Nippon’s Reflex paper mill plans a giant waste incinerator

EEG is challenging the EPA Works Approval to
Australia’s giant woodchip and paper mill
to build a $500 million waste incinerator.

This is an obscene situation. This paper mill has been responsible for destroying the Central Highlands Mountain and Alpine Ash forests since its establishment in 1938. It has a promise of log supply up until 2030! No other logging company has been given the privilege of a legislated wood supply for 94 years. It has also polluted the Latrobe Valley for decades with very little consequence. Now it claims it is not economic without cheaper electricity so hopes to have government (tax-payer) assistance so that it can keep woodchipping, by creating another enormous environmental problem.

This now Japaenese-owned paper mill has recently been given an EPA approval to build a giant waste burner to incinerate Melbourne’s  growing  garbage pile. This is an appealing plan to a state government with a growing garbage disposal problem.  With a $5M grant to produce a feasibility study it claims the $600M plant will create ‘negligible’ pollution or health impacts! The Latrobe Valley’s air is already a cocktail of toxic pollutants. Nippon claims the gas bill of $8M a year is economically crippling. We will assume part of the $600M would come from tax-payer pockets (as $5M already has to pay for its feasibility study). Nippon is partnering with the global waste company, Suez to push ahead with this backwards project. In Europe these burners are now on the nose and many governments are refusing to subsidse their operations any longer.

Nippon’s Maryvale pulpmill (makers of Reflex copy paper) has been leaching the life out of the Central Highlands ash forests for 80 years under a very lucrative legislated agreement called the Wood Pulp Agreement.

The state government has already eased the way for this proposal by declaring it does not need to have an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) carried out, despite very serious emissions and toxic waste issues. The Andrews government has approved this controversial and polluting plan which appears to be more about an easy solution to Melbourne’s rubbish problem. Such a massive investment would lock in the need for this destructive and polluting mill to continue operating (and logging forests) for at least another 25 years.

Nippon would need to secure contracts for 650,000 tonnes of unseparated domestic (and likely industrial) waste per year for the next 25 years from eastern suburbs and Gippsland councils. At a time when there is growing pressure to reduce waste and recycle – especially plastics – signing 25 year contracts could be extremely unwise. The circular economy would be a far cleaner and more progressive direction to head for governments, both state and local.

Waste incinerators are not efficient. To make the same amount of energy as a coal power plant, they release 28 times as much dioxin as coal, 2.5 times as much carbon dioxide, twice as much carbon monoxide, 3 times as much nitrogen oxides and 6 – 14 times as much mercury and 6 times as much lead and 70% more sulphur dioxides.

This plan would not be good for either our forests, our climate or for people’s health.  This battle has only just begun! Our initial pre-hearing conference is listed for May 22nd.

You can read EEG’s simple dot-point submission to the EPA opposing this proposal here.  

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