Sydney energy from waste plant faces pushback

Australian waste management company Cleanaway is proposing an Energy-from-waste facility in Western Sydney that would generate electricity by burning residential, commercial and industrial waste.

Cleanaway, in a joint venture with Macquarie Capital, is proposing to construct and operate the $700 million Western Sydney Energy and Resource Recovery Centre on a site on Wallgrove Road at Eastern Creek under State Significant consent.

DPIE has received more than 630 submissions on the project, including more than 600 objecting to it. Because more than 50 objections were received the proposal will go to the Independent Planning Commission.

Cleanaway has done its best to allay concerns saying the facility will have the same high safety credentials and provide the same economic benefits as world class overseas facilities.

It says the WSERRC will use best practice combustion technology and a flue gas treatment system to convert 500,000 tonnes of waste each year into electricity, enough to power 79,000 homes and businesses.

‘Cancer in Western Sydney’s lungs’

Mayor Tony Bleasdale: Concerns

But not everyone’s convinced.

Blacktown City Council has raised a long list of concerns in a 50 page submission which raises questions about air quality, waste water, risks to human health and the visual impact of the facility.

“We object to this proposal until all our concerns detailed in council’s submission are comprehensively addressed,” it says.

Mayor Tony Bleasdale says council also commissioned an independent review of the EIS which found Cleanaway had failed to demonstrate the social and economic benefits of the development, or show it was in the public interest.

“The proposed plant is located within the Western Sydney Parklands – famously described by a number of NSW Premiers as ‘the lungs of Western Sydney’ and we fear that this development could be the ‘cancer’ of those lungs,” Cr Bleasdale said in a statement.

The submission was being put to a Blacktown City Council for official endorsement on November 25.

Fairfield council, which is the LGA closest to the site, has also lodged an objection saying that “without independent advice it’s uncertain whether the facility will have unacceptable negative impacts on the environment and community”.

“Furthermore, analysis of the prevailing seasonal winds accompanying the proposal indicate that these areas of Fairfield City (south east and south west of the site), represent the areas of Western Sydney with the highest potential to be impacted by emissions from the proposal,” Fairfield’s submission says.

Meanwhile, WaterNSW said it objected  to the proposal in its current form because of insufficient detail addressing the agency’s concerns about risks to the Warragamba pipelines, and warned that “site preparation and construction can pose particular risks to WaterNSW infrastructure”.

‘Missing link’

But Cleanaway says energy-from-waste is the missing link in Australia’s waste reduction and landfill diversion goals and a safe and sustainable way to manage waste.

It says energy from waste avoids the generation of methane that occurs when material breaks down in landfill, and that the WSERRC will potentially create a net reduction of climate change gases equivalent to more than 390,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

The proposed site for the WSERRC plant is indicated by ‘A’ (Image via Cleanaway).

It says the facility will create more than 2,000 jobs across three years of construction and 50 high skilled jobs long term, and will include an education centre where visitors can learn about waste as a resource, recycling, the circular economy and energy from waste.

Cleanaway Project Director James Pearce says the WSERRC will use safe and well proven energy-from-waste technology and create environmental, economic and social benefits for Western Sydney and NSW.

“Community safety is paramount,” he said in a statement last month.

“We have designed this Centre to meet the highest standards in the world for energy-from-waste. This technology has been used around the world for more than 50 years has and has continuously improved in the intervening years.”

There are currently more than 2,000 energy from waste facilities operating aroud the world, according to Europe-based energy technology market consultants ecoprog.

The period for public comment on the WSERRC is now closed.

*Government News previously reported that the project had received 50 objecting submissions. This figure was incorrect and has been amended.

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16 thoughts on “Sydney energy from waste plant faces pushback

  1. Is this a matter of objectors simply erecting red tape/hoops to jump through? If the technology is well proven (most likely European) and the environmental/community risks are fully addressed then the project should proceed. We must wherever possible seek to eliminate landfill for obvious reasons

    1. The above interpretation is the correct one ,some sad council thinks a company that is going spend this sort of money, and to have not done their homework is on the wrong bus to fairfield

    2. There is ample evidence that these facilities are harmful to the air quality. The proposed location is too close to residential areas.

      1. MK, here in Switzerland everything is close to residential areas and we have plenty of waste-to-energy facilities operating without incident every year. In Basel, we burn 230’000 of trash a year, generate 1 TWh of heat for the district heating network, 140 MWh of steam for the local industries such as commercial food processing and
        pharmaceutical industry and a few MWh of electricity which we sell to the grid as a welcomed by-product. From 2023 we will literally wash the highly toxic ash resulting from burning trash and all its components and be left with valuable chemicals for further processing and highly toxic waste going to specialized waste sites, usually many miles underground. The air coming out of the 150m chimney does not bother anybody.

