Alternative Waste Treatment Master Plan Briefing

(10am, Thursday 15 May 2014, Lord Mayors Reception Room)

Good morning, everyone, welcome to this briefing on the City's master plan for the sort of advanced waste treatment we could implement in the 21st century.

Today's event is being MC'd by Jon Dee, the Founder and Managing Director of Do Something.

As one of Australia's best known environmentalists, Jon has had a long term interest in waste and recycling issues. Back in 1991, he founded Planet Ark in association with Pat Cash. In the 15 years that he ran Planet Ark, Jon initiated National Recycling Week, and a range of high profile waste reduction campaigns.

He has played a key role in the campaign to ban plastic bags and he set up Do Something's national food waste campaign. His 'Sustainable Growth' guidebook for business showed that conservation can improve the bottom line and make a real difference to the environment. That book has now moved over 90,000 copies.

His expertise in waste and sustainable business is one of the key reasons why we've asked him to MC today's event. Please welcome Jon Dee.

Since 2008, when we launched our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, we have been progressively working towards the goals it outlined, for the City's own operations and for the whole Local Government Area.

Among other ambitious environmental targets, the strategy committed us to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the LGA by 70 per cent of 2006 levels by 2030, and to be supplying all of our electricity needs by local generation by the same date.

We are committed to installing tri-generation, though current regulatory barriers at present prevent us from installing the precinct-wide network that would be the most cost-effective and efficient. However, we are doing feasibility studies on tri-generation for Town Hall and Town Hall House and possibly the Queen Victoria Building.

Meanwhile our master plan for Advanced Waste Treatment gives us another means of saving on greenhouse emissions, of saving money and ultimately, of providing a renewable gas to run our tri-generation.

Under the 2030 initiatives, the City has become a leader and innovator in waste management, with impressive results in recycling and resource recovery.

Between 2006 and 2012, our resource recovery rate went from 27 per cent to 66 per cent, a target we reached two years ahead of the NSW Government's state-wide target.

While a combination of our own recycling initiatives and community awareness and education has dramatically reduced the amount of waste going to landfill, population growth erodes some of these gains and roughly one third of all household waste is still ending up as landfill.

And we know the figures for commercial and industrial waste are roughly similar.

At the same time, the four landfill sites still operating will close over the next few years. The State levy on landfill has risen by 300 per cent in the last decade, and is continuing to rise, while transport costs are also increasing.

The Advanced Waste Treatment Plan looks at the options for dealing with this non-recyclable waste and costs out the various technologies for its disposal.

Its conclusion is that thermal gasification is the optimum solution - and one which has the advantage of providing a green, renewable gas that could feed into a tri-generation grid.

The City's domestic and municipal waste could supply all our gas needs, putting us well on the way to deliver our targeted 70 per cent reduction from our own buildings and operations well before 2030.

It could save us $2.6 million a year.

If business were to join in, we could avoid up to 95 per cent of non-recyclable waste going to landfill - that's about 180,000 tonnes across the LGA. We estimate that would reduce greenhouse emissions by 196,000 tonnes a year and would save businesses up to $14.2 million in waste levies.

As our Decentralised Energy Master Plans show, we could go well beyond our LGA to create a market for a renewable gas grid that could enable councils and businesses within 250 km of Sydney to reduce greenhouse emissions by a massive 5.2 million tonnes a year through avoided landfill emissions and save about $429 million a year in waste levy payments.

But as we have said throughout our 2030 consultations, the success of these schemes will be largely determined by the support they receive from business and residents. That, and an improved regulatory environment that will allow us to treat waste as a resource.