Sydney Knitting Nannas were back at the top of Martin Place on Friday protesting against waste-to-energy incinerators. We were joined by people representing the different areas in Sydney and the regions who will be affected. City and country campaigners were united in calling for real solutions to the waste crisis, not polluting incinerators.
Incineration should not be part of our waste strategies for two main reasons:
– it damages human health and the environment, and
– it undermines the shift we must make to a circular economy in which waste is prevented, reduced, reused or recycled.
To produce the same amount of energy as coal, an incinerator releases 5 times as much C02, 28 times more dioxin and many times more mercury and sulphur dioxides.
Incinerators produce Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) also called “forever chemicals” such as dioxins and furans, along with heavy metals. POPs from incinerators find their way into the food chain and environment. Incinerators don’t have filters that can stop the nano particles entering the atmosphere.
There is no safe level of these pollutants and children are at the most risk.
Eastern Creek in Western Sydney
Melinda Wilson from No Incinerators for Western Sydney spoke to the crowd about the proposed Eastern Creek incinerator, which is close to schools and childcare centres in densely populated suburbs. This project is before the NSW Planning Department and you can have your say by making a submission opposing it before 5pm on Tuesday 21 June. Click here for links to help you make a submission.
Western Sydney already has very poor air quality and huge landfills. Western Sydney residents have strongly resisted incinerators over many years and continue to stand up against being the dump for Sydney’s waste, and for their right to clean air.
Matraville in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs
Geoff, a representative of No More Incinerators Inc (NMI) spoke about the waste management company Veolia (formerly Suez) wanting to build a waste-to-energy incinerator plant at the Opal Paper Mill on Botany Road in Matraville.
The proposed waste incinerator would burn 165,000 tonnes of recyclable material such as plastics, textiles and furniture each year to help power the Opal paper mill. The stack would discharge a cocktail of toxic pollutants onto the eastern suburbs 24 hours a day. The 60m high stack would be located less than 100 metres from the nearest homes. NMI have been fighting against this proposal for several years.
NMI have been told that Suez’s proposed incinerator does not meet the exemptions under the draft regulation primarily because OPAL currently use natural gas for heating their boiler which is cleaner than waste to burn. While this may seem like a good development for Matraville and Randwick residents it is far from satisfactory for NSW residents. NMI does not want to simply shift this problem to someone else’s backyard! Additionally, there remains plenty of scope for Suez to seek exemptions, so this fight is not yet over.
In the meantime the NSW EPA have developed a draft regulation to allow the incineration of waste in four “priority areas”:
· West Lithgow Precinct
· Parkes Special Activation Precinct
· Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct
· Southern Goulburn Mulwaree Precinct
But under the proposed draft regulation waste incineration will still be allowed outside of these areas if “the facilities use waste, or waste-derived feedstock to replace less environmentally sound fuels (such as coal or petroleum-based fuels) to generate energy at the site, and where the energy is used to power industrial and manufacturing processes on site.”
This means that waste incinerators will not be limited to these areas and could still be allowed at any site where coal is, or was, being used for power. That includes almost every electricity generator in NSW, leaving the door wide open for waste incinerators to be built right across the state – even outside of the proposed “priority” areas!
No More Incinerators is committed to supporting other groups fighting waste incinerators in their local areas.
Nanna Frances is from Lithgow and she spoke about the community campaign against the incinerator there. The NSW EPA recently ruled out building an incinerator on the site of the Wallerawang power station but the industry could still proceed in the Lithgow region. ABC News
Tarago near Goulburn
Nanna Frances read out a statement from the community campaigners in Tarago on the southern tablelands. The area already suffers from Sydney’s waste in landfills and the waste companies have conned the community promising more jobs and donating money to sports clubs and charities. https://www.notaragoincinerator.com/
The Greens new MLC Sue Higginson drew our attention to the proposal to build an incinerator near Casino in the Richmond Valley. Sue spoke of the strong community opposition to the proposal. Residents against the Richmond Valley Incinerator on Facebook. Sue assured us that the Greens will continue to oppose incineration in the parliament.
Real Solutions not Pollution
As we support communities pushing back against the toxic incinerators there are opportunities for us to learn more about zero waste strategies and what a circular economy would look like in Australia. We have many examples from overseas where governments have acted in the interests of people rather than the waste industry and other industries promoting incineration as a quick fix.
There are proven viable alternatives to solve our giant waste problems and burning waste anywhere just doesn’t make sense!