The ACT government is to introduce a ban on waste incineration for energy production, following stiff community opposition to a number of proposed projects in the national capital.
The proposed prohibition on waste incineration projects has been included in a new 2020-2025 waste management policy quietly published by the ACT government.
“An important element of this policy is that it respects the waste hierarchy. Waste reduction, reuse and recycling of materials will take precedence over energy recovery applications. Thermal treatment of waste including, incineration, gasification and pyrolysis will not be permitted in the ACT,” the ACT government’s new waste policy says.
The ban on waste incineration projects follows a number of proposals for such projects within the ACT that have been met with significant community backlash, out of fears of the potential toxic pollution created through the burning of rubbish.
The ACT government has concluded that there are better ways to approach the management of waste in the ACT, including through an increased focus on waste minimisation.
The ACT government will still consider other forms of waste-to-energy projects, including the production and capture of methane produced through anaerobic digestion of biomass wastes.
ACT climate change minister Shane Rattenbury says the outcome was a win for the environment and showed that the ACT could continue its leadership in sustainable development.
“There are cleaner, greener and more efficient ways of managing our waste, than burning it. The last thing we need are the toxic emissions or greenhouse gases from burning waste in Canberra,” Rattenbury said.
“Burning residual waste is no better than burning dirty fossil fuels and does not allow us to achieve the maximum economic and environmental benefit from those resources.
“When it comes to managing our waste, as the nation’s climate action capital, we can – and must – do better. We should be a waste management leader,” Rattenbury added.
The ACT Greens had been advocating for such a prohibition, and appear to have convinced ACT city services minister, ACT Labor’s Chris Steel, who said the government recognised the concern amongst the community.
“Although thermal waste treatment plants have been operating internationally for several decades, there is still great concern and uncertainty around the operation of these facilities and their long-term impact on health and the environment,” Steel said.
A waste incineration plant has been proposed to be established in Western Sydney, by waste management company Cleanaway. That project proposes to burn as much as 500,000 tonnes of diverted waste while producing power for around 65,000 Sydney homes.
The Cleanaway project, which has received financial backing from banking giant Macquarie, is currently preparing to lodge an environmental impact assessment to be considered by the NSW planning department.
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