Why Waste-to-Energy and not landfill?

17 November 2016

There are currently ~800 thermal WTE facilities world-wide that are fully operational and considered an integral part of the global waste management solution.

Reduce the need for non-renewable energy sources for generating electricity

Waste-to-energy (WTE) is the process of creating energy from the waste which Australians would normally dispose of into the ‘big hole in the ground’ - landfill. Most WTE methods generate electricity through incineration. There are currently ~800 thermal WTE facilities that are fully operational and considered an integral part of the global waste management solution throughout Europe, Asia and North America.  

Australia is still in the early stages of fully accepting alternative energy sources due to its reliance on fossil fuels and experience in utilising the vast land mass for digging/finding big holes for dumping waste. Australians use less than 1% of landfill for the current WTE process, but this may be starting to change in Western Australia, with their recent government granting a green light to a WTE project in Port Hedland.

This WA region’s residential and commercial waste streams is estimated to turnover approximately 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of waste per year and divert this from landfill into the Waste-to-Energy facility. This WTE plant should produce enough electricity to cater for around 21,000 households – thereby generating a renewable energy source to help reduce the State’s dependence on fossil fuels and assist in providing a stable power supply for Port Hedland.1

Waste-to-energy has thrived throughout the world as a leading alternative process of waste disposal and electricity supply. With recent closures of some of Australia’s long-running and major contributing coal plants, especially in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, renewable energy opportunities such as WTE may be the unlikely benefactor of this loss. For example, Hazelwood Power Station supplies approximately 20% of Victoria’s power. We need something to take its place. Why not WTE?

Utilise Australia's ever-growing MSW source for fuel & reduce greenhouse gases

Over 20 million tonnes of waste gets dumped into the landfills each year throughout Australia (most legal, but some illegal sites) and although the waste degrades over time, it very often produces harmful gas emissions for many years after its disposal.

With WTE’s ability to reduce the volume of waste in an environmentally-friendly manner, generate valuable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is quite easy to see why the European nations rely on waste-to-energy technologies.2          

‘According to the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP), Europe currently treats 50 million ton of wastes at waste-to-energy plants each year, generating an amount of energy that can supply electricity for 27 million people or heat for 13 million people.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) along with Construction & Demolition (C&D) and Commercial & Industrial (C&I) are the three main contributing waste sectors in Australia that can be rescued from landfill via reprocessing materials, ultimately for the recovery of recyclables and/or source of fuel. The environmental reasons for the reprocessing of these materials as highlighted in the Victorian Recycling Industries Annual Survey 2013-14 -Sustainability Victoria:3

  • reduced greenhouse gases (methane emissions) from landfill and energy-intensive primary production processes;
  • savings in water and electricity in the production of metal, concrete, paper and glass by using recycled feedstock;
  • savings of raw materials, for example mineral ores used in virgin metal production and timber and oil used in paper production; and
  • reduced groundwater and soil contamination from landfill, and the preservation of landfill space.

It can be seen that around the world that WTE plants can provide a distinct supply of continuous renewable energy. Every week the average Australian household waste bin contains the resources for both recycling and combustion – potentially producing enough waste to power approximately 14% of a household’s weekly electricity needs. WTE is a real solution that requires consideration.

Your opportunity to participate in shaping Australia's waste-to-energy future...

Visit Ballarat on 22 and 23 February 2017, the Australian Waste-to-Energy Forum and explore opportunities for the development of the energy from waste industry in Australia and what it might look like in the future.

This informative and discussion focused program addresses issues such as: What is the role of and requirements for Waste-to-Energy in Australia?; The challenges of fitting in with current energy infrastructure; Regional approaches to waste-to-energy; and Current Australian projects and opportunities.

This two-day event with a theme of Waste-to-Energy – What it means in the Australian context, will bring industry and government professionals together to explore potential opportunities for the industry in Australia.

This Forum will consider what has worked around the world and what we can learn from those experiences. What are the barriers and how to overcome them? Who are the stakeholders, what are their roles and how will they influence the industry? How does the plan for future energy requirements influence the development of a waste to energy industry in Australia?

We invite you to register at your earliest possible convenience and look forward to welcoming you to Ballarat in February. Go to http://aien.com.au/wteforum/




  1. http://www.newenergycorp.com.au
  2. http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/waste-renewable-energy-source
  3. http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/publications-and-research/research/victorian-waste-and-recycling-data-results-201314/victorian-recycling-industry-annual-report-201314