Green opportunity going to waste

TWO years after receiving environmental approval for a $690 million private waste management facility in Kwinana, New Zealand waste management firm Global Olivine has yet to get the concept off the drawing board.

The company claims its plans are being hampered by local governments that are unwilling to part with their current interest in the lucrative waste business.

Global Olivine general manager Miles Stratford believes waste management is becoming very profitable due to the advances in technology and the strict environ-mental protection guidelines.

With millions of dollars at stake, Mr Stratford believes private sector players are being locked out of the industry by traditional waste management structures operated by local councils and paid for by ratepayers.

“There has been a lot of little empires built up by local government around waste management,” he said.

“They are very loath to let this empire go.”

Local Government Association president, Southern Metropolitan Regional Council chairman and Waste Management Board member, Clive Robartson, said the association took the view that it was the responsibility of the local councils to seek tenders, or else to take the risk and responsibility of waste management upon themselves.

Mr Stratford claims Global Olivine has had to find its own funding for the project while the local governments receive State funding subsidies.

State funding is administered by the Waste Management Board through the Waste Management Recycling Fund, which has provided grants and funding of about $5 million a year from the levy imposed on waste to landfill in the metropolitan areas.

Set up by the State Government in January, the board replaces the Advisory Council on Waste Management and the State Recycling Advisory Committee.

The board is chaired by ATA Environmental partner Noel Davies and includes as members builder Dale Alcock and Motor Trades Association CEO Peter Fitzpatrick, as well as Dr Sue Graham-Taylor.

Since the fund was established following amendments to the Environmental Protection Act in 1998, approximately 290 grants have been approved with a total value of $9.5 million.

Mr Robartson said the funds could be granted to private businesses and were not restricted to local governments.

Global Olivine claims to offer a more environmentally friendly waste management option at its planned facility on a 78-hectare site at Kwinana. But the company needs 700,000 tonnes of waste per year to feed the proposed plant.

Representing a third of all the waste going into Perth’s existing landfills annually, this appetite is proving very hard to satisfy.

The plant is capable of processing industrial waste, tyres, dewatered sewage sludge, hospital waste and other combustible waste, which it turns into bed ash, glass, hydrochloric acid, ingots of nickel, copper, chrome or steel and colloid sulphur.

“We have come to a grinding halt in terms of getting letters of intent for waste, so no financiers will back us at this stage,” Mr Stratford said.

This will put at risk 350 jobs during the construction phase and 60 full-time jobs once construction is completed.

The Kwinana Council is understood to be the only council that has agreed thus far to use the facility.

However, Kwinana Progress Association president Steve Hesse said the association was opposed to the proposal to have the facility in Kwinana.

Mr Hesse also claimed conservation groups were reviewing the proposal, despite the Environmental Protection Authority green light in January 2001.

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