27/04/2018 - 14:27

Big changes for WA landfill, waste projects

27/04/2018 - 14:27

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Two giant waste-to-energy projects planned for Kwinana and Rockingham could gain extra financial backing after the federal government unveiled a raft of policy initiatives to address problems flowing from China’s new restrictions on accepting foreign waste.

Big changes for WA landfill, waste projects
Artist's impression of the Phoenix Energy waste-to-energy plant in Kwinana.

Two giant waste-to-energy projects planned for Kwinana and Rockingham could gain extra financial backing after the federal government unveiled a raft of policy initiatives to address problems flowing from China’s new restrictions on accepting foreign waste.

In another move linked to this issue, the state government has announced regulatory changes under which landfill sites taking clean and uncontaminated waste will be exempt from the waste levy.

China’s restrictions come under its Blue Sky-National Sword program, which restricts the importation of 24 streams of recyclable material.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said today the federal government had asked the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency to prioritise waste-to-energy projects.

He said about $200 million has already been invested in this area, and that generating energy from waste that was unable to be recycled was common in other countries, particularly in Europe.

A private consortium led by Swiss company Hitachi Zosen Inova, with local partner New Energy Corporation and international investor Tribe Infrastructure Group, is planning a $400 million waste-to-energy plant in Rockingham, while Macquarie Captal is leading the development of Phoenix Energy's separate $400 million plant in Kwinana.

Mr Frydenberg's comments suggest the two projects planned for Western Australia could be in line for government funding.

Waste management company Suez welcomed the change, with Australia & New Zealand chief executive Mark Venhoek saying energy from waste technology was the missing link in the waste management hierarchy and waste infrastructure in Australia. 

"After reduction, re-use and recycling, there is a crucial element: to recover the energetic value from waste," he said.

Among the other initiatives announced after today's meeting of federal and state ministers, a 2025 deadline has been set for all Australian packaging to be recyclable, reusable or combustible.

“To increase demand for recyclable waste, ministers agreed to advocate, where appropriate, to increase the recyclable materials in goods purchased by governments, such as paper, road base and construction materials,” Mr Frydenberg said in a statement.

“Following the success of television, computer, tyre and oil product stewardship schemes, ministers also agreed to fast-track the development of new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and batteries.”

Mr Venhoek welcomed the focus on making 100 per cent of products recyclable and re-useable by 2025 but believes swift action and investment is needed to ensure this goal is met.

"As a waste industry, we are falling behind globally and we require fast action to stimulate the local market for recycled and recovered products," Mr Venhoek said. 

"We support the government's 100 per cent recycled packaging goal which will create a sustainable demand for these products but believe that it should be mandatory that packaged products can be re-used."

Meanwhile, the state government has amended its recycling and waste regulations to promote increased recycling and diversion from landfill.

The Landfill Waste Classification and Waste Definitions 1996 (as amended 2018) contain an amended definition of clean fill and a new definition for uncontaminated fill (including threshold limits for physical and chemical contaminants).

Sites that accept only clean fill and uncontaminated fill - that meet environmental and health thresholds after testing - will not be licensed as a landfill premises and thus will not be liable for the waste levy.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the changes were a win for business, the waste industry and the environment.

“The Environmental Protection Amendment Regulations 2018 gazetted today ensure that clean fill and uncontaminated fill can be used without being licensed as landfill premises or being liable for the waste levy," he said.

“This decision provides certainty, minimises regulation and promotes recycling of materials that would otherwise be waste."

The federal government said that China’s new restrictions would affect around 1.3 million tonnes of Australia’s recyclable waste.

This accounts for 4 per cent of Australia’s recyclable waste, but 35 per cent of recyclable plastics and 30 per cent of recyclable paper and cardboard.

The state government recently set up a waste taskforce, chaired by Baldivis MLA Reece Whitby, to help deal with the Chinese government’s import restrictions.

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