What’s not to like about a facility using Australian-patented technology to convert non-recyclable plastic into “road-ready” diesel and petrol with barely registrable noise and odour levels, and with negligible emissions of harmful chemicals? Oh, and which will employ up to 30 people and inject millions of dollars into the ACT economy?

Plenty, according to Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, the Hume Traders Association, and Tuggeranong Valley residents. They’ve accused the Foy Group, which wants to build such a facility at Hume, of minimising the environmental impact of the plant, of trying to rush planning consultations with local businesses and nearby residents, and of dressing up a “dirty process” as “green energy”.

It’s not a crime for a company to extol green credentials, whether to sell more widgets, to generate favourable press, or to attract investors and corporate backers. In fact, Foy undertook a capital raising of $18.5 million last year specifically to fund construction of the Hume plant – and its sales pitch was rich in information about the extent and hazards of plastics in waterways and landfills.

Foy’s slick PR efforts may have won over institutional investors, but the Hume Traders Association and residents of nearby Macarthur, Gowrie, Fadden, Gilmore and Chisholm say they’re unimpressed with the company’s efforts to apprise them of the Hume development. A failure to brief some business owners and to letterbox all affected residents has been noted, and concerns have also surfaced about the likelihood of harmful emissions, including sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide.

The Hume plant will feature technology that’s been used nowhere else commercially, so determinations of the likely noise, odour and pollution are to some extent theoretical. The company insists the process does not involve burning plastic, though it admits waste products will be “combusted” to “provide the necessary heat for the production process”. It adds, however, that the combustion process “is recognised as being one of the cleanest sources of heating, especially when combined with Foy’s unique patented technologies”. Indeed, it’s likened the site emissions to be “orders of magnitude” lower than a conventional household fireplace.

The site is scheduled to operate seven days a week, and to generate extra traffic from early morning until 10pm each day. Again, however, Foy has played down the impact, claiming there will only be 12 truck movements each day, six in and six out. For an industrial estate, this appears not to be excessive.

While suggestions a plastics-to fuel-facility will depress Hume land prices may be far-fetched, the concerns of Tuggeranong residents are not. Some live within 1.3 kilometres of the proposed plant and are fully justified in demanding assurances that they will not be affected by air or noise pollution. Sensibly, the government has decided to appoint a panel of experts to assess any potential impacts. But Foy has further spadework to do, not least on the community front, if it hopes to win final approval.

Extracted from SMH.

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