Malaysia sends back plastic waste

The Malaysian Environment Ministry has announced it will ship 450 metric tonnes of illegally imported and contaminated plastic waste back to countries of origin, including Australian material.

The waste, found during container inspections, originates from Australia, the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and Bangladesh.

According to a 28 May Environment Ministry statement, once all containers are fully inspected, an estimated 3000 metric tonnes will be shipped back to origin countries.

“These containers are filled with contaminated, non-homogeneous, low quality, non-recyclable plastic waste, and are routed to processing facilities which do not have the technology to recycle in an environmentally sound manner. This practice is against the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” the statement reads.

To date, the ministry has inspected 123 containers from countries including the UK, The United States, Japan, China, Spain, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Bangladesh and Norway.

“The laborious and costly inspection process was necessary to identify the content of the containers and its exporting country – the inspection process is on-going,” the statement reads.

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Malaysia would continue to weed out international imports.

“These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declarations and other offences, which clearly violates our environmental law,” Ms Yin said.

“Garbage is traded under the pretext of recycling and Malaysians are forced to suffer poor air quality due to open burning of plastics which leads to health hazards, polluted rivers, illegal landfills and a host of other related problems. We view the perpetrators of this act as traitors to the country’s sustainability and therefore they should be stopped and brought to justice.”

As party to the Basel Convention Malaysia imposes strict requirements on the importation of mixed plastic waste, in an effort to regulate trade and transboundary movements.

“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries,” Ms Yin said.

“We will compile these recycling companies names and send to the respective government for further investigation.”

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New multi-million dollar fines for asbestos dumpers

Illegally dumping asbestos now carries a multi-million dollar fine under new laws passed by the NSW Government.

Previously, the maximum penalty for asbestos waste offenders were $44,000 for corporation and $22,000 for individuals. Under the new laws, these are now $2 million for corporation and $500,000 for individuals who illegally dispose, recycle or re-use asbestos waste.

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Maximum court penalties for land pollution and waste offences involving asbestos have also been doubled to $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

Managers and directors can also now be held accountable for offences committed by their companies under the new laws.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said illegally dumping asbestos is a serious crime, and the government wants dumpers to know there are tough penalties for those that break the law.

“The new laws also require the courts to consider the presence of asbestos when determining the magnitude of the penalty,” Ms Upton said.

“The massive fine hike comes on top recently announced tougher asbestos handling controls for waste facilities and a tenfold increase in on-the-spot asbestos fines for illegally transporting or disposing of asbestos waste,” she said.

NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy draft released

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

The strategy outlines new measures to close loopholes for transporters and increasing transparency of waste generators.

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This includes tracking waste vehicles that transport asbestos with GPS tracking devices and increasing the risks and consequences of being caught illegally dumping asbestos.

Penalties for not complying with directions from the NSW EPA could be increased within a six-month timeline, with additional regulatory actions implemented to deter unlawful behaviour. Sentencing provisions would also be strengthened under the changes in the draft, with courts able to determine the monetary benefits gained through illegal business models and included within their sentencing decision.

To make legal disposal of asbestos easier, the draft outlines investigating the removal of the waste levy from separated bonded asbestos waste and implementing additional ways to properly dispose of wrapped asbestos.

The NSW EPA would also work with local councils and the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Activities to provide education and raise awareness to help change behaviours of householders and licensed asbestos removalists.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the government wants to make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing, strengthen regulation and penalties, close loopholes and disrupt illegal business models.

“The NSW Government is committed to reducing illegal dumping by 30 per cent by 2020 and this strategy is just one of the actions to fulfil that commitment,” Ms Upton said.

“In particular, we want to make the legal disposal of bonded asbestos cheaper and easier in NSW so the community and environment are safeguarded.

“Research commissioned by the EPA revealed the cost and inconvenience of legal disposal as major why asbestos is being illegally dumped,” she said.

Ms Upton said it is important that the community, local government and industry have a say on how asbestos waste is dealt with.

The draft of the NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy is available here, with consultations closing on 20 November 2018.

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.