Recycling, Energy and the Future of Our Waste.
September 17, 2016 Leave a comment
As I’ve previously written WA has some major challenges in the waste and recycling area.
WA is still sending the majority of its waste to landfill. According to the WA Waste Strategy, West Australians not only produces more waste per capita than any one else in the country (over 2000 kg per person each year!) we also have the lowest rate for recovery and diversion from landfill of any mainland State, with less than 40% of material being recovered, and the remaining 60% buried in landfill.
Even our targets are not very ambitious. Perth has a target of 65% of waste diverted from landfill by 2020. In contrast the Europe Union target is only 5% to landfill by 2020. The EU is a long way ahead of us but one of the reason the study tour chose the UK as the most useful case study as they have gone through a massive transition a decade ago 90% went to landfill. They are now at around 30% and by 2020 there target is 10%. To put it another way, the UK has 1000 landfill sites a decade ago – now only 100. By 2020 it will be less than 50
Waste transition is going to be one the key decision for Fremantle and surrounding councils. In fact I would be so bold as to say that, outside of Kings Square, how we deal with our waste will be one of Fremantle’s biggest investment decisions in the next few years.
The timing is also driven by the fact that some of the SMRC’s key waste recycling assets are coming to the end of their useful life.
Key question for Fremantle is what is the best choice for investment for waste going forward?
In addition to smart recycling plants (which I think we are doing well on) it is pretty clear that a Energy from Waste aka Waste to Energy (WtE) is likely to be part of solution. These plants are common in Japan but the UK example is more relevant to WA as their waste mix and separation is more like ours. One of the sites we toured was Suffolk’s new WtE plant.
This plant burns rubbish that and be recycled or composted at around 1000 degrees (this high temperature is essential to reduce dioxins). It seems that pollution control is now very well managed. During the presentation we were told that the whole 25 year life of the plant will see less nitrous oxides produced than were produced in the one night of millennium fireworks in London. It was also said that it’d be safer to breathe air directly out of the plant’s flu for a whole year than breathe air from BBQ for half an hour!
The plant produces enough power to run 30,000 homes and saves 75,000 tonnes of CO2 each year from going into the atmosphere.
Despite this I have no doubt that WtE will still be controversial in WA if one of these ends up getting built. But it is clear that WA’s approach of just putting most our waste into landfill cannot continue and that new technologies like this in association with a three bin system need to be rolled out if Perth is to be a more sustainable city.
Here are some photos. In the first one you can see how close the nearest houses are to the plant. in the last one you can see the material that come our (bottom ash) which is then used for road base in the UK.