Melbourne-based packaging company Visy Industries Pty. Ltd. has opened its second Australian waste-to-energy plant and signaled plans for a US$306.7 million recycling project that could start in three years.
Waste-to-energy plants convert degraded paper fibers, a small percentage of plastic fragments and other materials that cannot be recycled into fuel. Visy spokesman Tony Gray said less than 30 percent of the waste is plastic. Visy's first waste-to-energy plant opened at Tumut, Australia, in 2001.
Visy manufactures and supplies beverage and food containers, including PET bottles, PET preforms, PET jars, paperboard cartons and corrugated cardboard boxes. It also collects and processes recyclable materials and manufactures recycled paper.
The new US$51.1 million waste-to-energy plant is at Visy's manufacturing and recycling facility at Coolaroo, 12 miles north of Melbourne. The fuel is used for Visy's eight mills that produce recycled, corrugated and kraft paper for the packaging and building industries.
By generating its own power, the plant will replace some of the site's external energy purchases. Current predictions are the plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 70,000 tons a year and divert about 100,000 tons of waste from landfill.
About 1,200 people, including Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard, attended the plant's Nov. 26 official opening. Victoria's state government paid US$2.45 million towards it.
At the opening, Visy Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt said the plant is part of the company's larger vision to recover all its energy from waste. “We're excited by these plans. We've started talking to the government about them and you'll hear more in the near future.”
Gray said Visy's “larger vision” is a US$306.7 million project to turn municipal solid waste into energy. The project will include another US$204.6 million waste-to-energy plant and US$102.3 million in ‘pellet plants,' which dehydrate unrecyclable waste into cork-sized pellets. They have the same “burn” power as low-grade coal.
“There are other energy-from-waste plants operating in the world but the way Visy intends to combine recycling, the pellet plants and the energy plants is new, as far as we know,” Gray said.
He said the project was still in the planning stage and Visy was yet to decide on a location. If plans go ahead, construction will start within three years.
Visy is seeking US$102.3 million from the federal government's newly established Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Gray said “some form” of the project will proceed, even if Visy does not get funding, but it will not be on the same scale or in the same time frame.
Gray said Pratt had received some interest from government officials, but “it is very early days.”
A Visy associate company, Georgia-based Pratt Industries (USA), Inc., completed a US$60 million waste-to-energy energy plant to power a mill in Conyers, Ga., this year. The U.S. government subsidized one-third of the plant's cost.