Energy recovery facilities

In NSW, government policy encourages the recovery of energy from waste if this can deliver positive outcomes for people and the environment.

Operators who seek to recover energy by thermally treating waste must comply with the policy, to protect the community and ensure best use is made of waste materials.

Why recover energy from waste?

Thermally treating waste is an opportunity to recover the energy stored within these materials. Using waste to produce energy can offset the community's use of other, non-renewable energy sources.

Response to the Energy from Waste Report – Chief Scientist and Engineer

In December 2019 the Minister for Environment requested the Chief Scientist and Engineer provide independent expert advice on energy recovery facilities and related environment protection frameworks to ensure facilities in NSW undertake robust assessments and adopt international best practice standards and controls to ensure human health and the environment are protected.

As part of the review, the Chief Scientist and Engineer commissioned the University of Sydney to provide expert review and advise on the proposed best practice air emissions limits for energy from waste facilities in NSW.   

The Energy from Waste report from the Chief Scientist and Engineer made a number of recommendations to ensure proposals adopt international best practice standards and controls to protect human health and the environment.

The NSW Government has supported all the recommendations made by the Chief Scientist.

Updated Energy from Waste Policy Statement

The NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement (PDF 369KB) has been updated to reflect the latest advice on air emissions standards from the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and ensures NSW has air emission standards that meet and exceed world best practice.

The updated Policy Statement ensures that all NSW energy from waste facilities, wherever they operate, are subject to strict new air quality and operating standards to help protect our environment and human health.

The EPA consulted on changes to the Energy from Waste Policy Statement to reflect the air emission recommendations of the Chief Scientist and Engineer between 31 March – 30 April 2021. A summary of the consultation outcomes, and the EPA’s response, is available in the Consultation Report (PDF 454KB).

As part of the new Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041, the NSW Government is considering further strategic planning needs for energy from waste infrastructure to ensure such projects protect the environment and human health into the future, and maximise efficiencies for waste innovation, management, and energy recovery.

Scope of the policy statement

The 'NSW energy from waste policy statement' covers all facilities that undertake thermal treatment of any waste or waste-derived materials. Specifically, thermal treatment means processing wastes by

  • combustion
  • thermal oxidation
  • thermal or plasma gasification
  • pyrolysis and torrefaction

Eligible waste fuels

Under NSW's energy from waste policy, certain low-risk wastes are termed ‘eligible waste fuels’. These wastes can be used for fuel due to their origin, low levels of contaminants, and consistency over time.

However, before using them

Eligible waste fuels guidelines

Operators who intend to apply to the EPA to use waste or waste-derived materials as an Eligible Waste Fuel in NSW facilities should use the EPA's Eligible waste fuels guidelines (PDF 606KB).

Other wastes

Facilities recovering energy from all other wastes (that is, wastes that are not considered to be an eligible waste fuel by the EPA) must meet the technical, thermal and resource recovery criteria for ‘energy recovery facilities’ in Part 4 of the 'NSW energy from waste policy'.

These requirements equate to operating purpose-built facilities that use the best available technologies to recover energy from residual wastes. The residual wastes used must be materials that are not recyclable, that would otherwise be disposed of to landfill.

Energy Recovery Facility Guidelines

The EPA is producing 'Energy recovery facility guidelines'.

Facilities outside the policy's scope

Some thermal treatment applications not deemed to undertake genuine energy recovery fall outside the scope of the NSW energy from waste policy statement.

Those outside the policy's scope include

  • incineration facilities for the destruction of waste
  • facilities for the thermal treatment of contaminated soil
  • facilities proposing thermal treatment of unprocessed mixed waste streams
  • facilities proposing thermal treatment of waste exhumed from landfills
  • facilities proposing thermal treatment of hazardous waste materials

Still other thermal treatment applications fall outside the policy statement's scope because the technical or resource recovery criteria contained within the statement are not relevant to them, or because other regulatory frameworks already apply to them.

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