Western Sydney Wins but the Eastern Suburbs May Still Lose the Battle to Stop Suez's Toxic Incinerator
15 September 2021.
Western Sydney Wins but the Eastern Suburbs May Still Lose
the Battle to Stop Suez’s Toxic Incinerator
even though it doesn’t stack up on environmental grounds
Last Friday the EPA effectively banned waste incinerators in Western Sydney but has left open the prospect that a toxic incinerator can still be built in suburban Matraville, which will pollute the air over Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, harming the health of residents.
On Friday 10th September, the Environment Protection Authority released the NSW Government’s Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan, which has effectively banned large scale incinerations in Western Sydney.
Outside of Western Sydney, waste to energy incinerators will be permitted if the facilities use waste, or waste-derived feedstock to replace less environmentally sound fuels (including coal or petroleum-based fuels) to generate energy at the site, or where energy is used to power industrial and manufacturing processes on-site.
This last qualification, allowing incinerators to power industrial sites, is of grave concern to the No More Incinerators (NMI) community group, as it leaves open the possibility that the Opal and Suez incinerator proposal for suburban Matraville could still go ahead.
No More Incinerators calls on the Minister for the Environment, Matt Kean, to categorically rule out the toxic incinerator being proposed for Matraville, as it fails key environmental criteria in the plan.
“The Opal and Suez incinerator proposal should be rejected by the EPA, not only because of the health risks its toxic plume will create, but also on environmental grounds. In terms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, the Suez incinerator will emit more greenhouse gases than the Opal site does currently with its energy being supplied by gas,” said Chris Hanson, chemical engineer and coordinator for the NMI group.
“When you look at energy equivalents and greenhouse gas emissions, the Suez incinerator makes no sense whatsoever. The numbers don’t stack up,” Hanson said.
He cited figures from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy & Resources that show:
· Burning 1 tonne of black coal produces 2.6 tonnes of CO2
· The energy from burning equivalent amount of dry waste produces a minimum of 2.5 tonnes of CO2
· And burning the equivalent amount of natural gas produces only 1.5 tonnes of CO2
“The Opal paper mill in Matraville is currently using gas as its energy source. Switching to burning waste will actually produce more CO2, not to mention the risk of toxic pollutants being in the emissions floating over the densely populated Eastern Suburbs.
Moreover, the Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan prohibits industry site incinerators from selling energy back to the grid. Yet Suez have told the Community Reference Group that this is exactly what they will do.
“On so many levels Suez and Opal’s proposal doesn’t stack up. According to their new plan, the Minister and the EPA have no choice but to stop this proposal going ahead. They should stop it today,” Hanson said.
Media contact: Michael Parker, M: 0423 121 354
Chris Hanson is a chemical engineer and AIPM accredited project manager who holds a BSc in Process Engineering and a MSc in Environment Management and Safety Engineering from UNSW. He specialises in working in major hazardous facilities and environments. He was responsible for setting up and overseeing the US EPA’s TCLP system for evaluating solid wastes at Orica’s (formerly ICI Australia’s) Botany Industrial Park site which was used to evaluate any solid waste being disposed of from that site.
He has a wide range of experience in the plastics, heavy chemical and petrochemical industries and has spent much of his working life heavily involved with the management of hazardous and intractable wastes including chlorinated pollutants similar to those that will be discharged by the proposed incinerators – hence his interest in providing a viable alternative to the incineration of waste.
 The NSW policy being developed will allow the concentration of dust released into the air to be ten times greater than limits set for incinerators in England and Europe. Yet, proponents of the Sydney incinerators claim their incinerators will be based on European standards.
The NSW Government is proceeding with a waste policy that will allow 0.02 grams per cubic metre (20 mg/m3) of dust carrying toxic heavy metals, dioxins and other pollutants to be released every hour, 24 hours/day.
By contrast, new waste incinerators in the UK emit less than 1 mg/m3 per hour, so low they are difficult to accurately measure. And in the European Union, the limit has to be less than 2 mg/m3. Yet, alarmingly, despite these low levels, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) – produced by burning PVC and other plastics – are now being found in the environment and food chain, including in eggs and human breast milk across Europe. There is also evidence of birth defects. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) do not break down but, instead, they build up and stay in the environment forever.
 From Community Reference Group Meeting 001 Minutes, page 5, Fuels
“Kerry asked if the generation of electricity in this project would be beneficial for the wider community. Natalie and Jacob responded that when the Mill is not making paper, for example during planned maintenance, then no steam would be required so electricity could become available and be fed into the grid. Natalie stated that even if the Mill is not operating, the cogeneration plant would still operate hence the availability of electricity for the grid.”