Resource recovery FAQs

How is the Botany Cogeneration Plant an example of resource recovery?

Resource recovery is an important part of the waste management process with waste disposal being the least desirable outcome. The challenge in a waste recovery centre is that not all materials can be recycled. This means that resource recovery needs to occur by extracting the energy embodied in material that cannot be repurposed or recycled for new materials.

Applying ‘circular economy’ principles requires facilities to extract resource energy after recycling. The value of resource recovery by using embodied energy in waste is part of the solution. 

The Botany Cogeneration Plant would source fuel from a waste and recycling centre to process it by removing recyclable material before waste fuel is produced for the plant. This would mean a reduction in waste sent to landfill.

The processed engineered fuel (PEF) brought to the Botany Cogeneration Plant site would have energy value after resource recycling occurs during previous resource recovery stages. Containers arrive at the plant to store the fuel. PEF is then deposited from the containers into the plant’s bunkers. 

From the plant’s bunkers, PEF would be processed along a moving grate where it passes through a furnace. During the moment of combustion, outcomes for resource recovery of waste material continues by using heat energy produced to boil water to create steam and power turbines to create electricity.

The long-term reduction in waste sent to landfill provides essential waste management infrastructure. Resource recovery would ensure energy from the waste materials is captured rather than lost. Importantly, this example of resource recovery would provide for the long-term energy needs of local industry and would reduce net carbon emissions.

The proposed project would use advanced technologies which help to improve the environmental efficiency of Greater Sydney. Emissions from the combustion process, for example, are a key priority to meet strict NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulations. There are a variety of neutralising agents to help achieve this process. Emissions would be monitored on an hourly basis and reported to the EPA.

Answering the challenges of resource recovery

This project would align with strategies set by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. For example, the department asks industry to identify and address opportunities across municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial waste, and construction and demolition waste streams for improved collection, recycling and energy recovery. The department believes that doing so will deliver ongoing improvements in waste diversion from landfill and improved quality of recycling, as well as helping to maintain the waste hierarchy .

A December 2020 inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources recommended that the Australian Government develop a national energy from waste policy in consultation with state and territory governments. The image below shows how the Botany Cogeneration Plant proposal aligns with ‘recover’ to ensure materials avoid landfill disposal to secure resource recovery processes.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is an Australian Government-owned green bank investing in sustainable projects. It committed finances to the East Rockingham Energy from Waste Plant proposal managed by SUEZ in Western Australia. The CEFC champions energy from waste as part of the solution to our resource recovery challenges.

The CEFC invests in clean energy infrastructure to help Australia lower emissions. Chief executive officer Ian Learmonth said recently that positive international experience gives confidence that challenges brought on by differing feedstocks technologies and end uses do not outweigh the opportunities present in resource recovery. Energy from waste is one example of the various ways we can improve waste recovery.

The Botany Cogeneration Plant project would help reduce waste going to landfill while generating renewable energy and offsetting 80,000 tonnes of CO2.

Government goals or strategies require action from business and industry. The National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019 seeks an 80% average resource recovery rate from all waste streams following the waste hierarchy by 2030. Achieving this will require a re-think about waste generation and management. 

Has anything like PEF been used before?

This video offers a working example of resource recovery in the United Kingdom. SUEZ partnered with a cement kiln to lower greenhouse emissions, avoiding waste going to landfill and securing industrial energy needs. These are goals shared with the Botany Cogeneration Plant proposal.

This example of producing a specialised waste material called solid recovered fuel (SRF) reflects the planned production of PEF for use at the Botany Cogeneration Plant. PEF is a processed waste material to extract recyclables and define the proposed plant as a resource recovery centre.