Waste to Energy FAQ
Q. Why Ballarat?
The City of Ballarat
has been selected as a potential location for a Waste to Energy Facility
because there is suitable industrial land, a large supply of waste, the
appropriate land buffers. We have pro-actively been lobbying both state and federal governments to progress a Waste to Energy
facility at BWEZ for the past five years.
Q. Why are we looking at Waste to Energy?
This is not a new idea.
Waste to energy has been a reality in other parts of the world for decades, in many countries is the accepted way of managing waste
The City of Ballarat has been looking at this for the past five years.
We’re being forced to look at new options for landfill, first of all we’re running out of space, landfill is expensive and it’s also harmful for the environment – burying waste is not a solution, it’s out of site but it’s a long-term problem for us.
In fact, it’s an expensive problem, it costs us approximately $22 million a year to collect and manage our waste.
You might not know, but we are also responsible for monitoring and maintaining a number of old landfill sites across the municipality – that’s an expensive legacy.
Q. Why now?
Waste to energy facilities have
been operating in Europe for more than 30 years and have become a proven,
valued and widely accepted waste management tool.
Today more than 100 facilities operate in Germany alone, and more than 120 in France.
Until now, it has been widely accepted that sending waste to landfill is the cheaper option for Australians. That’s no longer the case due to rising state government landfill levies and the costs of managing environmental issues around landfills. Council must manage these costs for a sustainable future.
All our research shows this is a responsible way to deal with waste rather than burying it.
Rather than burying it, we are creating the potential to fuel local industry
When we bury rubbish it creates methane gas, one of the worst of the greenhouse gases.
Q. Will it smell?
No, there will be no noticeable smell or noise.
Q. What is emitted from a Waste to Energy Facility? Is it harmful to the environment?
In short, no it won’t
harm the environment. A Waste to Energy Facility has been proven to be
one of the cleanest emitting energy sources.
Filters throughout the facility test the air quality continuously, with water vapour and clean flue gases exciting the facility.
generally results in low emission levels, typically well below permitted levels
for industry. These
facilities are designed to have very few gases coming out – the towers are set
up to provide room for the scrubbers and monitors to reduce the
The technology within waste to energy facilities must be able to deal with a whole range of gases such as hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, carbon monoxide, cadmium and its compounds, and mercury.
The facility will monitor and test to track and identify gases and to stay ahead of emission issues.
Monitoring is much more accurate, ongoing and efficient than is able to be done at a landfill where the monitoring cannot capture the whole footprint at all times.
Q. What are the environmental impacts of waste to energy compared to landfill?
We can capture a lot of the methane produced at
landfill and convert it into electricity or flare it off to reduce the impact –
but these impacts are long-term, and the breakdown of products in a landfill occur
over decades and in some products not at all.
The push for waste to energy, particularly in Europe and Japan, has required these facilities to be built right alongside residential premises.
This has required an even greater degree of control.
This includes fail-safes, air scrubbers, continual monitoring and reporting.
The waste that goes into a waste to energy facility is turned into energy or heat – its dealt with on the spot.
Landfills represent a technology that results in a legacy issue of contaminated land that future generations will have to continue to monitor, assess and work on.
Not all these costs can be captured up front in the landfill gate fee.
Q. Why is waste to energy a better option to landfill? What other options have we considered?
to energy is a form of recycling and a better option to landfill.
A waste to energy facility provides a reuse for household waste in the form of steam and electricity, something that a landfill cannot do.
Waste to energy converts waste that would usually be buried, into heat and steam – that means we can avoid using raw resource sources to create heat and steam.
As our communities continue to grow we will need more and more space to meet the needs of landfilling.
Many overseas countries in Europe have been using waste to energy for many years.
They have been forced to do this given their lack of space in highly-populated countries.
Q. What are the cost impacts of waste to energy compared to landfill?
to energy facility will have a lifespan of approximately 25 years.
Maintenance of such will be ongoing during its operations, however capital costs are upfront.
In comparison to landfill, landfill requires ongoing maintenance and ongoing construction of cells, capping and after care that means costs over its life and aftercare will continue to increase.
Landfills are a relatively cheap technology – capturing the full lifecycle costs for a site that will still be contaminated in fifty years is difficult.
A waste to energy facility will obviously have a higher technological/engineering component and the modelling for price will depend on the life and capacity of the facility - these are being assessed as part of the works currently underway.
Most importantly, a waste to energy facility will not leave legacy issues for future generations to pay for.
Q. So, will you also send recyclables to this facility.
No, only waste
destined for landfill will end up at the proposed Waste to Energy Facility. We will continue to recycle recyclables.
Q. So, what happens to our recycling once we put it in our bins with the yellow lid?
The City of Ballarat’s current contractors transfer
material, that is destined for overseas markets, to Geelong.
It is sorted at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) into different types of material, such as glass, paper, cardboard, plastic (HDPE, PET, etc), and aluminium.
These materials are available for mostly overseas markets to process into other products.
The 17 per cent of contamination (non-recyclables) is mostly pulled out at this stage and sent to landfill.
Q. Specifically plastic?
plastics are processed and re-purposed, however not all plastics can be
recycled and these instead go into landfill.
It is very important residents do not place soft plastics in the bins with yellow lids as this contaminates the recycle process.
The sorters at the facilities are experts at picking and identifying the plastics to send them to the right areas.
Plastics is a challenging topic as there are so many types – the plastic industry utilises the ‘three triangle arrows’ with the number inside to identify the type of plastic.
