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Will Australia’s $600 million waste-to-energy plant get approval?

Australian Paper has teamed up with waste management firm Suez to build an incineration plant that could process 55% of the waste in the Australian state Victoria.

The proposed AU$ 600 million waste-to-energy plant is to be located in Latrobe Valley, and will be able to handle recyclables from 1.4 million households from big cities like Melbourne. This represents a capacity of some 650 000 tonnes a year – enough material to fill over 465 Olympic swimming pools.

Australian Paper is one of Victoria’s biggest natural gas users and estimates it could reduce its gas usage by as much as 60% if the incineration plant is built. ‘As a significant gas and energy consumer, we must develop alternative baseload energy sources to maintain our future competitiveness,’ comments Peter Williams, Australian Paper’s chief operating officer.

What stands in the way of the multi-million project is winning legal approval. Lawyers for Environmental Justice Australia have challenged the Environment Protection Authority’s decision in November to approve the plant.

‘This is potentially a huge amount of Melbourne’s rubbish being burnt, with no assurances that some recyclable material won’t be burnt also,’ argues environmental advocate Dr Nicholas Aberle.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will decide whether the construction works may carry on in the next couple of weeks.

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