facilities have a track record of operating successfully and safely, which is why they’ve been embraced by cities and communities globally.”
Remondis plans to build a $400 million Energy from Waste facility at Swanbank as part of a broader waste management precinct. This would be the first of its kind in Queensland.
However, Stefan says there was a big onus on Remondis to educate the community of the benefits as the company seeks approval from the Queensland Government.
“We know there’s a lot of support, but because this technology is relatively new in Australia it’s understandable that some people might have reservations, especially those living closest to the precinct,” Stefan says.
“With Australia falling way behind world’s best practice when it comes to waste management, it’s obvious and inevitable that Australia will need to embrace Energy from Waste technology in the near future.
“It’s just not sustainable for Australia to stick to the ‘same old’ approach of burying non-recyclable waste in the ground, especially when you look at the technological advances being made overseas.”
Swanbank Clean Energy and Resource Recovery Precinct Project Manager Sarah Collins said community engagement and consultation was a vital part of the approvals process.
“The more we talk with people in the community, the more they grasp the benefits. It’s about having open conversations and dealing with facts,” Sarah says.
“We can do our best to manage the resulting problems – such as land disturbance, odour, leachate and methane – but we and others in the waste management sector need to make it clear that this approach is light years from Energy from Waste solutions overseas.”
Sarah adds that residents around Ipswich are surprised when told that several million tonnes of non-recyclable waste goes into the ground locally each year.
“People are just as surprised when hearing that we can eliminate more than 95 per cent of landfill through a tightly controlled combustion process that in turn produces cleaner electricity to power 50,000 homes a year, while heat and power can be used for other recycling activities in the precinct,” she says.
“There’s assurance and acceptance when it’s explained that this technology works safely and successfully all over the world, and that Remondis has been leading the way for decades.
“In addition, we’re offering a massive economic shot for Ipswich – a $700 million precinct investment with up to 70 new full-time operational jobs and 200 full-time construction jobs.”
Sarah explains that the ultimate goal at Swanbank and other waste management locations around Australia was to build a one-stop-shop precincts where Remondis can treat different materials, with recycling leading the way.
“This fits well with the Queensland Government’s Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy, which is focused on reducing waste and landfill and boosting recycling. This is a vital strategy, because many of the state’s landfill sites will be exhausted in less than 20 years,” she says.
“It’s there for the taking if Australian communities want world’s best practice when it comes to waste management. Very good things are possible if the waste management industry, communities and government decision makers can go on the journey together.”
For more information, visit www.remondis.com.au/en/home/