Eight Perth councils have signed a contract with Phoenix Energy to build and operate what they say is Australia’s “first metropolitan waste incinerator” in a bid to meet the state’s target of sending zero waste to landfill by 2020.
Spearheaded by Rivers Regional Council, the $400 million project will see South Perth, Canning, Mandurah, Kwinana, Armadale, Gosnells, Serpentine Jarrahdale and Murray councils send all of their household residual waste to the energy-from-waste plant to generate approximately 35 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 35,000 homes.
Once at the facility in Leath Road, Kwinana, the waste will be processed in two “Martin grate” lines, which will thermally treat the waste to produce steam to drive a turbine, producing electricity for the power grid. The facility will be the first in Australia to use Martin grate technology in a waste plant.
The EfW plant, which has already received EPA approval, will also see any remaining bottom ash used to produce bricks, pavers and/or aggregates for the construction industry, while remnant metals will be recycled.
It is expected that up to 250,000 tonnes of waste will be sent to the EfW facility once operational in 2018, however this could rise to 400,000 tonnes in future, as the population increases.
Phoenix Energy has stated that 600 jobs will be created during the construction phase (beginning in the first quarter of 2016), with 60 positions being made available when the plant becomes operational in the fourth quarter of 2018.
According to RRC, the technology is environmentally friendly, economically sustainable and will reduce rates for the residents involved.
Speaking at the signing of the contract earlier this month, RRC chair Ron Hoffman said the project was a good example of local governments working together to provide a cost-effective and coordinated outcome for residents, adding: “Most importantly, this facility will divert 100 per cent of municipal solid waste from landfill and will provide a… more environmentally-friendly source of electricity than coal.”
However, the incineration plant will not immediately recover the heat produced from its operations (although Phoenix Energy has said it will be designed for the potential for a future steam off take), which could limit its efficiency.
Critics, including WA Greens, have also voiced concerns over the fact that the incinerator will produce harmful emissions such as dioxins and furans, create pressure on councils to continue to produce residual waste (rather than focus on waste reduction), and increase traffic.
Four other EfW plants are also expected to come online in WA in near future – including waste gasification plants planned in East Rockingham and Port Hedland.
Speaking to The West Australian following a protest on the Kwinana incinerator last month, Alliance for a Clean Environment chairwoman Jane Bremmer said: “Waste-to-energy incinerators, including gasification and pyrolysis incinerators, emit more greenhouse gases and toxins per unit than both coal and gas.
“Our government is heading in the wrong direction on waste management in WA and will set our state on a path to increased climate change and a wasteful society.”
Find out more about the plans for the Kwinana incinerator.