Council looks at options to tighten belt on waste

Susanna Freymark

We are in a peculiar situation where the Environment Protection Authority indicates turning waste into energy is not safe for Sydney but is safe for our community, said Councillor Patrick Deegan.

At the Richmond Valley Council meeting on Tuesday, October 18, he described council’s report on waste treatment options as a “peculiar situation” with the inclusion of an Energy from Waste (EfW) facility (sometimes called an incinerator).

Waste was again a contentious issue.

General manager Vaughan Macdonald said Richmond Valley has been identified as a possible place for energy from waste.

“It could happen – it doesn’t mean it will happen,” he said. “I wouldn’t rush things.”

Councillor Sandra Humphrys commended staff for their research on waste options.

“We must get our ducks in a row for solutions to our waste problem,” she said.

Council has been exploring waste treatment alternatives for five years.

In 2020, a group of 12 North Coast councils did a stocktake of the way waste was dealt with.

Their report showed a reliance on landfill. Landfill attracts an $82.50/tonne NSW Waste Levy. 

Landfill, and transporting waste to another landfill such as one in Queensland, is expensive for councils and ratepayers.

Eight councils asked for expressions of interest to see what options were out there. Submissions included heat treatment, energy from waste, composting, anaerobic digestion and materials recovery.

Dealing with waste is a global problem.

Mayor Robert Mustow said Europe has banned the ferrying of waste.

He wants all waste options looked at before going to the community for consultation.

“It reminds me of the Dunoon Dam scenario,” he said. “I have the same philosophy as I did then – all options must be on the table.”

Mr Macdonald said despite the State Government having identified the Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct at Reynolds Rd as suitable for an energy from waste site, the precinct was not reliant on having such a facility.

No development applications for alternative waste treatment facilities have been lodged.

The plan is to continue researching waste solutions.

Council aims to put out a draft masterplan for the Richmond Valley Jobs Precinct to the community early next year.

“The Casino Food Co-op is looking at bio-solids,” Mr Macdonald said.

Council staff will continue to work on the jobs precinct masterplan.

It could include an alternative waste treatment facility.

Most importantly, the masterplan will be put to the community and at that time, residents can have their say on what they think is the best way for all of us to deal with the rubbish we create.

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