The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recognises that the recovery of energy and resources from the thermal processing of waste has the potential, as part of an integrated waste management
strategy, to deliver positive outcomes for the community and the environment. Energy from waste can be a valid pathway for residual waste where:
- further material recovery through reuse, reprocessing or recycling is not financially sustainable or technically achievable
- community acceptance to operate such a process has been obtained.
In NSW, two key policy objectives are enshrined in the state’s waste legislation. Firstly, the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) sets the framework to ensure that
human health and the environment are protected from the inappropriate use of waste. Secondly, the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 (WaRR Act) aims to ensure that
consideration of resource management options occurs in the following order:
- avoidance of unnecessary resource consumption
- resource recovery (including reuse, reprocessing, recycling and energy recovery)
Where waste cannot be avoided or products reused, various recovery technologies are available to maximise resource efficiencies and increase the sustainability of our communities, businesses and
The EPA has applied the following overarching principles to waste avoidance and recovery:
- higher value resource recovery outcomes are maximised
- air quality and human health are protected
- ‘mass burn’ disposal outcomes are avoided
- scope is provided for industry innovation.
The thermal treatment of waste provides an opportunity to recover the embodied energy from waste, offset the use of non-renewable energy sources, and avoid methane emissions from landfill.
However, these outcomes depend on ensuring that any energy recovery proposals represent the most efficient use of the resource and the risks of harm to human health or the environment are
adequately managed. Clean air is fundamental to everyone’s wellbeing: poor air quality can be particularly critical to the health of children and chronically ill and older people, as well as affecting the natural environment and amenity of communities. To ensure emissions are adequately mitigated, facilities proposing to recover energy from waste will
need to meet current international best practice techniques, particularly regarding:
- process design and control
- emission control equipment design and control
- emission monitoring with real-time feedback to the controls of the process.
The NSW Energy from Waste Policy statement sets out the policy framework and overarching criteria that apply to facilities in NSW proposing to thermally treat waste or waste-derived materials
for the recovery of energy. In doing so, it provides regulatory clarity to industry and the community.
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