We’ve achieved some amazing community focused outcomes, in a short amount of time at Zero Waste Victoria. The most significant being a win in an appeal at VCAT against the EPA’s approval of a waste-to-energy plant in Laverton North, a suburb in Melbourne’s south west.

The EPA held a community consultation in August 2019, and I attended to support our Zero Waste Victoria members, with a list of questions. Following this we made a submission to the EPA with more questions and concerns about the proposed facility, as did many local community members, groups and experts. Some concerns were taken into account, following a second consultation in November.

The facility was approved in January 2020, and while we noted some good clauses in the works conditions, there were some justifiably valid concerns. Therefore, we sought advice, consulted the community and took action by lodging an appeal with VCAT.

As a result of this action, we have achieved more stringent conditions which will ensure greater transparency and safeguards with waste and air pollution.  Enabling better outcomes for the community, environment and public health.

Summary of the amendments to the works approval

Waste acceptance criteria

  • Only accept waste which would otherwise be disposed of to landfill.
  • Ensuring that the facility is designed to be able to accommodate future material recovery including steel, e-waste, recyclables and other hazardous materials.
  • A requirement for ‘waste arising’ contracts to be preferred, which avoids locking councils into contractual obligations to supply fixed amounts of waste, therefore disincentivizing recycling. (This is a new type of waste contract for councils in Victoria, which means that ratepayers won’t pay disposal fees for waste they don’t create. It also ensures that waste that ought to be recycled, can be recycled.)

Waste residues

  • Reporting of any residual waste from the gasification process including gasifier slag and fly ash.
  • Restricting the amount of waste products from the project that can be disposed of to landfill to 3% of feedstock by weight.

Better monitoring of air emissions

  • Monitor an increased range of pollutants, including condensable particulate matter.
  • Requirement for the project to meet the lower end of the European emission limits.
  • Continuous Emissions Monitoring of volatile organic carbon.
  • Ensuring the pollution control equipment can be upgraded if required to reduce emissions of toxic furans and dioxins to the maximum extent achievable.

Public reporting of monitoring results

  • Full transparency to the public on air pollution by publishing Continuous Emissions Monitoring data in real time and periodic monitoring data on an approved project website.

Zero Waste Victoria’s ultimate goal is to reduce waste to landfill, but waste-to-energy plants that incinerate or gasify waste are not an easy fix to solve our waste problems. Our governments, businesses and community must have a greater focus on waste reduction, reuse, repurpose and repair, as well as an emphasis on local recycling and composting initiatives.

We cannot fix one environmental problem by creating another problem, to be passed onto future generations to manage. It is essential to ensure that if these projects do go ahead, that they have the most stringent, most appropriate conditions.

We would like to thank Environmental Justice Australia, who advised and represented Zero Waste Victoria Pro Bono for this appeal. Their expertise and dedication to supporting this cause was paramount to success of the outcomes achieved. Environmental Justice Australia is a leading public interest legal organisation. Their lawyers act on behalf of people and community organisations to safeguard health; protect magnificent forests, rivers and wildlife; and tackle climate change.

For inquiries, please contact kirsty@zerowastevictoria.org.au

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