Energy from waste

Each year Canberra’s households and businesses send more than 100,000 tonnes of organic waste to landfill.

A regional materials recovery and bioenergy facility could increase resource recovery rates while converting residual ACT and regional organic waste into renewable electricity. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ACT landfills by over 70,000 tonnes per annum.

The ACT Government is exploring options to deliver an integrated materials recovery and bioenergy facility. Advanced thermal processing technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis and plasma gasification are now sufficiently mature to be effectively deployed in the ACT. Advance thermal processing technologies can not only generate renewable energy more cleanly and efficiently than conventional combustion, but they can also produce value-added products such as biochar for agriculture and sustainable transport fuels.

This approach could achieve more than 90% total resource recovery for the ACT, displace fossil fuel power generation and produce valuable products for agriculture and industry.

Energy from waste versus a ‘third bin’

A number of Australian jurisdictions have used ‘third bin’ collection services to recover garden waste and food scraps. Independent analysis has shown that these systems fail to capture three quarters of the residual organics in the green-top garbage bins. The ACT presently recovers over 90% of its garden waste to produce valuable composts and mulches. Third bin collection systems produce a compost of lower quality than the ACT achieves through its existing garden-waste system.

The provision and collection of a third bin would come at a considerable cost to ACT rate payers and to the detriment of the many small businesses that currently provide garden waste services to the Canberra community, without greatly increasing the diversion of organics from landfill.

By contrast, an integrated materials recovery and bioenergy facilities could capture virtually 100% of the organics going to landfill from both households and businesses, and this material can be converted to renewable energy or value added products such as biochar and transport fuels.

Complementary activities under the ACT’s Waste Strategy

The ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025 seeks to maintain and enhance the waste hierarchy. That is, it seeks to reduce waste generation, increase recycling and only use suitably sorted material for energy generation if they have no other viable markets.

The Government is also facilitating increased onsite sorting by business and households through its ACTSmart Business & Office programs and its education programs such as AuSSI schools.

In this way the government is seeking to minimise the amount of waste generated while maximising recycling and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from landfill.

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