The state’s environmental watchdog has backed the use of waste-to-energy recycling facilities in Western Australia, but cautioned that any proposed plant must meet international best practice standards.
The state government commissioned a review of the technology about a year ago to examine whether converting waste products into a form of energy such as heat, steam or synthetic gas would have adverse effects on people’s health, or recycling habits.
The Environmental Protection Agency said today the review found the facilities, subject to appropriate regulation and tailoring of technologies, could be introduced in an environmentally acceptable manner.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the review, conducted in conjunction with the Waste Authority, found waste-to-energy facilities would provide another option for the state’s long-term waste management strategy.
“Nevertheless, engagement with the community through the full planning, design, environmental approvals and commissioning process for waste-to-energy plants is essential to build community confidence in these technologies,” he said.
Dr Vogel said the review considered data from international waste experts WSP Environment and Energy, which examined existing waste-to-energy facilities in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.
“The distinction between modern, state-of-the-art plants and older incinerators is significant and an important factor in the recommendations of this advice,” he said.
“Western Australia should be focused on ensuring application of best practice for any waste-to-energy proposals and continually improving the standards of this industry as further knowledge is gained.”
The EPA made 21 recommendations for new Environment Minister Albert Jacob to consider.
These include: using proven and tailored technology for specific types of waste; meeting EU incineration standards; continued emissions monitoring; and the restriction on processing of any hazardous waste.
Waste Authority chairman Marcus Geisler said the state’s waste and recycling infrastructure was not sufficient to meet the population’s needs over the medium or long term.
He said the Perth and Peel regions were forecast to produce more than 6.1 million tonnes of waste by 2019-2010.
“More than 9.7mt per year could be generated when the population of Perth and Peel reaches 3.5 million,” Mr Geisler said.
To date, four proposals have been lodged with the EPA for waste-to-energy facilities in Perth and the Pilbara.
Two of the proposals have been lodged by New Energy Corporation, which is seeking to build a $180 million facility in Port Hedland and a $150 million plant in Rockingham.
Phoenix Energy has lodged an application to build a plant at Kwinana, costing between $300 million and $400 million, while the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council is considering the technology for use at its Red Hill Waste Management Facility.
A final decision on whether the proposals will proceed will be made by Mr Jacob.