WasteMINZ Behaviour Change Sector Group urges action on waste-to-energy facilities

13.10.22 12:15 PM By WasteMINZ

WasteMINZ’ Behaviour Change Sector Group is urging central government to take decisive action on the issue of Waste to Energy (WtE) by declaring a moratorium on any WtE proposal that aims to process municipal waste until key concerns are addressed.

WtE facilities burn household rubbish as a fuel to produce energy. Behaviour Change Sector Group member Ingrid Cronin-Knight said approximately five waste-to-energy (WtE) incinerators have been proposed in small New Zealand communities to take municipal waste.

The sector group has developed a position statement which outlines its concerns about WtE facilities. The statement supports the work that has already been done on this topic by the Zero Waste Network and Para Kore to urge central government action. It uses international examples to emphasise the validity of the concerns, including the fact that European countries are starting to rethink their WtE facilities as part of their transition to a circular economy.

“Waste-to-energy proposals take up a lot of community and council time and resources as they must quickly become experts in this very technical subject matter,” Ingrid said.  

“We are concerned that small New Zealand communities could be lumped with waste-to-energy facilities which require a large amount of waste to operate, potentially needing to be trucked in from other regions.

“We have outlined a number of issues with waste-to-energy facilities, particularly from the waste minimisation, carbon emissions, air quality, Te Ao Māori, financial and local government perspectives.

“One of our concerns is that these facilities are in direct contradiction of the move towards a circular economy, as they are focused on disposing waste, and don’t have the capacity to downsize or delay production as waste is reduced through reuse, recycling or composting. There are also questions on the economics when such a high proportion of New Zealand’s energy is from renewable energy sources already. Comparing coal replacements from Europe just doesn’t make sense.”

As part of the position statement, the sector group has outlined the actions it seeks government to action:

  • instigate comprehensive research on the role of large WtE proposals in Aotearoa’s low carbon and circular economy future; 
  • fund Para Kore to work with iwi and hapū to develop a perspective on WtE that reflects Te Ao Māori principles;
  • and in case of an outcome from the independent research that supports the continuation of proposals for large WtE, apply the waste disposal levy and ETS to any proposal to dispose of municipal waste to WtE.

Read the Position Statement here.