EPA weighs in on Visy plans

Visy Pulp and Paper Mill, Tumut, has applied to increase their production capacity with the NSW Department of Planning.

The Mill is limited by the state government in terms of how much they are allowed to produce, which currently falls below their equipment’s capabilities.

They are pushing for consent to increase how much they produce, but this will involve continuing to use their current machines and workforce and will not result in new jobs at this stage.

“They’re bound very tightly by their development consent which was issued by the state government, which limits their annual production,” explained Snowy Valleys Director of Compliance Paul Mullins.

“[The expansion] is to ensure that the mill will continue to be viable. We’ve only got the one mill here but worldwide it’s a very competitive business, and from an economic point of view we’re fortunate to have the mill in our community – it staying viable is good for the community.”

However, the Environmental Protection Agency has expressed concerns about where the waste from the increased production will go.

Visy currently produces vast amounts of waste, and that will only increase as their production does. It is disposed of in a variety of landfills, from Jugiong to Victoria, including two local private landfills, Burra Road Landfill in Gundagai and Bellettes Landfill near Tumut.

The EPA said the Burra Road landfill site, which receives 40,000 tonnes per year from Visy, is due to close after it reaches capacity this year, and it is unclear where the excess waste will go.

“The EPA is encouraging Visy to take a strategic approach to its waste disposal, consider the distance it will transport its waste for disposal, and incorporate resource recovery and recycling into its plans where possible,” an EPA spokesperson said.

Waste from the VISY Mill largely falls into two categories.

The first is a by-product from equipment such as boilers, and the second is plastic contaminants found in recyclable materials.

The plant uses a combination of logs, largely from local plantations, and recycled waste from Sydney.

The plastic waste is a result of people putting non-recyclable material in their recycle bins, which needs to be disposed of in landfill.

Visy have explored other uses for their waste besides putting it in landfill, Mr Mullins said, but no viable options have emerged as yet.

The expansion of the mill was discussed at the VISY Community Consultative Committee meeting on February 8, a public meeting with representatives from Tumut, Adelong, Gilmore, and other sectors, and no objections were raised.

Visy was reached for comment but did not respond by publication time.