A waste incinerator in the Northern Rivers at Casino is one of four being planned by the NSW Government for regional locations. Legislation which came into force in July last year has implemented this as part of the government’s Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan. According to a July 8 2022 EPA news item, the plan strategically locates the four facilities in designated locations “to maximise efficiencies in infrastructure, waste management, innovation and energy recovery”.
What is significant is that all locations are well away from major population centres where the majority of waste is created and that local regional communities have little - if any - say in being chosen for these incinerators.
There are major concerns about pollution from waste incinerators. They emit toxic chemicals, many of which are banned chemicals under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 2001.
Jo Immig, the National Toxics Network Coordinator, is very concerned about the impact pollution from the incinerator will have both on the health of local residents and on local agriculture.
She said, “It doesn’t matter how stringent the NSW Government claims its pollution requirements will be, international practice and independent science show these incinerators cause dangerous dioxin air pollution and toxic ash contaminated with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ wherever they are.
“Waste incinerators dressed up as ‘renewable energy producers’ are effectively plastic burning facilities producing the dirtiest form of energy, worse than coal and gas, which will just worsen the climate emergency and lock in waste incineration for decades, completely distorting efforts to minimise waste and incentivise re-use and recycling for a zero-waste society.”
Richmond Valley Council supports the proposal. The growth of local opposition has led to the formation of Residents Against the Richmond Valley Incinerator (RARVI) which has a facebook presence. It has held a number of public meetings and is raising the issue across the Northern Rivers.
There is the expectation that if this proposal proceeds it will be fuelled with waste from surrounding Local Government Areas (LGAs) which presumably is necessary to ensure its economic viability. So that raises questions about the positions of councils in the adjoining LGAs. Another question of interest is whether the newly elected state government will support the establishment of waste to energy incinerators in Casino and the other regional areas.