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Sarah Collins, Project Manager, REMONDIS Australia // 21 July 2021
Currently in Queensland most unrecyclable waste goes to landfill at 11 major (and many smaller) sites
Shipping waste offshore to Asia is diminishing as those countries introduce restrictions and bans
The Swanbank EfW facility would divert 500,000 tonnes of unrecyclable waste from landfill each year
Flicking the switch from landfill to Energy from Waste in Ipswich will retire age-old waste problems and give rise to baseload clean energy generation for powering an entire community.
Our proposed $700 million Clean Energy & Resource Recovery Precinct at Swanbank is an extraordinary opportunity for Ipswich.
For context, let’s look at what happens with waste in Queensland now.
People usually forget about their waste once they’ve put their bins at the kerb. The same with businesses who pay for waste to be taken away. Some is recycled – that’s the first goal – but most goes to landfill at eleven major sites and many smaller sites around the state.
This practice of dumping waste in big holes in the ground generally happens around Australia too. Some of Australia’s unrecyclable waste has even been shipped to Asian countries where it's been used for landfill or stockpiled. Those countries are now frequently saying ‘no thanks’, creating even more local landfill pressures (and temptations for illegal dumping).
Burying waste isn’t pretty.
Land disturbance, odour, methane and leachate are just some of the things that must be managed. As populations grow the practice is becoming harder to sustain.
The Queensland Government’s Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy is focussed on reducing waste and landfill and boosting recycling, which is timely, because many of the state’s landfill sites will be exhausted in less than twenty years.
That’s why the precinct approach we’re offering at Swanbank offers so much. It’s a one-stop-shop arrangement where we can do something useful with pretty much everything that comes in, with recycling leading the charge.
However, we will still need a solution for the unrecyclable waste coming from Brisbane and Ipswich households.
Swanbank’s clincher is the self-funded $400 million Energy from Waste component, which would be a waste management game-changer.
Instead of burying 500,000 tonnes of unrecyclable waste each year we’d put it through a tightly controlled combustion process and generate up to 50 Megawatts of baseload clean energy that can go into the grid, enough to power 50,000 homes. That means up to 97 percent LESS landfill and cleaner electricity from an alternative to coal-fired power.
And there’d be up to 70 new full-time operational jobs on top of the 200 full-time jobs that would be created during construction.
Given that the Energy from Waste concept is relatively new to Australia a lot of people just don’t know how common and successful these facilities are overseas. There are many in the world now… in densely populated cities such as Paris, London, Copenhagen, Cologne, Zurich, Vienna, Palm Beach and Singapore, for example. Most are in or close to residential areas. Two are within 300 metres of our international headquarters in Lünen, Germany.
They’re technologically advanced, safe, and built to the highest international environmental, emissions and health standards. That would of course be the case at Swanbank.
After all, REMONDIS has 30 years’ experience developing such facilities globally.
Because it’s an ideal location. There’s an existing waste management operation meaning long-term waste supply. There’s existing water supply – essential for making the facility work – and there’s power infrastructure, meaning newly created electricity can be fed straight into the grid.
The Energy from Waste component is currently going through a rigorous approvals process, with every detail being scrutinised thoroughly. Community engagement is critical, which is why we’re doing everything possible to reach out to people in and around Ipswich.
Will toxic materials go into the plant? (never). Will the plant be equipped with modern technology to stop odour and harmful emissions? (absolutely). Will there be frequent environmental testing? (of course). Aren’t wind and solar power solutions better for the environment? (they have a place, but also limitations – they can’t generate electricity on a 24/7 basis like an Energy from Waste facility).
We need to make decisions on whether to invest in ‘same old’ landfill operations at Swanbank or look at stepping into the future and tapping into world’s best practice.
The fact is Australia is being left behind when it comes to modern and technologically advanced waste management. We know which way to go, but need the community on board.
Sarah Collins, Project Manager Sarah Collins has 20 years’ experience in the waste management, industrial services and resource recovery industries, and joined REMONDIS in 2012. A renowned problem-solver, she has implemented solutions to highly complex challenges, with capabilities spanning project management, HSEQ, strategic growth, tender management, and business development. Sarah is a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 and an ICAM Lead Investigator.
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