Richmond Valley Council say they have welcomed an announcement by the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean that the Richmond Valley has been identified by the NSW Government as a potential location to establish a new thermal waste-to-energy facility.
Great opportunities for a significant investment
Richmond Valley Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the Government’s Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan complemented the North Coast Region Waste Investment Report, with both providing great opportunities for a significant investment in the Richmond Valley to contribute to delivering world-class alternative energy projects.
Led by Richmond Valley Council and conducted by Arcadis, the North Coast Region Waste Investment Review is a collaboration between the Department of Regional NSW and the 13 councils along the North Coast from the Tweed to the Mid-Coast Council area.
Mr Macdonald said the outcomes of the Waste Investment Report was helping all councils make informed decisions on developing infrastructure to divert residual waste from landfill while still prioritising recycling and resource recovery rates.
‘While each local council and community had individual pressures around waste management, there was a general commitment to reducing waste to landfill and improving reuse and recovery.
‘We need good policy to support our drive, which is why we welcome today’s release of the Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan.
‘This plan is the catalyst Council needed to push ahead with our investigations of new opportunities and technologies for waste management and improve environmental outcomes.’
Jobs and growth
Mr Macdonald said a waste-to-energy facility would fit perfectly in the Richmond Valley Regional Job Precinct.
The Valley’s Job Precinct is one of four sites which are part of the NSW Government’s bush-led recovery from drought, floods, bushfires and COVID-19.
He said the aim of the precinct was to drive growth, create jobs and simplify development pathways in target industries such as manufacturing, food processing, and value add to agriculture.
‘Since the precinct was announced in February, the NSW Government and Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis have been working with Council, key government agencies and local industry to identify opportunities to create jobs. This includes the development of a detailed action plan outlining recommendations to improve planning pathways to simplify and provide certainty for future development by doing the required environmental and other studies upfront.
‘Our next step will be to issue an expression of interest to the private sector within two months for alternate waste treatment solutions for the region.”
Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan
In the announcement made on Friday by the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean, they said that the NSW Government has released the Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan, providing certainty for communities and investors and creating opportunities for NSW to lead the way in the delivery of world-class alternative energy projects.
Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Minister responsible for Resources John Barilaro said the Plan outlines how the NSW Government will support innovative ways of managing waste, drive investment into the bush and provide certainty for communities.
‘The NSW Government is delivering waste to energy facilities to help power a manufacturing renaissance and bring jobs to regional NSW,’ said Mr Barilaro. ‘These modern facilities will be located strategically to service the whole state, aimed at driving waste out of landfill and into the circular economy, using state-of-the-art technology to maximise regional economic and employment benefits.’
The Plan makes clear where new thermal waste to energy facilities can and cannot proceed, identifying the West Lithgow Precinct, Parkes Special Activation Precinct, Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct and Southern Goulburn-Mulwaree Precinct as priority locations to host these operations.
Regional NSW set for toxic incinerators to burn Sydney’s waste
But there is a flip side to the thermal waste-to-energy coin.
Spokesperson for Waste and Pollution, and Greens MP Cate Faehrmann says that news that no toxic Waste to Energy incinerators will be built in Sydney is welcome, but that should not mean the regions, including the Richmond Valley Council, are lumped with what Ms Faehrmann says is the burden of burning waste, after the release of the NSW Government’s Energy from Waste Policy Statement.
The policy will limit the construction of Waste to Energy facilities to the: West Lithgow Precinct; Parkes Special Activation Precinct; Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct, or; Southern Goulburn Mulwaree Precinct
One of the largest producers of dioxins
Ms Faehrmann says waste incinerators have been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the largest producers of dioxins, which can cause “reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and even cancer”.
‘This will bring some relief to community groups in Sydney who have been campaigning against the construction of these toxic incinerators in their communities for years. Unfortunately, though, the Government is now expecting a handful of regional communities to bear the brunt of the growing waste problem in NSW.
‘If the Government has recognised that burning waste is unacceptable in Sydney backyards, why has it decided it’s perfectly fine in regional ones?
‘Waste to energy incinerators are dangerous wherever they are built. They are one of the largest producers of dioxins, while producing toxic ash which still needs to be disposed of somewhere.
‘These types of incinerators also go against the government’s stated goals for a circular economy because waste that would otherwise be composted, recycled or processed is burned.
25 to 30 years to be financially viable
‘These incinerators need to operate for 25 to 30 years to be financially viable which means that if the waste-to-energy industry gets a foothold in NSW it will resist policies to reduce waste.
Ms Faehrmann says we need to be moving towards a zero-waste economy and investing more heavily in truly sustainable waste innovation instead of creating incinerators that put our health at risk.
‘The Government should introduce a ban on waste to energy across NSW so that no community is exposed to toxic pollution. This is exactly what the bill I introduced in 2020 would have achieved which both the Government and Opposition voted against.’