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Waste-to-energy not the solution for our future says Sustainable Kaipara

28 Apr, 2023


thumbnail Sarah-Bray-65Waste-to- energy (WTE) has been promoted as a solution to our growing waste problem, but recent studies show that it is not a viable long-term solution. In fact, it poses more harm than good to the environment and public health. Enviro group Sustainable Kaipara is responding to the Kaipara District Council’s (KDC) announcement that they will investigate WTE options for Kaipara. Sustainable Kaipara believes this is a significant step in the wrong direction.

The group applauds KDC for recognising the waste crisis and looking for alternative solutions to the status quo but says instead of investing in WTE facilities, Kaipara should focus on implementing improved recycling services, investing in composting and other organic waste management solutions.

“In Kaipara, 45 percent of our weekly waste is organic waste, so by simply collecting food waste from households we can almost halve the amount of waste going to landfill, and it doesn’t need to cost millions of dollars or risk our environment and health,” says Sustainable Kaipara’s Sarah Bray.

The Ministry for the Environment is currently working to transform the waste system in Aotearoa through mandatory organics collections and banning hard-to-recycle plastic items, approaches that not only reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill but also generate valuable resources that can be reused, recycled and replenish depleted soils.

WTE is the process of burning waste to generate energy, which can then be used to power homes and businesses. The concept is based on the idea of reducing waste going to landfill and generating energy at the same time. However, this technology is far from being clean and sustainable.

Although WTE technology has improved over the years it still poses a significant risk to public health, particularly for those living near the facilities, says Sustainable Kaipara, producing pollutants such as dioxins, mercury and cadmium. Air pollution is not only inhaled but falls onto land to be eaten by livestock and washed into waterways.

Sustainable Kaipara is opposed to a landfill in the Dome Valley due to the sensitive nature of the proposed site, its flood-prone location and as a tributary waterway to Kaipara Harbour. However, the group recognises landfills are a better transitional technology towards a ‘circular economy’ because we can reduce what we send to it over time. WTE plants on the other hand need a constant supply of waste every day – there is no incentive to reduce waste.

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