Environment - Dump outdated thinking

By: Chris Leitch

Waste Management’s opening answer to questions posed by Mahurangi Matters was: “The reality is a new landfill is required to safely manage the waste produced by the people who choose to live in Auckland …” (MM June 30)

Predictably, the supposed reality is 19th century thinking. For Waste Management, of course, it’s the cheapest option to make the biggest profit to send overseas to its Chinese owners. Auckland Council should know better. Landfills are a third-world option for rubbish disposal, used in countries like Ghana and Bulgaria. The 21st century option is to treat waste as a valuable resource. Operating a waste-to-energy plant would recover metals and other reusable materials before incinerating the rest in an ultra-high temperature process, which could be carbon negative and ecologically sound.

Turning plastic into fuel for aeroplanes, cars and road building is already being done overseas.

On a small scale, the cement plant at Portland, Whangarei, shows what’s possible – burning around three million used tyres a year. Combusted at around 1400C, what’s left is combined into the cement.

Opposition to the new dump in the Dome Valley is not nimbyism (not in my back yard), it’s realism. It shouldn’t be in anybody’s back yard.

New Zealand dumps all its rubbish, yet over 2000 pyrolytic plants operate across the world, producing electricity, heat for industrial use and slag for road building. In Singapore, a newly commissioned waste-to-energy plant powers an adjacent wastewater treatment plant, producing drinkable fresh water. A similar plant south of Auckland could power a desalination plant using sea water to solve the city’s freshwater shortage. Close to our fastest growing cities – Hamilton, Rotorua, and Tauranga – it could take rubbish from the whole of the country and the Pacific Islands using coastal shipping and rail to carry the bulk of the load. But it’s unaffordable, right? Not so. Finding the money is actually the easiest part. New Zealand’s central bank (the Reserve Bank) is owned by all of us and administered by the government.  It produces our notes and coins (less than three per cent of the money supply) and controls the financial system. It is currently creating $100 billion in new digital money and giving it to rich investors, bond dealers and banks in exchange for bonds – IOUs for the money government previously borrowed. That’s feeding the fires of massive increases in house prices, stoked by even more money created by the commercial banks. Just a tiny fraction of that $100 billion could build Government-owned, commercially run, 21st century plants, putting New Zealand at the forefront of environmental leadership.

Environment Minister David Parker, opening the new tyre burning plant, said, “New Zealand needs to address its long-standing problem with waste, so we can become the low waste, low emissions economy we need to be. Making an investment will bring long-term benefits and help us manage our waste responsibly.” Hear hear. But Government rhetoric about climate change, waste reduction, and road safety won’t cut it. It needs to take action now to stop the proposed dump, legislate to stop dumping nationwide and enable the Reserve Bank funding necessary to meet the objectives Mr Parker laid out. The silence on any such action is deafening. No wonder people are up in arms.

By Chris Leitch
Leader Social Credit


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