Victoria’s First Waste-To-Energy Plant to Power Maryvale Paper Mill by Burning Household Rubbish

Power Maryvale Paper Mill

Melbourne’s household rubbish collections are about to become a valuable resource. The first licensed waste-to-energy plant in Victoria is set to begin operations in the Latrobe Valley.

This new plant will power Opal Australia’s Maryvale Paper Mill in eastern Victoria, which employs around 500 people. The Victorian government has granted a license to a consortium to build and manage this power plant.

This approval comes at a time when Opal has announced the loss of 220 jobs across Australia and New Zealand, with up to 45 jobs expected to be cut at the Maryvale Mill. These job cuts will affect both blue-collar and white-collar workers.

The waste-to-energy plant will burn household rubbish, including items like nappies, soft plastics, metal, and even dog poo, to generate steam and electricity. This will power the Maryvale Paper Mill, which has faced challenges in the past year due to a shortage of timber, leading to a halt in the production of Australia’s white copy paper.

Residents of the Latrobe Valley, who are used to the often unpleasant smells from the mill, have been reassured that the new plant will not produce any odours. The waste will be delivered to an enclosed bunker and then fed into a furnace.

According to David Jettson, Opal Australia’s general manager of corporate development, “The furnace will combust the waste to produce heat. The heat converts water into steam, and the steam drives a turbo generator to provide both electricity and steam to the pulp and paper mill.”

This technology is nearly ready in a plant in Western Australia and is already in use at 500 sites across Europe, including some visible from the Eiffel Tower. As the Latrobe Valley transitions away from its coal-fired power generation sector, which has resulted in job losses, Mr Jettson emphasised that reducing methane emissions from landfills is more beneficial for the climate than the carbon emissions from the new plant.

He noted that “when waste goes to landfill, any organics in the waste rot and produce methane, which is much more harmful to climate change than just straight CO2.”

However, environmental groups and local advocates have expressed concerns about the new plant. Tracey Anton from Friends of Latrobe Water questioned the potential contaminants and toxins that might be released.

She asked, “Why should we be replacing one industry with another? Doesn’t the Latrobe Valley deserve new standards?” Anton emphasised the need to move away from industrial legacies that harm community health and water quality.

Dr Kat Lucas-Healey, Environment Victoria’s Senior Climate and Energy adviser, echoed these concerns. She criticised the government’s decision to expand waste-to-energy operations despite unresolved health and environmental issues.

Dr Lucas-Healey said, “It is clear the government’s new waste-to-energy scheme has been designed in the interests of the operators, with significant risks borne by the environment and the public. Currently, there are no mechanisms to ensure that any potential benefits to the energy system or the climate can be harnessed.”

She urged the government to listen to residents who desire a clean future for the Latrobe Valley, focusing on renewable energy rather than new polluting industries.

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