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Newfoundland nixes waste-to-energy plant proposal over pollution fears

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The Newfoundland Department of Environment and Climate Change has rejected a controversial proposal to open a new waste-to-energy facility, citing disposal and zoning concerns.

The integrated waste-to-energy and plastics-to-liquid fuels facility would have imported some 750,000 tonnes of waste every year — primarily from Europe, but also some 50,000 tonnes from the Central Regional Waste Management facility in Norris Arm, NL. Despite its mandate to reduce greenhouse gases, many residents in the area of Burnt Bay protested the proposal over fears of air pollution and other environmental impacts.

The proposed project originated from Synergy World Power Newfoundland in 2019 and registered for environmental assessment on January 10, 2022. Its rejection came just weeks before the official decision by Environment Minister Bernard Davis would have been due.

Davis, when speaking to media, said that the project would have brought in twice as much waste to the province as it already generates annually.

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In a letter, the Department of Environment and Climate Change stated that, “it is government policy that the importation of waste into this province for final disposition from all but selected Canadian sources, and under limited conditions, is for all purposes, banned.”

The ban was implemented in 1994.

The government also stated that the project, set for a 280-hectare site, would have been “contrary to the permitted land uses for the area of Lewisporte at issue […]” and that these lands are not permitted for commercial use.

The plant’s thermal conversion of biomass to energy in Phase I of the project was estimated to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by more than 300,000 tonnes per year, the company said.

Wood and cardboard at the plant would be separated from plastic, and both material streams would be sent to separate gasification plants. The materials would be superheated in a reactor without oxygen and broken down into component chemicals.

While many residents fought against the concept of importing waste to Newfoundland, Synergy World Power countered in a description of the project that solid recovered fuel (SRF) is “not garbage”.

The company described SRF as “a clean solid fuel with composition determined by EU legislation and by specifications agreed to between the EU supplier and the Temporary National Economic Committee. SRF contains no food waste, hazardous materials, or tires. It is pre-shredded, compressed and wrapped in plastic prior to shipment.”

Other critics of the waste-to-energy project suggested it would have negatively impacted the tourism industry, particularly as visitors noticed the massive ocean tankers transporting the waste products.

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