NSW Govt cracks down on asbestos waste

The NSW Government has released a draft of its Asbestos Waste Strategy, which aims to make it tougher to illegally dump asbestos and safer to remove it.

The NSW Government has initiated a crackdown on asbestos waste, introducing stronger measures to protect the community and environment from rogue construction and demolition waste operators.

A reform package has been announced and will increase on the spot fines for illegally transporting or disposing of asbestos waste by tenfold.

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Construction and demolition waste facilities will also face tougher inspections and handling rules, along with new fines for illegally digging up landfills.

Under the changes, construction and demolition waste facilities will have tighter inspection controls and constant video monitoring. Facilities must also comply with stringent waste storage rules and provide evidence that staff are properly trained.

Incentives are also available for those doing the right thing, with a 75 per cent levy discount for some types of construction and demolition waste that meets specification to be applied as cover material.

The changes were introduced in the Protection of the Environment Operations Legislation Amendment (Waste) Regulation 2018, which will come into effect in May 2019 to allow the industry time to adjust.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said it is a top priority that stronger penalties act as a deterrent and that waste facility operators improve the way they manage construction and demolition waste.

“By giving the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) stronger penalties, it can more effectively hold the waste industry to account as well as encouraging good behaviour.

“On the spot fines for illegal asbestos transport and disposal have increased from $750 for an individual and $1,500 for a corporation to $7,500 and $15,000.

Ms Upton said the reforms follow comprehensive consultation with local councils, waste facility operators, industry bodies and the community.

“Poor practices were identified particularly at a number of facilities handling construction waste. That is why there are now tougher standards and procedures to safeguard the environment and community.”

“There is also a new, $15,000 on-the-spot fine and penalties of up to $44,000 for illegally digging up old landfills. From now on, landfills can only be dug up in cases of emergency or with specific permission of the EPA,” she said.

SA EPA disrupts illegal waste operations

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) South Australia, with the assistance of South Australia Police (SAPOL), the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and local government have disrupted illegal waste operations in late May.

The crackdown involved a number of search warrants executed at businesses and residential premises across metropolitan and regional SA in relation to the illegal activities.

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EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli said this has been a complex investigation with significant outcomes and serves as a warning to those who operate illegally in the waste industry

“The lawful South Australian waste industry provides an essential service for our community and businesses managing around 4.5 million tonnes of waste annually and being responsible for around 5,000 jobs. The legitimate industry works to meet required environmental standards and supports our leading recycling culture,” Mr Circelli said.

“The EPA is committed to maintaining confidence in existing and planned investments by ensuring that unlawful operations are brought to account and do not undercut sound operations.”

Mr. Circelli said the four-month long investigation involved extensive surveillance and resources, and required the EPA to draw on special powers warrants introduced in 2017.

“This law allows the EPA to better regulate waste generated from construction, demolition and earthworks to ensure appropriate and safe transport and disposal,” he said.

The investigation identified more than 1000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste, including material containing asbestos.

“This operation is a great demonstration of the new powers and collaboration across multiple agencies working together to target the illegal operators and support the legitimate waste industry,” Mr Circelli said.

The Waste and Recycling Industry Association of SA (WRISA) President Jim Fairweather said there is no place in the waste, recycling and resource recovery industry for illegal or poor-quality operators that tarnish the reputation of the industry.

“WRISA supports the work of the EPA in upholding environmental standards and licence conditions as steps towards helping to maintain a waste and recycling industry that has the public’s confidence,” Mr Fairweather said.