Greenwash in the Valley?

On 19 March Australian Paper, owners of the Maryvale paper mill, had a public relations exercise on their Waste to Energy proposal feasibility study. At least one third of the cost of this $7.5m study has been contributed by State and Federal governments. Accordingly Gippsland MHR Darren Chester and Harriet Shing MLC were featured in the publicity.

A report commissioned by the company stated “Over the past few years there has been an increasing interest in Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities across Australia. EfW plants have the potential to contribute to Australia’s renewable energy targets, reduce carbon emissions and divert waste away from landfill. They also have the potential to improve the energy mix in Australia by supplementing wind and solar production through base load generation.”

“The proposed EfW Plant at Maryvale will assist Australian Paper in its commitment to managing waste responsibly and ensure future sustainability and reliability in energy production. The EfW plant will promote low carbon network emissions, economic development and employment growth in the Latrobe Valley Region of Victoria.”

The report concentrates on economic aspects and employment generation. The quote above contains the single reference in 17 pages to greenhouse gases. Supposedly about 500,000 tons of greenhouse gases will be saved and a report in the Latrobe Valley Express emphasized the large amounts of municipal waste diverted from landfill.

Energy from waste is a sustainable concept and I campaigned on this in the State Election in Morwell in 2010 (using pyrolysis the other plank of my platform was exploiting geothermal energy under the coal). However what the reports and publicity fail to mention is that the whole process appears to be diverting attention from Maryvale’s dependence on logging native forests. As such it has a limited future and no doubt currently produces far more greenhouse gas than it saves.

It is an example of another proposition (see other examples below) to bolster the old carbon economy that recently includes the coal to hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, the clean coal power generator projects and the purchase of the Heyfield timber mill – all supported (read subsidised) by State and Federal governments and ‘good money after bad’.

By all means have a waste to energy plant but preferably owned and financed by council or the state and independent of Maryvale. And Australian Paper should be looking at alternative sources for their paper including hemp, crop waste and plantations instead of wasting their time and money on public relations exercises and greenwash.