Veolia, Maryvale EfW project tips the balance of power

Veolia Maryvale

The Veolia Maryvale Energy-from-Waste (EfW) project will set a benchmark for landfill diversion and the circular economy in Victoria. 

The Latrobe Valley is widely recognised as Victoria’s powerhouse, its history anchored to the energy sector following construction of the first power station in Yallourn in the early 1920s.

Today, about 85 per cent of the state’s electricity and 97 per cent of its natural gas are produced in the region. Now a global leader in integrated waste management is helping lead the way for alternative energy generation in the region.

Veolia has partnered with Opal and Masdar Tribe Australia to construct an Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facility at Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill. In September, the project also received approval for an $8 million bottom ash recycling facility – the first of its kind in Victoria.

If approved the EfW project will have a construction period of up to three and a half years with an operational contract for 25 years. Construction will create up to 500 indirect jobs, predominantly for the local workforce, which has been hit hard by the closure of power stations over recent years. 

Jonathan Mayberry, Veolia General Manager – Business Development, says the project will bring environmental and economic benefits.

“The concept is to take non-recyclable residual waste, diverting it away from landfill and instead using it to produce steam and electricity for the paper mill,” Jonathan says.

“It’s about reusing our waste resources and respecting the waste hierarchy. 

“First and foremost, we want to reduce the amount of waste that we produce, but the residual waste stream is probably the most difficult of all to find a good solution. We’ve got a reliable, proven solution here for treating the waste and generating energy.

“Our facility will not have the same power output as a large coal-fired power station, but it can transform the image of the Latrobe Valley as the regional comes into a new era of innovation in the power generation sector.”

The EfW facility would reduce the paper mill’s reliance on gas and electricity and assist in securing its energy requirements into the future. 

It would have the capacity to process 325,000 tonnes of residual waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria by about 270,000 tonnes annually – equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road every year. Veolia has committed 150,000 tonnes from its commercial and industrial waste business.

Jonathan says gaining Environment Protection Authority approval to integrate a bottom ash recycling facility at the site strengthens the project’s environmental credentials.

If approved, about 6000 tonnes of metals will be recovered and recycled from the bottom ash, building on the existing environmental benefits of the project. The remaining materials will be used in the manufacture of a new product, Maryvale Recycled Aggregate (MRA), which can be used in road construction.

Combined, the EfW and bottom ash facilities aim to achieve a landfill diversion rate of 96 per cent. Jonathan says it’s an exciting prospect, and one that is strongly linked to Veolia’s drive for ecological transformation.

“We have better alternatives to putting waste into landfill,” he says. “The recovery of energy, using that energy in the manufacturing sector, and using the ash residual in the construction sector demonstrates that we need to be collaborating with partners outside the waste industry to create a true circular economy.”

In a testament to its environmental and economic credentials, the EfW project received a $48.2 million grant through the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) in April 2022. Both state and federal governments also previously committed $2.5 million each to the project during the feasibility stage.

While both levels of government have been supportive of the Veolia, Maryvale EfW project, Jonathan says community backing is just as important. 

He says the Maryvale Mill has been operating for more than 80 years. Its long history as a local manufacturer and provider of jobs is reflected in community support for the EfW project, with about 84 per cent of public submissions expressing support during the Environment Protection Authority Works Approval process.

It’s also a reflection of the work that’s gone into community engagement on the project and sharing information with people to enable them to understand what energy-from-waste is, what it means and to combat any myths surrounding it.

“The fact that so many developed countries around the world embraced this technology years and years ago is a signal to us that we’re behind the curve,” Jonathan says.

“This would be a highly engineered, technical facility. It’s an example of something great we can do to more responsibly manage our waste and create a sustainable future. 

“Australia is still a growth country, but given the proven environmental technologies available, there is no reason why we can’t adopt better practices. Veolia is a leader in developing solutions that enable more material reuse, recycling and resource recovery.”  

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