Government rules out burning rubbish in new waste-to-energy policy

Ian Bushnell 29 May 2020 6
Rubbish tip

Burning rubbish to generate electricity is commonplace in Europe but the ACT Government does not believe there is community support for such a facility here. Photo: File.

Burning waste to generate electricity has been banned in the ACT under the government’s new waste-to-energy policy that was released without fanfare back in March.

The ACT Greens, which have long opposed the practice, said the Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25 was quietly posted on the Transport Canberra and City Services website.

They welcomed the commitment to rule out any incineration of waste, calling it a polluting, dirty method of disposing of the Territory’s rubbish.

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said there were cleaner, greener and more efficient ways of managing waste than burning it, which produced toxic emissions and greenhouse gases.

”Burning waste is no better than dirty fossil fuels and does not allow us to achieve the maximum economic and environmental benefit from those resources,” he said.

”We should be a waste management leader. The new ACT Government policy starts to lay the foundations for this, by ruling out thermal treatment of waste, but still allowing cool technologies for organic waste treatment, such as anaerobic digestion.”

The government has gone to the market to attract private interest in helping the ACT reach its target of preventing 90 per cent of the Territory’s waste going to landfill, and there are two proposals for recycling facilities in Fyshwick, both of which originally included plans to burn rubbish to power the plants and put electricity into the grid.

The two NSW companies behind the proposals are recycling specialists that advocate using state-of-the-art technologies used in Europe to burn waste efficiently with low emissions, pitching waste-to-energy as good for the environment.

But the proposals, first from Capital Recycling Solutions and then a much bigger one from Hi-Quality Group, have met community opposition over the potential for toxic particulate emissions, as well as concerns that such a facility would not reduce waste but create a demand for material to feed it.

CRS abandoned the idea of burning waste in 2018, and Hi-Quality said earlier this month during a second round of public consultation that it had dumped its waste incineration plans.

CRS's proposed recycling facility

An illustration of CRS’s proposed recycling facility in Ipswich Street, Fyshwick. Image: Supplied.

CRS, a joint venture between Benedict Industries and the ACT’s Access Recycling, has expressed its frustration at the approvals process, with its draft Environmental Impact Statement stalled at the assessment stage.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the new policy gave both the community and industry certainty, with CRS and Hi-Quality given copies in March.

He said that although thermal waste treatment plants had been operating overseas for several decades, there was still great concern and uncertainty about their long-term impact on health and the environment.

”Based on the consultation we undertook on the policy across a wide cross-section of the community, we do not believe that thermal waste to energy technologies have a social licence in the ACT at this time, with some limited exceptions such as treatment of sewerage biosolids and landfill gas capture.”

Mr Steel said the government was committed to other waste management strategies – including reduction, reuse and recycling initiatives – before considering thermal waste-to-energy technologies.

It was investigating building on the garden green waste collection service to introduce a food scraps services to divert organic waste from landfill and reduce overall emissions from waste, but that would require the development of a large-scale composting facility.

He said small countries with large populations did not have space for landfills and relied on burning waste, which also provided heating where there was a lack of alternative natural resources.

While the ACT has now ruled out burning waste, there is nothing stopping rubbish being shipped across the border to be burned there. Goulburn has expressed interest in establishing such a plant.

Mr Steel did not rule out incineration indefinitely, saying the government would continue to monitor waste management practice and may review the policy if and when appropriate.

The proposals from CRS and Hi-Quality remain significant industrial operations without the incineration component, and concerns remain about traffic management, emissions, noise and their impact on the Fyshwick business area and surrounds generally.


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6 Responses to Government rules out burning rubbish in new waste-to-energy policy
Lynn Stape Lynn Stape 10:53 am 30 May 20

I dont normally agree with Rattenbury but as Canberra has already experienced a horrible toxic smoke filled summer , I would hate to think we would have to live with this forever. No matter how safe it is claimed things are mistakes happen, and little fibs are told... we have all seen the damage done by large companies around Australia to our country, farming lands... My concern with this is if it is built in Goulburn what happens when the winds blow our direction...sigh...

simm simm 7:43 pm 29 May 20

Shortsighted to even consider garbage processing in established workplaces like FYSHWICK being more retail shopping these days.

Imagine these same proposals in the industrial areas of Philip..? or say Belconnen or even more feasible in Tuggeranong!

FYSHWICK is more densely populated with workers and retail than ant of these satellites..
Wake Up.

ACT GOVT. can easily GRANT some distant and dormant paddock space away from any populace to facilitate a world class faculty free from future litigations.

Keith Cheetham Keith Cheetham 7:10 pm 29 May 20

Who is actually running the ACT Now?

Jason Preston Jason Preston 6:16 pm 29 May 20

Ah well

There ya go

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:28 pm 29 May 20

I have been following the stories about a waste to electricity incinerator in Canberra for a while yet until today I was unaware that Hi-Quality Group had plans for such a facility in Tennant Street Fyshwick.

The only reference to this proposal is here: https://capitalrecyclingsolutions.com.au/new-waste-management-hub-planned-for-fyshwick/

I don’t believe it was reported anywhere else. Why didn’t the government release any information about it before today?

Oh, that’s right, there is an election soon and we don’t want to upset the voters.

Crematoriums good

Waste-to-power incinerators bad.

    JC JC 8:33 am 30 May 20

    What exactly do you want the government to release or disclose?

    Reading the link seems like the business was going through the proper process, I’m failing to see why the government is in any way responsible for making public announcements about a business going through the motions of proper process.

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