The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has called for two major reforms following its October 12 meeting.
The industry advocacy group, which represents some of Australia’s largest waste management companies, called for a national database of waste and recycling service providers.
It also argued that a national standard and audit of combustible waste stockpiles is needed. The council members comprise national waste companies and all mainland state waste and recycling associations, including Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J. J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.
In regards to the call for a national database, NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards said effective waste management and recycling requires high standards which protect workers, the public and the environment.
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He said governments should therefore register all facilities and transporters undertaking waste processing, recycling or waste transport to assist their compliance activities.
“The NWRIC was setup to protect and raise standards in landfill, recycling, processing and waste transport. An enhanced registration program will give state Environmental Protection Authorities the power to protect standards.” At a previous meeting, the NWRIC suggested that landfill levy revenue could be used to improve compliance activities .
In addition to a program to register all waste transporters, the council called for state government action to ensure that all waste processing facilities hold an Environmental Protection Licence.
The council argued licensing of all facilities is urgently needed to maintain equal standards, and to ensure that compliance activities cover all facilities, regardless of size.
Key standards the industry are concerned about include; the stockpiling of combustible material, landfill levy avoidance, poorly managed small landfills, illegal dumping for commercial gain and fraudulent activity involved in cash for scrap.
“In some instances, the fines for operating an illegal or a substandard facility are lower than the cost of going through the licensing and compliance measures,” said Max Spedding, NWRIC CEO.
“Regulators must ensure that compliance costs apply to all facilities, and that fines and regulatory action protect those operators that put in place standards at or above compliance requirements.”
At its October 12 meeting, the NWRIC also called for the development of national fire management standards for waste and recycling facilities. The council believes this standard is needed to protect public safety and restore trust. These fire control standards should apply to all waste and recycling facilities.
“Following a series of major fires, we’re calling on regulators in every state and territory to conduct audits of stockpiles of combustible material to ensure future fires do not harm public safety and further tarnish the reputation of our industry,” Mr Richards said.
“We note the recent regulatory action by the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority, and urge other states and territories to follow their example.”
To enhance the program, industry leaders also called for a national register of waste transporters, along with a new program by regulators to licence all waste processing facilities and landfills, regardless of size.
Related to the stockpiling of combustible material is new concerns of an export slowdown, particularly for China, in regards to plastics. Additional government support to enhance markets for paper and plastics is urgently needed to reduce the commercial pressure for operators to stockpile.
Programs which will stimulate recycling markets are available in the NWRIC Policy Roadmap for a Circular Economy.
Used tyres stockpiles also represent a critical fire hazard. The council believes that a mandatory product stewardship scheme, under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act 2011 , should be introduced without further delay. Tyre stockpiles exist in all Australian jurisdictions.