December 21, 2012 20:33:25
What if instead of putting your rubbish out on the kerb it could instead be used to power your home?
That's what one company is hoping to achieve within the next five years.
And if they're successful Western Australia will be home to the nation's first 'waste-to-energy' plant with plans to develop a site in Kwinana.
"What goes out in the little green bins will go to the plant," says Phoenix Energy managing director Peter Dyson.
"Each time you put your own garbage bin out what you're putting out goes to landfill [and that equates to] 15 per cent of your own electricity needs and that's renewable."
Mr Dyson says once the plant is operational it will be able to collect around 300,000 tonnes of rubbish from a similar number of homes each year.
"Any waste that comes into the plant... zero waste goes out of the plant," he said.
"There is nothing that goes to landfill at all."
But Piers Verstegen from the Conservation Council is yet to be convinced.
He wants to see more evidence to support the move.
"It is premature to even consider waste-to-energy facilities in WA when there are so many opportunities to capture much higher value through conventional recycling," Mr Verstegen.
There are around 900 plants across the world that convert rubbish to energy, but so far none have been built in Australia.
Among those, 300 of them are in Japan and 180 in France.
"They are all over Japan, in fact there are 20 of them in Tokyo itself."
That's local MP Phil Edman who went on a fact finding mission to Japan with the Premier Colin Barnett in March last year.
Mr Edman says the project will go a long way to meeting the State Government's policy of 'no landfills' by 2020.
"It has been cheaper to put it into land and now that is obviously changing which is a wise move in relation to the environment," he said.
"So apart from making energy for some 100,000 homes, there are no dangerous substances going back into the ground."
He also believes that households will be better off in the hip pocket.
"The gate fee is around $205 a tonne to the rate player but this plant the cost will be around $110."
The Kwinana plant is expected to be operational by 2016 and comes with a $350 million price tag.
But Piers Verstegen disputes some of the environmental benefits and says more information needs to be released.
"Recycling materials such as plastic, metals and glass captures much greater value by allowing these materials to be used again and again, unlike waste-to-energy which destroys the valuable materials in waste," he said.
Developers say the plant will create enough energy for 100,000 households and will be built under the toughest and most strict environmental conditions.
"I think Western Australia moves faster than the other states," says Peter Dyson.
"In WA there is a much stronger attitude of let's find out what we need to do and let's get on it.
"It meets all the targets and it will be designed to meet the strictest emissions profile."
Phil Edman says that in Japan the plants are built next to residential areas and schools.
"There were no odours or emissions coming out of it," he said.
"The dioxin levels are so low coming out of it that if you were to [compare] it to an exhaust pipe, there were more dioxins coming out of an exhaust pipe delivering to the plant than actually what is coming out of the stack," he says.
But Piers Verstegen remains sceptical.
"There are also serious concerns about pollution from incineration of mixed waste, particularly in and around metropolitan areas," he said.
Mr Dyson hopes there will be more plants given the green light in Western Australia and then other states and territories will follow.
He believes the construction will create around 800 jobs and when it is complete around 60 people will be required to staff the plant.
He says Australia could sustain about 20 waste-to-energy plants with its size and population.
"We are not playing with research and development; this is tried and proven stuff," says Mr Dyson.
"It is going to happen."
December 21, 2012 20:25:19