Clearing the Air Around the Matraville Incinerator
French multinational SUEZ’s proposed Matraville waste incinerator is continuing to cause concern in the community, after a similar incinerator in Eastern Creek was rejected by the Land and Environment Court at a recent appeal hearing.
The proposed Matraville incinerator would be capable of providing both steam and electricity to power the Opal Paper and Recycling Botany Mill.
“If approved, the plant would reduce waste to landfill, lower net CO2 emissions, create local jobs and increase local economic development,” a SUEZ spokesperson told The Beast.
However, the No More Incinerators campaign manager and chemical engineer, Chris Hanson, is concerned that the plant won’t effectively manage the dust that will be discharged into the atmosphere as this dust will also carry toxic heavy metals and other organic pollutants with it.
These pollutants contain POPs, or Persistent Organic Pollutants, which can build up in the environment and in your body over time when ingested or inhaled and can cause birth defects, preterm birth and cancers in local populations.
Mr Hanson said that the presence of POPs is akin to the presence of lead in petrol.
“You think it’s safe because you can’t see it, but in reality you’re breathing it in 24/7 and over time this can lead to serious health problems in the people who are exposed to it,” Mr Hanson told The Beast.
The major question around the incinerator is whether or not the presence of the toxic heavy metals and POPs can be mitigated to a point that is safe for the local community.
One argument for the incinerator is that it follows the European trend of incinerators that burn waste to prevent it from going to landfill. However, the current draft NSW EPA Waste from Energy Policy allows for up to 20mg/m3 to be released every hour in Australian incinerators, which Mr Hanson alleges is four times the current European standard.
While the proposed SUEZ waste incinerator may meet current NSW standards, the concern is that these standards are not adequate for a plant located only 130 metres from residential housing.
Mr Hanson said that European incinerators are in decline after being linked with health issues caused by the toxic pollutants they discharge.
“Incineration companies are being kicked out of Europe and see Australia as a soft target because we have no meaningful legislation regulating them and an amenable state government,” Mr Hanson told The Beast.
Randwick Mayor Danny Said indicated his council was strongly opposed to the proposal and was very concerned about the impact on nearby residents as well as across broader Sydney.
“It doesn’t make sense to burn waste in such close proximity to people’s homes, playgrounds and schools,” he told The Beast.
“The emissions from this plant will be carried by prevailing winds across greater Sydney, meaning everyone will be breathing in what comes out of this 60-metre high stack.”
Mr Hanson believes that investing in a circular economy is a viable alternative solution to waste incinerators. A PWC study into the benefits of circular economies (in which all waste is repurposed and recycled) suggested that the Australian economy could benefit by up to $1.9 trillion a year.
One example of investing in a circular economy is Randwick Council’s FOGO initiative, which has recovered 30 per cent of material that typically goes to landfill and repurposed it as compost. Council expects this to increase to at least 40 per cent as the initiative continues.
For more information, visit suez-energyfromwaste.com.au or nomoreincinerators.