The $50 million expansion of Tumut’s Visy Pulp and Paper Mill has been completed, and all they are waiting for is the tick from the NSW Department of Planning.
The upgrade will enable the mill to increase production from 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes a year. It doesn’t involve a literal expansion in terms of their physical site, and hasn’t resulted in any more jobs. Rather, the increased capacity is achieved through “efficiency gains.”
For example, Visy has installed a film press, which increases the amount of paper types they are capable of making.
Snowy Valleys Council Director of Compliance Paul Mullins has previously said the expansion is a benefit to Tumut because it will ensure Visy stays competitive in the global market, allowing it to continue directly employing 300 people and indirectly employing 1000 people.
However, the necessary approvals are still in progress.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has previously criticised Visy’s plan for the increased waste their expansion will bring. In response, Visy told the ABC this week that the increase in waste will be “relatively small.”
If given approval, they will be creating 19 per cent more waste than they currently do, from 71,245 tonnes a year to 84,515 tonnes a year. They say they will be able to dispose of that additional product in landfill, but the EPA said they need more information to allow them to go ahead.
“The EPA has concerns about the lack of a strategic approach to the management of waste at this site,” they said in their submission the Department of Planning.
“The disposal of waste to landfill as detailed in [Visy’s own] Environmental Assessment lacks a clear overall strategic and long term perspective. No specific details are provided on the…landfills Visy propose to use for the landfilling of their waste…as such the EPA is unable to determine if the landfills can lawfully accept and manage the waste types and quantities over the life of the project.”
However, Visy says the increased amount of waste is manageable.
The majority of their waste comes from plastics and other materials that people leave in their recyclables, as it transforms recycled waste from elsewhere into useable new materials.
Visy Industries is the world’s largest privately owned packaging and recycling company, and Visy Tumut is the largest integrated pulp and paper mill in Australia, with products made in Tumut shipped to more than 50 countries.
It uses 2 million tonnes of plantation sourced wood a year, a large percentage of which is Tumut and Tumbarumba wood. The mill has its own renewable energy generation facility, which produces half of its energy, and its wastewater is reused in farm irrigation.
The Tumut mill began operations in 2002 with a capacity of 300,000 tonnes per year. This capacity has been increased several times, to its current 800,000.
The mill’s chemical use will also increase by 50 per cent with the latest upgrade.