Stop commercial waste incinerator in Matraville in the Eastern Suburbs

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There is proposal by SUEZ, a French multinational corporation & waste management company and OPAL (previously known as Orora), a Japan's Nippon Paper Industries to build a high temperature waste-to-energy incinerator plant at the paper mill recycling site on Botany Road in Matraville, Randwick Council. The proposed plant would incinerate up to 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable rubbish such as plastic, disposable nappies, polystyrene foam, bubble wrap, syringes, medical waste and garden waste each year to help power the OPAL paper mill and to reduce plant operating costs. [2]

The major driving factor for this project is undoubtedly the high price of the natural gas used to fire Opal’s boiler and while it may save Opal money in terms of energy costs, and increase the profit to the shareholders of these companies, there will be no benefit to the community. The emissions from the high temperature incineration of plastic waste will cause severe, long-term impacts to the environment and the health of residents living in the Greater Sydney area. 

A domestic waste incinerator operated in Matraville between 1932 and the early 1960s. HLA-Envirosciences have carried out a number of investigations into the operation of the former incinerator and identified that a number of privately-owned properties and public land contain ash material with the high concentrations of copper and lead. [1]The long-term exposure to lead may have an adverse impact upon human health, particularly children and pregnant women. 

A study by Dr George D. Thurston, Professor of Environmental Medicine at New York University School of Medicine in November 2017 found that living near a waste to energy incinerator carries the same health risks as secondhand smoke. The increase in lung cancer from long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) is roughly the same as the increase in lung cancer of a non-smoker who breathes passive smoke while living with a smoker, or about 20% increase in lung cancer risk. In addition to lung damage recent studies have shown adverse effect on heart including an increased risk of heart attacks. In addition to the acute health effects associated with daily PM pollution, the long-term exposure to fine PM pollution is also associated with increased lifetime risk of death and reduced life expectancy of people living in the most polluted areas. [3]

The Botany area is one of the most heavily polluted areas anywhere in NSW. There is no good reason why the non-recyclable rubbish must be burned in Eastern Suburbs, within metres of residential homes, Prince Henry community and St Luke's Aged Care Complex in Little Bay, Eastgardens Shopping Centre, Meriton Pagewood Green and Hensley athletic field. The historic La Perouse known as "Gooriwal" to the Muruora-dial people of the area is only a few hundred meters away. The proposed waste incinerator is a significant health hazard to almost 200,000 residents who will be exposed to toxic fumes.

The waste to energy incinerator would burn plastic. Burning waste fuels based on petrochemicals ( which are fossil fuels ) and burning plastics derived from fossil fuels does not creates the 'green' energy, it is simply burning fossil fuels in another form. Plastic is made from hydrocarbons, just like oil, and is more energy-dense than coal. [4]

The Government has pledged to “close the gap” between the alarming difference in health statistics between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. Putting a waste incinerator next to one of the most densely populated urban indigenous areas is disturbing. [5]

Back home in France, SUEZ, a multinational corporation have come under scrutiny in a host of criminal and civil cases, with accusations that include bribery of public officials, illegal political contributions, kickbacks, price fixing, operating cartels and fraudulent accounting. [6]

It’s not the first time the French company’s record has been challenged. The pressure group Food and Water Watch charged Suez with a “range of abusive practices that place profit before the human right to water”. [7]

Suez, Cleanaway and Visy Recycling were all forced by the ACCC late last year to amend standard contracts deemed by the regulator to be potentially unfair to customers who under the previous regime were forced to pay onerous exit fees to get out of contracts after price increases were imposed. The ACCC is closely monitoring activities in the waste management sector as rationalisation continues.