Seven recommendations from chief scientist on EfW

Speaking at the Waste 2021 Conference held in Coffs Harbour, NSW EPA executive director of regulatory policy, Nancy Chang, outlined the recommendations from the NSW chief scientist and engineer’s report on Energy from Waste (EfW) for the state.

“That report informed a revised draft energy from waste policy from the EPA,” said Chang. “It is important to know that as of now the NSW government has not yet accepted the chief scientists report. However, it is the expectation that it will be accepted in full and that it will happen shortly. That is why the EPA has revised its energy from waste policy to give industry and the community as much time as possible to comment on it.”

In May 2020 the initial report from the chief scientist was submitted and in the following month the chief scientist commissioned an independent review of the air emission limits in that report, which was carried out by the University of Sydney.

In November 2020 that final report with the additional advise from the University of Sydney was submitted to the minister. That report is now publicly available on the chief scientist’s website. The EPA has revised its EfW policy in response to the report in anticipation that the government will accept and endorse the chief scientist’s recommendations.

There are two major schematics available in the chief scientists report, according to Chang. They are useful in understanding the process – including the planning process of applying for an energy from waste facility.

“The first schematic is one on planning and regulatory assessment process as well as technical requirements, which is must broader than the EPAs’ energy from waste policy. It includes the planning process,” she said. “The other schematic is the allowable types of feedstock proportional to each waste stream allowed and waste source requirements.”

Chang said it was important that the schematics included the entire process for complete transparency and accountability.

Overall seven recommendations came out of the report.

  • Recommendation one stated that the two schematics be finalised to provide clarity and transparency and to provide a description of baseline assessment requirement and regulatory processes. Also the report should be used as a working document and updated as necessary and should be made publicly available. These will be published soon on the EPA website.
  • NSW EPA is to describe the process for establishing and updating best practice air emissions limits and make it publicly available – the EPA Energy from Waste Policy has been revised to give effect to this recommendation.
  • A technical review of the best practice air emission limits developed by the working group is undertaken. These limits were reviewed by the University of Sydney and incorporated into the revised Energy from Waste Policy statement.
  • Work is undertaken to understand the mix of incentives influencing consumer and industry behaviours to promote adherence to the waste hierarchy. This is to be considered in the 20 Year Waste Strategy.
  • Undertaking the Life Cycle Assessment is a requirement for all proposed EfW facilities, and the findings considered in the regulatory assessment process. This is to be requested in the SEARs (Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements) for future projects.
  • Approved EfW proposals are required to develop a waste input sampling and monitoring program. Ideally, this requirement would form part of the SEARs. Alternatively, these plans should be required to be developed and approved prior to ta plant being commissioned.
  • A pathway is established and communicated to enable asset and process innovations to be tested and trialled. Requirements should be proportional to the level and impact of the proposed innovation. Any innovation must align with NSW policies relating to waste, decarbonisation and the circular economy.