Energy from waste – part of a holistic approach to building a circular economy

16 March 2022

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia’s (WMRR) 2022 Energy from Waste Conference has kicked off, with close to 180 people descending on ZINC at Federation Square in Melbourne this week.

The Hon Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Victoria’s Minister for Environment, officially opened the conference, pointing to the EfW framework as a show of the government’s commitment to transform the waste and resource recovery (WARR) sector.

The Victorian government is determined to maximise the use of resources to meet its WARR targets, and to move towards a circular economy, the Minister noted, adding that Recycling Victoria, the state’s circular economy plan, “sets out a vision for EfW and recognises that EfW is able to get value out of materials in the form of energy from waste that would otherwise go to landfill.”

“A holistic approach is necessary to build a thriving circular economy,” the Minister said.

It is a sentiment echoed by industry, which continues to advocate, educate, and articulate what a circular economy entails and how EfW has a role, as per the adopted waste hierarchy, in an integrated WARR system.

“Most jurisdictions have ambitious WARR targets and nationally, the aim is to meet an 80% average resource recovery rate from all waste streams following the waste hierarchy by 2030, which is only eight (8) years away,” WMRR CEO, Ms Gayle Sloan, said.

“Here’s where we are at - in 2018-19, Australia generated 74 million tonnes of waste, of which 36% or 27 million tonnes were sent to landfill. In the absence of strong policy and regulatory levers to change the way products are designed so that they are firstly, genuinely recyclable and importantly, made from recycled content, and without EfW to capture energy from residual waste that would otherwise end up in landfill, Australia stands little to no chance at meeting its 2030 targets.

“EfW needs to be part of a robust and holistic WARR system, where there’s a place for every part of the hierarchy given the different material streams that exist. We need to overcome the policy barriers to let EfW play its role, noting that globally, there are already thousands of EfW facilities that have, and continue to safely operate, Ms Sloan said.

The theme for the 2022 EfW conference is “The role of EfW in delivering a net zero future” and over the next two (2) days, delegates will hear from a range of industry experts about pathways that will lead us to a low-carbon future