Waste to Energy Background Paper (2013)

Waste to Energy Background Paper (2013)
  • Waste to Energy

Waste to Energy Background Paper (2013)

Executive summary: South Australia is undoubtedly a leader in waste management and resource recovery, not only in Australia but also in global terms. This has already been demonstrated by delivering the highest landfill diversion rate in Australia, and the continuing success of their Producer Responsibility and Take Back Programmes, with the state reaping the rewards of the leadership and direction shown through the delivery of South Australia‘s Waste Strategy (2005-2010). South Australia‘s current Waste Strategy, for the period 2011-2015, aims to build on this success, and sets further challenging targets for landfill diversion of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste and Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste streams. The strategy recognises a role for energy recovery where it is consistent with the waste management hierarchy. Many other countries across the world also recognise the need to include W2E as part of an integrated waste management system which aims to achieve zero waste to landfill. Many of these countries have developed active programmes, policies and funding structures to set out a clear direction for the development of W2E and to encourage its development and delivery. In particular, W2E is often the only alternative to landfill for wastes which have no further recovery or recycling value, and as such plays a critical role in sustainable waste management solutions across Europe. The development of a W2E policy for South Australia will not only enable the successful development and delivery of a portfolio of energy and power generation projects, but will also complement the State Waste Strategy and National Waste policy, which outlines high level strategies to enhance biodegradable resource recovery and diversion from landfill to reduce GHG emissions. The national carbon tax is one such measure looking to drive materials away from landfill into more productive treatment, recovery and recycling based solutions. South Australia recognise the need for a policy on W2E to help direct local decision-making, stimulate investment and offer leadership for the development of new projects, and are looking at the development of similar policies in NSW, Victoria and overseas to help inform their thinking. In addition to increased landfill diversion, South Australia may also benefit from the community opportunities and social value that W2E can provide, such as lower energy prices and job creation. In order to underpin a suitable W2E policy for the State, ZWSA have commissioned this background paper to examine developments in W2E technologies both in Australia and globally, and to fully understand the strategies, policies and plans that impact on their development, design and delivery. Whilst still limited in South Australia, this paper demonstrates how the use of both thermal and biological treatment to recover energy from waste is not only well established globally, but is commonly applied to a wide range of wastes, including non-recyclable fractions of MSW, C&D and C&I waste streams. This paper showcases an abundance of proven technologies which could be applied in South Australia for the recovery of energy from a wide range of target waste feedstocks, and concludes that they could all play a part in a developing W2E sector in South Australia if the right policies, strategies, programmes and support mechanisms are put in place. Technology choice aside, there are many drivers and barriers which will impact on the development of W2E infrastructure. The cost and gate fees associated with local landfill sites will always dictate the financial viability of W2E projects, but instruments such as landfill bans, levies and taxes have been successful in incentivising the development of alternatives.
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