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. Using waste as fuel is also a way to avoid the methane emissions that can result when waste is disposed of to landfill.
NSW energy from waste policy
In NSW, energy recovery from waste must represent the most efficient use of the resource, and be achieved with no increase in the risk of harm to human health or the environment.
Facilities seeking to recover energy by thermally treating waste, or materials derived from waste, must comply with the 'NSW energy from waste policy statement'.
The 'NSW energy from waste policy statement' considerations and criteria ensure this energy recovery
- poses minimal risk of harm to human health and the environment
- does not undermine higher-priority waste management options, such as avoidance, re-use or recycling
The policy statement's technical criteria for energy recovery facilities aim to ensure
- facility emissions are below levels that may pose a risk of harm to the community
- facilities proposing to recover energy from waste meet current international best practice techniques, particularly with respect to process design and control, emission control equipment design and control, and emission monitoring, with real-time feedback to the controls of the process
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
- 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
- Operators must apply to the EPA to have their proposed use of eligible waste fuels assessed (see our Eligible waste fuels guidelines (PDF 606KB) for how to apply).
- if their application is approved, facilities must ensure their use of these eligible fuels accords with strict conditions specified by a resource recovery exemption and order.
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).
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.