Media Releases | 5th Mar, 2024

New Opal waste to energy facility approval in Morwell puts community health at risk

Leading environment groups Environment Victoria, Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) and Friends of Latrobe Water (FLOW) have today expressed public health concerns following the approval of a new Waste to Energy plant in Maryvale near Morwell.

The groups have raised concerns around the risks associated with Waste to Energy (WtE) including that it poses environmental and health threats in the form of toxic air emissions, Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions, and the potential for land or water contamination from leaching residual waste.

“We are disappointed the Victorian government is expanding and entrenching Waste to Energy in Victoria while it has health and environmental questions hanging over it,” said Dr Kat Lucas-Healey, Environment Victoria’s Senior Climate and Energy adviser.

“It is clear the government’s new WtE scheme has been designed in the interests of the operators – with the significant risks on the project borne by the environment and the public. Currently there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that any potential benefits to the energy system or the climate can be harnessed.

“The government must listen to local voices who want to move the Latrobe Valley towards a future where clean renewable energy can thrive, not to lock in new polluting industries regardless of impact,” said Dr Kat Lucas-Healey.

Tracey Anton, spokesperson from Friends of Latrobe Water said these plants have no social licence to operate.

“We need to also think about the toxic emissions from incinerating Waste to Energy. Again the government is trading off the health of the local community here with another toxic industrial project in the Valley,” she said.
EJA Lawyer Elke Nicholson said the Latrobe Valley has a long history of pollution incidents so it’s concerning that a waste incinerator is going to further impact air quality for residents.

“Our communities deserve sustainable solutions to Victoria’s massive waste problem, not quick fixes. Waste-to-energy facilities may seem convenient, but they generate as many problems as they solve,” Ms Nicholson said.

“We need to stop perpetuating a throwaway culture and instead look at the root cause of our waste problem – overconsumption and lack of proper recycling.

“The scientific links between pollution from waste incinerators and detrimental impacts on human health have not been given sufficient consideration.

“There is a very real chance that as the National energy grid decarbonises in the coming decades, waste-to-energy facilities will be left stranded as some of the highest carbon intensity electricity generation,” she said.

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