Discredited waste-to-energy technology study given government funding

“It is shocking and unacceptable that the Minister of Tourism Peeni Henare has given $765,000 to private companies to study failed waste-to-energy technology for so-called sustainable aviation fuel. Waste-to-energy using mixed solid waste and plastic feedstocks create massive amounts of CO2 emissions and churn out deadly pollutants. They are not sustainable and certainly are not a solution to climate change,” said Dorte Wray, General Manager of the Zero Waste Network.

“In order to be sustainable, aviation needs to be based on actual renewable energy sources – not on dirty fossil fuel derivatives or on the continued production of waste.”

Fulcrum BioEnergy, in partnership with Air BP, will deliver one study and will investigate the use of non recyclables resources and other items that go into landfill as a feedstock. LanzaTech and LanzaJet, in partnership with Z Energy, will deliver the other study and will investigate the use of forestry residues as the feedstock and consider landfill waste as a supplementary feedstock.

“Both of these proposals are based on using mixed solid waste as a feedstock: this is not a circular economic approach to using resources. It locks us into the continued production of waste and undermines all our efforts at waste minimisation.”

“The recent failed proposal in Feilding for a waste-to-energy pyrolysis plant claimed it would produce aviation fuel from mixed solid waste and plastics. Expert evidence in that resource consent hearing showed that the technology does not work as claimed.”

The Feilding company, Bioplant NZ, withdrew its application on 8 June for resource consent after four independent experts recommended consent be declined.

“Had the Minister of Tourism and Air NZ bothered to look around at what is already happening on the ground in terms of these proposals, they would know that they are not credible. They are greenwashing schemes to cash in on climate change. They will make waste and climate change worse – not better.”

“These companies present the idea of waste-to-energy using landfill waste as a replacement for fossil fuel use.  In reality, these are dirty fossil fuel plants: they use plastic waste, derived from fossil fuels, to create some fuel. They have many times the climate impact of traditional fossil fuels such as coal or gas because they are so inefficient. In addition, because plastics have so many additives, they create a range of toxic byproducts when incinerated that end up in the air, water and on land.” 

“The Minister claims that using landfill waste is a biofuel. That is not true. The Government’s own Biofuel strategy clearly says that Biofuel is a generic term for fuels that can be produced from or are made up of a renewable material of plant or animal origin. Plastic and mixed waste are not renewable.

“The world is on course for catastrophic warming of three degree celsius. Tourism – like everything else –  is going to be fundamentally changed in the next 20 years. We need to start taking drastic measures to reduce overall emissions, not throwing away money on false solutions.”