  2. Industry proponents continue to claim that European incinerators are popular and operate safely but the evidence shows otherwise. Independent experts have shown the local and global human health and environmental impacts these incinerators cause, including the emissions of more ghg’s per unit of energy than coal, oil and gas. This is why the European Commission is decommissioning this industry, declaring the industry a major climate threat and removing all funds and subsidies for the industry and instead are investing in Zero Waste and Circular Economy policy. These are the facts the industry doesn’t seem willing to disclose in their project documents or PR. Why Australia would want to invest in this dinosaur polluting industry that has no future just shows how captured our governments are by the waste disposal sector. We need to be working with Zero Waste City model experts and not the waste disposal industry. Incinerators produce tonnes of toxic ash requiring secure landfill disposal. Claims that incinerators are the solution for Australia’s zero waste to landfill policy are demonstrably false and delusional.

    1. Of course producing zero waste is preferable, however the best case scenario for transitioning to a low/zero waste economy is decades of effort with every pocket of the waste chain being on the same page and doing their part – especially consumers. It may be the best outcome, but what do you propose to do with millions of tonnes of waste being produced in the meantime? If anyone can solve that problem, then the objection to EfW is valid… otherwise, your objection is impractical and will only serve to delay lower emissions.

      Europe can afford to start their transition away from incentivising EfW to remoulding their economy for waste reduction. Australia is a LONG way behind, we cannot simply jump to those solutions and ignore the decades long transition. EfW is a huge step improvement from landfill, we should focus on that whilst also continue the (long and difficult) task of preparing our behaviours and economy for a low/zero waste future.

    2. Hi Jane,

      I support a conservative and cautionary approach to these facilities.Waste is infinitely variable unlike clean fuels. The proponents seek to draw upon the use of best practice European Technologies applied in Australia.The fundamental difference is that European’s have a much improved source separation of waste and exclude the hazardous waste components from their EfW feed. Australia has very poor systems for separating hazardous batteries,E waste,pesticides, brominated fire retardent materials, PFAS and chlorinated substances to name just a few substances that are responsible for heavy metal emissions,acid gases and dioxins in the emissions…. relying on gas scrubbers to remove a wide range of potential contaminants.
      I have spoken to numerous waste educated Europeans visiting Australia who are horrified that our post consumer and household hazardous waste is so easily and thoughtlessly disposed to municipal waste bins.

  3. The best solution to eliminating landfill is reduce waste and increase reuse and recycling but thats not a good business model for Corporations like Cleanaway.
    These Companies having being using Western Sydney for dumping dirty waste for too long.
    If its so clean and green set up in the Northern or Eastern Suburbs.

  4. Either Cleanaway has done a lousy job of selling the environmental benefits a Waste to Energy plant brings or Blacktown council hasn’t done its home work.. 80,000 homes not running on Coal generated power, rubbish ceases going to landfill, more greenhouse and Co2 comes out of landfill than the filtered end product of a WtE plant anyway, no leaching into ground water…. even the slag and biproduct from WtE gets used for cement and road base products…. Is the mayor suggesting we just keep on making a bigger mountain of rubbish??

  5. Cleanaway held ABSOLUTELY NO (ZERO) community consultation with residents who would be severely affected by this DA.

    1. They will not be in your backyard – there will be a tall chimney with little pollutants left other than the components of air and a bit of CO2.

  6. A Great idea Just a poor location. The site is at the mix point between the Parramatta River basin and the South Creek / Macarthur Basin (Western City).

    Sydney Air Pollution is recycled up into the Macarthur region and we want to put another industry that would potentially add to the overall smog load for the wider Sydney Basin at the mixing point.

    So we already put Nancy Bird airport and soon the Western City in a place that suffers from Fog. The Aerogopolis too potentially adding to the smog load.

    Now we add the residual toxins from that with this plant and the existing and proposed logistics industries to. All generate photo chemical smog that comes from higher intensity land use and massive populations in the basin. All sited around the mixing point too. and the major recreational bush area.

    Now one was happy with the bad Air quality when Sydney was an industrial city.

    I think this is not a good reuse of a contaminated spot by Cleanaway, but I like the idea greatly.

  7. Great comment Andrew.I have been to Europe- Vienna specifically in 2005 and they have a waste to energy facility almost in the heart of of the city that provides energy to 10000 homes and businesses from memory, to no detriment to the cities population. It had been in use for some time prior to 2005. Is anyone suggesting the technology to produce energy-any energy has stood still for at least 15 years. The value add is enormous from the community perspective as you have indicated Andrew.

  8. Building these sites might help reduce landfill BUT NOT at the cost of the environment or health of the people around them.

    Remember, as these sites get older they need more maintenance, meaning, money that companys don’t like to spend

    So having something like this built in a sprawling city that’s also building a NEW AIRPORT near by which will attract companies and create jobs plus new suburbs is not a very wise decisions.

    If we must have them, then Build them well away from communitys and that has a little or no affect on the environment but we’re jobs would be beneficial to that area.

  9. Stupid whingers . I live in South West Sydney & I think it’s a great idea . Bring it on !
    It’s either this or the proposed coal mine on Sydney’s outskirts which will most definitely pollute the water basin .
    If this goes ahead the coal mine will get knocked back !
    The technology on waste to electricity only improves went we invest & open plants across the world .
    People don’t understand how much timber waste there is in Sydney & timber 100% burns clean on high incineration . None of the whingers are connected to the waste industry & they don’t know .
    1st people you should ask is those in this industry in Sydney .

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