Q. What plastic recycling innovations are we looking at?
need to tackle this on two fronts – encouraging government at both levels on
product stewardship issues to design better and more recyclable products, and
instead of burying this material turn the resource into energy or heat for
Finding companies who can utilise the recovered plastics in their manufacturing and develop new uses for plastics we can’t currently reprocess is key for the future preservation of our resources.
Q. Is there enough waste to warrant a Waste to Energy Facility?
Yes. As the population grows, so too does waste.
There is more than enough waste to accommodate the facility, and there is potential to expand if required. Even with council’s best endeavours to reduce waste volumes, population growth alone means waste will always be available.
Q. As a resident, I want to know whether this will save me money?
It currently costs the City of Ballarat increasing amounts of money to run and maintain the current regional landfill site due to rising landfill levies and the costs of managing environmental issues.As a Council, a waste to energy facility gives us an alternative option to dispose of waste. One where we can forecast costs.
For the community, it means your waste charge is likely to stabilise over the next 20 years.
This would not be the case if we continued to only use the current landfill.
Q. What will this cost the City of Ballarat?
There is no cost to
construct or operate this facility. The facility will be a ‘build, own and
Q. How will residents benefit from a waste to energy facility?
The landfill footprint continues for decades – there
is no chance of this landfill technology reducing in cost over time and is instead
likely to increase.
The purpose of a waste to energy is designed to ensure useable end products with a much higher conversion rate than landfill.
Residents still need to avoid and reduce their waste as much as possible, but a waste to energy facility ensures they are not leaving legacy issues for their children. Residents will benefit knowing their waste material is being recycled into energy and not leaving a landfill legacy.
The energy generated will be used in BWEZ by local industry, helping to provide security for businesses.
Excess energy will then go into the grid.
This will happen when the facility is commissioned in 2022.
Q. What happens to the regional landfill if a Waste to Energy facility is built in Ballarat?
A waste to energy facility has
the potential to remove 90 per cent of waste going to landfill. This means we can extend the life of the current
landfill by decades, reducing its cost and better protecting the environment
Q. Why can’t we continue sending waste to landfill?
Landfill should be
our last resort.
The cost to maintain our current landfill at Smythesdale is increasing every year.
Just because we have the space, does not mean we should bury our rubbish.
The state government is very clear on this issue, there will be no new landfills.
Which means we have to take every measure we can to minimise what we put into the ground.
Q. Is an All-Waste Interchange required before a Waste to Energy Facility can operate at BWEZ?
No, a waste to energy facility
can operate without an All-Waste Interchange. However, a facility that sorts
waste means we can ensure better environmental outcomes in a more effective way
than we are currently achieving at the landfill now.
Q. What is an all-waste interchange? and how would it work?
An all-waste interchange is a facility that will take all types of waste
from the community and be sorted to ensure any recyclable material is separated
and diverted for reuse.
Q. How would it work with a waste to energy facility?
The material destined for landfill will be taken from the all-waste
interchange and sent to the waste to energy facility to be further recycled
into electricity and steam rather than being buried in a landfill.
Q. What stage is the All-Waste Interchange at?
At the 22 August 2018 Council Meeting, Councillors decided to proceed with stage one.
This will include land ownership. The land will then be
subdivided, roads and drainage and services such as power and water will be
installed, a new all-waste shed will be constructed to accept materials for
Materials for reprocessing or recycling will go to markets, with the remainder to go to landfill.
Q. Would an All-Waste interchange allow us to sort more independently?
Yes. The facility will be purpose-built to sort through material that is
It gives the City of Ballarat the ability to sort through materials and reduce contamination, in turn giving as a better product to recycle.
Encouraging local reuse and innovation requires a couple of things – supporting this sort of development with local companies and manufacturers, having product available and utilising our procurement to purchase more recovered and recycled material.
It is about diversification of the market. There still needs to be markets for these products for us to be able to divert into.
Residents can help by buying recycled or reused products in their daily lives.
Q. What happens to our green waste once we put it into our bins with the green bin?
Q. What about composting, would we look at this?
The City of Ballarat is investigating an organics
A key factor in getting this right is having zero contamination – we have 17 per cent contamination in our recycling so we still have a way to go within our community.
Q. If a waste to energy facility was constructed, would this then remove our incentive to recycle?
No, the City of Ballarat is committed to diverting
material from landfill and recycling materials.
The City of Ballarat introduced the greenwaste service in the last two years which has been well received by the community.
We feel the community is becoming more aware that landfills are not a long-term solution for waste management.
The All-Waste Interchange will be a state-of-the-art facility that will make recycling easier for the end user.
We work with other levels of government and private organisations and we understand more work needs to be done around generating a circular economy, improving product design and product stewardship.
The City of Ballarat will continue to lobby and support avoidance, resource recovery, and recycling. We know we need a more sustainable solution than burying waste in the ground.
Q. How does food waste tie in with a waste to energy facility?
food waste should be diverted from a waste to energy facility for reuse.
As with all waste types – where there is a better option to reuse or recycle the City of Ballarat will continue to look for and push these options.
Q. If we were to take waste from other municipalities, would this not increase the truck footprint coming in and out of our city?
No. The company undertaking their study is
talking with Qube to find a rail solution.
The proposed site of a waste to energy facility is adjacent to the railway line and rubbish can be taken from Western Councils that have rail passing through their municipality.