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Byron Shire
September 29, 2022

Northern Rivers waste incinerator moves closer

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The NSW Government is one step closer to approving a ‘waste to energy’ incinerator in Casino as a state significant development, with the passing of a new regulation.

The umbrella legislation has been given an Orwellian name: The Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Thermal Energy from Waste) Regulation 2022.

It permits incinerators in four regional locations in NSW, including the Richmond Valley Regional Job Precinct, which has been purposefully established to ‘unlock new industrial lands’.

Jo Immig is a Northern Rivers resident and National Toxics Network Coordinator. She said, ‘Communities in all four regional areas are justifiably horrified and angered to learn the NSW government, without any transparent process, accountability or community consultation has named their regions as “strategic” places to build waste incinerators.

‘Richmond Valley residents are demanding answers as to how and why their council welcomed the possibility of an industrial waste incinerator without any prior consultation or regard for impacts on the community in the largely food producing shire,’ she said.

Beyond Richmond Valley

Ms Immig suggests that a waste incinerator in Casino would likely take waste from surrounding Northern Rivers shires, including Byron and Ballina, as proposed in the NSW North Coast Waste Investment Review (2020), which only considered waste to energy incineration options.

You can see why Sydney doesn’t want a waste incinerator in their skyline. Photo Jane Bremmer.

‘If waste incinerators are too polluting for residential areas in Sydney, then they’re not safe anywhere and especially not in food producing regions and biodiversity hotspots in the Northern Rivers,’ said Ms Immig.

‘It doesn’t matter how stringent the NSW Government claims its pollution requirements will be, international practice and independent science show these incinerators cause dangerous dioxin air pollution and toxic ash contaminated with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ wherever they are.

‘Waste incinerators dressed up as “renewable energy producers” are effectively plastic burning facilities producing the dirtiest form of energy, worse than coal and gas, which will just worsen the climate emergency and lock in waste incineration for decades, completely distorting efforts to minimise waste and incentivise re-use and recycling for a zero-waste society.’

Selling waste to energy

Ms Immig says the state government has also produced an unreferenced ‘fact sheet’ which downplays the risks by trying to compare emissions from a waste incinerator, which would operate 24/7 for decades, to emissions from leaf blowers.

‘It’s utterly ridiculous and completely misleading. It’s just basic science to compare apples with apples and provide your references,’ said Ms Immig.

‘Apparently, the fact sheet was produced by external consultants, which begs the question who would produce something so misleading and why didn’t the NSW Environment Protection Authority provide the community with the information it deserves?’

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  1. Rihmond Valley Council, without doubt, would have to be the most retrograde local government authority on the Northern Rivers. The town relies for its economic prosperity on the beef industry. This is not the forum to debate the relative merits or otherwise of whether that industry has itself caused harm to the surrounding waterways as evidenced by the putrid state of the Richmond River – gets a bottom ranked F from the NSW EPA for riverine health. But that, any contamination from what is essentially a plastics-burning incinerator with a power generator added on, would destroy the surrounding beef industry and destroy it’s onlly real viable industry. As someone who grew up in the town and keeps coming back to visit, I get the need to create jobs in a country town and help diversity ifs economic base but cargo cult solutions such as this that have quite dangerous downsides and knock-on events just ain’t the way to go!

    • No that’s not true in my opinion, Lismore council is incompetent to the point of being ineffectual, Casino isn’t nearly as neglected as Lismore.

  2. This is really quite insidious.
    The plastics industry is actually behind this. It facilitates the vast increase in production of plastic made from gas and oil being planned to replace lost markets for fossil fuels as they diminish.
    Questions need to be asked about what influence and inducements have been given to decision makers.

    • Yes … isn’t Gina Rineharts best mate that guy who is a plastic packaging billionaire? Can’t recall his name right now. This smacks of vested interests… as does the whole NSW Regional Growth corporation which I was reading about last night and the way they like to try to put the circular economy label on toxic plastic burning!!! Literally sickening and so 19th/early 20th century … dinosaurs!!!

  3. I’ll actually counter signal this for different reasons. I see today’s landfills as tomorrow’s mining opportunities. Nano tech will allow us to recover our rare earth metals and stuff. I don’t care if it screws up the tiny bit of land around it in the mean time.

    • Tend to agree. Plastic stored in a properly managed landfill is effectively ‘carbon capture and storage’ until we can figure out something more useful than burning it!

  4. And the electricity produced will be classed as accredited “renewable energy”, sold as “green energy” to the public, and will gain accredited Renewable Energy Certificates that will be sold to Offset other companies emissions, despite the electricity produced has a higher Co2 emissions than gas and coal, in an increasing legal fraud of emission reductions, in the same fraud as Byron Councils Methane burning, CO2 polluting Bioenergy Plant

    • I’d agree with you on more of an ‘expensive to build, expensive to maintain’ angle. That was my problem with the poo plant also.
      Do you eco guys agree that sticking it in a hole in some existing wasteland until we have the tech to use it as a resource is an OK option?

      • While the plastic is in landfill it is effectively captured carbon. Burning it in a dirty incinerator is releasing that carbon
        It also release dioxins and produced tonnes of highly toxic ash. Where is that going to be stored?
        This incinerator proposal is a betrayal of the people of this area and in particular the community of Casino.

        • No its not that is absolute rubbish (no pun intended), land fills emit huge volumes of Methane gas, far worse than carbon dioxide as a climate gas. The incinerators are extremely effective at capturing and filtering out toxins these days. If the toxins are already in the unburnt waste are OK for landfill, why is the captured ash not OK for land fill? its actually easier to managed because its concentrated and like Chrisitan said you could extract some minerals from it much easier. Where do you get this nonsense from ?

          • The methane is from food waste and paper. If we didn’t plant crops, there would instead be trees in those fields, shedding leaves, creating methane a they mulched. I’m not sure you should count the methane. Our food is made from CO2 taken from the air to begin with.

  5. Yep smart people Richmond council build a project like this near an abattoir and a school. Temperature control has shown to be problematic in these facilities with emissions including dioxin being produced.

  6. Sweden does this to a high percentage of its waste, its highly effective at reducing methane emissions which are far worse than carbon dioxide in terms of impact on climate change + you get a bonus of generating electricity. Only 1% of rubbish in sweden goes to land fills with about 50% recycled as well.

    Would you all rather see this rubbish left in landfill to emit methane for decades ? out of sight out of mind?

    Nimbys left right and centre here, any type of new proposal or progress is bad right ? Look up the science and the facts please.

    When we switch to more bio-plastics, eg. hemp plastics or other type of plant based plastics, they are still going to emit methane in land fills doesn’t matter if its oil based or plant based plastics.

    • We are told petroleum plastics take thousands of years to break down, and that bio-plastics take a few years. When would you prefer the methane released? Next year, or the distance future? Methane in the Atmosphere only last 10 years or so anyway.

  7. The only visible gas emitted from an energy from waste facility is steam. There’s no truth in this story that relies on disingenuously unreferenced images. After all, ‘it’s just basic science to … provide your references’, isn’t it? But the Echo wouldn’t want to let the truth get in the way of a good story. If this hyperbolic nonsense is the currency of the anti incinerator lobby, the burner will romp in.


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