NSW waste parliamentary inquiry committee recommendations

A parliamentary inquiry into waste regulations has handed down its recommendations, including investigating options to restructure the NSW EPA.

It recommended the NSW Government investigate options to restructure the NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) to improve its performance and an independent review conducted into the EPA to assess the adequacy of funding for performance of compliance and enforcement, community engagement and a perceived conflict of interest between its compliance and policy and education roles.

The terms of reference sought to understand the impact of waste levies, the role of waste to energy and its impact on the recycling industry, regulatory standards, guidelines and policy statements on this and references to regulations overseas. In addition, it focused on illegal dumping and actions to prevent it, impacts of landfilling and the transport of waste out of the state.

NSW is the second highest per capita producer of waste in the world, with the final report acknowledging that successive NSW Governments have “failed to effectively leverage levy funds” to support the development of much-needed services and infrastructure, leaving the state dependent on landfill.

“The committee has made a number of recommendations to overcome this issue, including that the NSW Government hypothecate a greater percentage of waste levy funds to local councils and the waste industry to support the provision of additional waste services, initiatives and infrastructure,” said the Hon Paul Green MLC Committee Chair, in the Chair’s foreword.

Mr Green said there was a great deal of debate during the inquiry about whether the NSW EPA is regulating the waste industry effectively. He said stakeholders pointed to the increase in illegal dumping, including the insidious crime of dumping contaminated waste such as asbestos, the growing volume of NSW waste being transported to Queensland, and concerns about criminal elements targeting the waste industry, as examples of the NSW EPA failing to provide the strong, decisive, but fair regulatory approach this industry requires.

“The committee has made several recommendations to overcome these concerns, including that the NSW Government investigate options to restructure the NSW EPA, and undertake an independent review of the NSW EPA’s performance of its various functions.”

“Another key concern for stakeholders was the role of energy from waste technologies in New South Wales. Inquiry participants debated whether there was a place for energy from waste facilities in managing residual waste once higher order waste management techniques have already been exhausted, and whether the NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement is sufficiently robust.”

He said the committee supports energy from waste in some circumstances, and has made a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening the regulatory framework for such facilities, including that an expert advisory body chaired by the Chief Scientist examine and report on these issues.

Among the report’s numerous recommendations are that the NSW Government ensure all funds allocated to Waste Less, Recycle More are spent in accordance with the program and that the NSW EPA undertake an audit of the program to ensure funds are fully expended to meet its objectives. It also recommends the NSW Government investigate opportunities to hypothecate a proportion of waste levy funds to support the development of innovative waste management technology, in addition to urgent consideration of attaching the waste levy to the generator.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said in a statement to AAP: “The government will consider all the recommendations from the parliamentary inquiry.”

Another recommendation is an independent inquiry into the operation, regulation and approvals of the Mangrove Mountain Landfill site. Furthermore, it recommends the EPA develop and implement resource recovery criteria for landfills in NSW. The NSW Government has until 28 September to respond to the inquiry.

You can read the full report here.

NSW Premier unaware of Dial A Dump Industries project

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says plans for the State Government to back Dial A Dump Industries’ bid for the world’s largest incinerator is “news to her”.

In March, Dial A Dump Industries’ chief executive Ian Malouf said the $700 million energy-from-waste plant at Eastern Creek would proceed because the State Government wanted the project.

Last week, Ms Berejiklian told News Corp she was not aware of that and suggested Mr Malouf email details for The Next Generation plant to her office. She said she had confidence in the Environmental Protection Authority’s guidelines.

“A lot of proposals like that have not been approved and the EPA guidelines are very strict,’’ she said.

Mr Malouf said in 2014 the State Government introduced an energy-from-waste policy with the EPA.

He said the policy recognised “the recovery of energy and resources from the thermal processing of waste has the potential … to deliver positive outcomes for the community and the environment”.

In April, the company told Waste Management World the Next Generation facility will be built to the latest European and Australian engineering and environmental standards. This would include technology that captures any particulate matter and adsorbs heavy metals and dioxins, while cleaning any gases before they reach the atmosphere.

The company said that this would mean that outputs would be below the limits set out by the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency and the very strict European directives, and in many cases would not even be detectable. The facility’s pollution controls will be monitored by the EPA 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Emissions from the facility will have less impact than a person holding a burning sparkler at a birthday party, emitting less chloride, dust and nitrous oxides,” Mr Malouf said.

“By converting residual waste into power, the facility will prevent the release of 3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and divert over 1 million tonnes of waste from landfill each year”.