Rocky road for waste burner

MOST of Perth’s municipal and commercial waste might soon be trucked to Premier Mark McGowan’s seat of Rockingham for waste-to-energy incineration.

A 20-year landmark deal was made on Wednesday night by the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council for all its residual waste — 120,000 tonnes a year — to be sent to the East Rockingham Resource Recovery Facility from 2021.

The consortium behind Perth’s first waste-to-energy project is also in advanced negotiations for a similar deal with Mindarie Regional Council, which represents Perth’s northern councils. It is also negotiating with southern suburbs’ councils to take their waste.

When built, the facility will have the capacity to receive 300,000 tonnes a year.

Residual waste is household and commercial rubbish not able to be recycled, reused or composted. It goes to landfill but the consortium aims to convert it into base load renewable energy, producing 28MW at full capacity — enough to power 36,000 homes.

A similar waste treatment facility in Switzerland. Picture: Supplied.

The National Toxics Network condemned the EMRC deal, saying it paved the way for Rockingham to become “the State’s new waste-burning centre”.

“Not only is burning our residual waste a fast track to air pollution and toxic ash landfills, this industry has no social licence to operate in WA,” WA co-ordinator Jane Bremmer said.

“It is simply burning fossil fuels in the dirtiest of ways while producing some of the most toxic and dangerous pollutants on the planet such as dioxins.”

The consortium, which comprises Zurich-based Hitachi Zosen Inova, Perth-based New Energy Corporation and Tribe Infrastructure Group, first has to get environmental approval to proceed with the facility, which it says will create 300 jobs during construction — due to start post-July — and 50 full-time jobs throughout its 30-plus year operating life.

It will be on Office Road, East Rockingham, which is within the Kwinana Strategic Industrial Area.

New Energy chief executive Jason Pugh said the consortium had sufficient time to get approvals and build the plant before taking waste in 2021.

HZI hailed the EMRC deal, saying its “moving grate combustion technology is the best of its kind globally”.

“HZI is a clear leader in the waste-to-energy market worldwide,” managing director (Australia) Dr Marc Stammbach said. “We have successfully delivered projects in major global capitals such as London and Paris. Importantly, we stay with the project from conception through construction, and once the project is commissioned, we then lead the operations and maintenance activities for the life of the plant.

“This continuity will ensure Perth’s first waste-to-energy project is a successful one.

“The WA Environmental Protection Authority has benchmarked European standards as best-practice for waste-to-energy technologies and emissions. HZI has been successfully building and operating facilities to these standards for many years and are continuing to win new work on this basis.”

New Energy chairman Enzo Gullotti said the project supported the WA Government’s aggressive targets for landfill diversion.

“The EMRC’s decision demonstrates a clear commitment to divert waste away from landfills,” he said. Before the deal can be finalised, EMRC’s member councils have to sign off on “various agreements required under the arrangement with HZI”.

EMRC chairman Cr David Fardig was confident in moving forward with the contract.

“The EMRC’s priority has, and will always continue to be, the efficient and sustainable management of waste and recovery of resources from waste streams,” he said. “This project is part of the EMRC’s integrated waste management plans which also include development of the Resource Recovery Park at Hazelmere.”

Last year, MRC joined EMRC in its public tender process, committing 100,000 tonnes a year of its waste. On Thursday night, MRC deferred its decision on whether to proceed.

MRC chairman Cr Russ Fishwick said the matter had been deferred to a meeting on November 9 because of “uncertainty with a number of clauses in the current draft of the contract documents that require clarification from the preferred tenderer”.

One of the MRC’s member councils, the City of Vincent, last month voted to hold off on any deal. It advised MRC it was developing a waste strategy with an aim of increasing its diversion levels through waste management measures higher up the waste hierarchy than landfill and energy recovery.

“Until the waste strategy is finalised, it would be premature and prejudicial for the city to commit any of its waste to a waste-to-energy facility,” it said.

Ms Bremmer praised the City of Vincent’s caution and warned councils that sign-up would cop “heavy financial penalties” if they did not supply the contracted amounts of rubbish for decades to come.

“This may lead to councils importing rubbish to send to the incinerator because their own recycling has significantly reduced the waste they can supply,” she said.

“This diabolical agreement also means ratepayers will be slugged with ever increasing council rates to cover the penalty fees as they get better and better at recycling.”

Mr Pugh said he couldn’t comment on contract details.