“We would hope it will be finished sometime in 2022,” Mr Guss said.
“It’s a great outcome and the EPA has been very diligent.”
The waste-to-energy plant, which is set to operate non-stop, would process 200,000 tonnes a year of waste from household bins and other residual waste.
The EPA issued a works approval on January 21, subject to multiple conditions including quarantine facilities for hazardous waste and a continuous emissions monitoring system.
It also required multiple reports be submitted to the EPA before construction started.
Any objectors have 21 days to appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
An EPA spokesman said: “Once constructed, Recovered Energy Australia would not be able to operate the waste-to-energy plant until it obtains an EPA licence”.
Mr Guss stressed the plant was specifically designed to only process waste that would otherwise go to landfill.
He said it would exclude material from recycling bins and they encouraged more robust separation of recyclables from the rubbish at its source.
“As we will only be accepting rubbish that would otherwise go to landfill, we provide a better environmental outcome by recovering energy from that waste and in the consequent reduction of Melbourne’s reliance on landfill,” Mr Guss said.
However, the Boomerang Alliance – an group of 49 environmental groups – said it opposed waste-to-energy plants, which were “incompatible with the circular economy”.
A circular economy is one in which items are kept for as long as possible through repair, reuse and recycling rather than being thrown away.
“The waste-to-energy plant will cannibalise the recyclables that are in the so-called landfill bin,” said Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel.
“Such incinerators require very long-term contracts of supply and that completely prevents the recyclables being extracted for much better economic and environmental use through recycling.”
‘The waste-to-energy plant will cannibalise the recyclables that are in the so-called landfill bin.’
Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel
The waste-to-energy plant would use a process known as gasification, where the waste is heated at a very high temperature where air is limited to ensure it doesn’t burn.
The waste is converted into a gas that is then used to heat water into steam and drive a turbine to produce electricity.
Thermal waste-to-energy technologies such as gasification and incineration are common methods of rubbish disposal in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Australia has been slow to embrace them, in part due to the cheap cost of landfill.
But Victoria is facing a waste crisis, with many councils forced to send recycling to landfill following the collapse of recycler SKM in June after China effectively banned imports of recyclable waste.
China’s import limits revealed Victoria currently has limited ability to recycle products and that the local industry was simply exporting waste to Asia rather than reusing it.
Jewel Topsfield is Melbourne Editor of The Age.