THE ACT Greens have weighed into the debate about a proposed waste to energy facility near Tarago.
Greens MLA for Ginninderra and spokeswoman for the circular economy, Jo Clay, said while she had been assured Veolia's $600 million plant at the Woodlawn eco-precinct would only accept NSW residual waste, she was concerned about the broader impact.
Legislation would not prevent ACT private industry sending its residual waste to the plant.
In a letter to the company's manager of strategic projects (waste and recycling), Lee Smith, Ms Clay pointed out that the ACT government's Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25 prohibited thermal treatment of the material. As such, the Territory would not build such a plant itself.
In mid October she met with two Veolia representatives to hear more about the project on Collector Road. They outlined plans for environmental protections such as lining, capping and real-time air quality monitoring. Veolia is preparing an environmental impact study for the project.
"We are concerned about the impact on the local environment. We are also concerned about the impact this may have on the recycling hierarchy for ACT waste," Ms Clay wrote.
"The ACT is in the process of establishing a new food organics system for our municipal waste and upgrading our Materials Recovery Facility. I'm delighted that we're all in agreement on the waste hierarchy, which places both of these processing methods above waste-to-energy or disposal in landfill. We are keen to support high value recycling methods."
Mr Smith had explained that NSW regulations meant the facility would only accept residual municipal waste from Sydney and Banksmeadow and not the ACT.
Nevertheless, Ms Clay said nearby waste facilities could affect the Territory's recycling operations, particularly those close to the border. If industry found it cheaper to send waste to an interstate landfill or waste-to-energy facility than to a local recycling, it was highly likely to do so.
Ms Clay, who previously worked in the waste industry, told The Post that the ACT could not control what private enterprise did or police the border to ensure residual waste didn't leave its jurisdiction.
"I'm not concerned about municipal waste but commercial, industrial, construction and demolition (material)," she said.
"...It could mean that ACT waste that could be sent to recycling would be landfilled and I see that as a poor outcome."
Ms Clay said she was interested in why Veolia saw incineration as the best option.
She has posed a series of questions to the company including whether Veolia would accept ACT commercial waste and if not, the gate fee and procedures that would apply to prevent it from happening.
In addition, she wanted more detail on regulations to prevent the Territory's commercial waste ending up in Woodlawn's landfill or the waste to energy facility.
Moreover, Ms Clay questioned whether ACT commercial and industrial waste was currently going into the landfill.
Finally, she requested details of measures to ensure nil leachate and runoff from the waste to energy plant and plans for the resulting solid and liquid by-product.
A spokeswoman for Veolia said the proposed Advanced Recovery Centre (waste to energy plant) did not include or require an increase to current waste approvals limits.
"However, Veolia is having separate discussions with the Department of Industry, Planning and Environment about potentially accepting more regional waste for disposal in the Bioreactor, including from the ACT," she said.
"These discussions are ongoing and will be subject to relevant approvals, separate to that of the ARC project."
Meantime, Goulburn Mulwaree Council has written to the ACT government expressing its concerns about the ARC and its potential impact on the broader area.
It has also raised the issue through the Canberra Joint Regional Organisation of Councils, of which it is a member.
In September, Goulburn Mulwaree councillors voted to oppose waste to energy plants in its area.
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