Could a waste-to-energy plant significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions? (ABC Gippsland: Nicole Asher)
Kerbside rubbish from Melbourne’s south-east suburbs will be used to power the country’s biggest paper mill under an ambitious plan by Australian Paper.
The power plant, at Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill in eastern Victoria, would be the state’s first large-scale waste-to-energy project, burning 650,000 tonnes of kerbside rubbish every year.
Australian Paper estimates the $600 million project would produce 225 megawatts of power and reduce the mill’s greenhouse gas emissions by 500,000 tonnes per year.
Australian Paper communications and sustainability general manager Craig Dunn said the waste-to-energy process was safe, and the plant had been designed to meet strict European Union guidelines.
“Our proposal is for a modern energy from waste facility using low emissions technology,” Mr Dunn said.
“There are more than 500 energy from waste facilities across Europe, including major cities like London, Paris, Zurich and Vienna.”
Latrobe Valley residents have poorer health outcomes, compared to other parts of the state. (Supplied: Maggie Daniel)
Locals want long-term health guarantee
Health outcomes in the surrounding Latrobe Valley lag behind other parts of the state, a legacy of decades of brown-coal power generation.
Life expectancy in the region is up to four years shorter than other parts of Victoria, according to the Victorian Department of Health’s Regional Health Status Profiles report.
The Latrobe Valley Health Assembly’s executive officer Ian Needham said the community wanted assurances the project would have no negative health impacts.
“This is another level, potentially, of emissions on top of what we already have in the Valley,” Mr Needham said.
“There needs to be some sort of reassurance through some solid investigation and research that we’re not going to be badly impacted in 20 or 30 years.
“The long-term health issues and risks around some heavy industry-type proposals need to be explored quite fully.”
Waste-to-energy to help manage landfill shortages
Waste Management Association of Australia chief executive Gayle Sloan said using waste to electricity production was an appropriate response to the issues of landfill.
“It’s an ability to get some resource value from a product that was going to landfill,” Ms Sloan said.
“We create four times more jobs if we reuse products, there’s less fossil fuel being used in the actual management of the plant.
“There’s lots of ticks in doing this rather than continuing to draw down on fossil fuel and continue to put waste into landfill. “
Rubbish would be transported to the plant by road and rail, where it would be incinerated to produce heat and steam, which would in turn be converted into electricity.
According to an application with the Environment Protection Authority emissions from the burnt rubbish would be cleaned with gas treatment and filter bags before it was released into the environment.
The company said an increase in the market price of natural gas and electricity pushed it to investigate alternate power sources.
The mill is the state’s biggest industrial user of natural gas for power, but that would be reduced by 60 per cent if supplemented by a waste-to-energy plant.
Australian Paper wants the waste-to-energy plant running by 2023.
The project is awaiting Environment Protection Authority approval, and has been open for community consultation.