Waste fires continue to be a problem at recycling facilities across Australia, but is there a solution to reducing the hazard?
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.
Max Spedding, Chief Executive Officer of the newly formed National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, is set to present one of his first public addresses at Waste Expo Australia.
Mr Spedding will address some of the barriers to achieving a circular economy with sustainable recycling, highlighting issues the council’s members are facing in a heavily regulated industry, including disparities with state landfill levies, interstate transportation and the stockpiling of waste.
He will encourage governments to work together, while also calling for state financing arrangements from accumulated landfill levy funds, allowing for better infrastructure to be provided for waste re-use, recovery and recirculation.
Mr Spedding said he hopes the ongoing work of the council will also encourage greater support for new infrastructure, education programs, research and development, and regulatory enforcement.
“Currently, 60,000 tonnes of waste per month travels from Sydney – where levies are the highest in Australia – to Queensland, where no levies exist,” Mr Spedding said.
“This example alone demonstrates the ineffective and uneven landfill levy policies currently in place, and is one of the many reasons why the council is calling on state governments to make much needed changes to policies and regulations.
Mr Spedding said Waste Expo Australia provided an opportunity for the council to demonstrate a united voice for its members, facilitating meaningful and sustainable recycling together.
“We’re here to make changes towards a circular economy, and we’re in a position and at a stage where we can do so to benefit not just our members, but all Australians.”
Waste Expo Australia will feature more than 70 exhibitors.
Visitors at this month’s exhibition and conference will have the opportunity to hear from more than 35 of the sector’s most reputable leaders as part of Waste Summit, a seminar program. The program is the largest free-to-attend waste management conference in Australia, with 30 topical and informative sessions, keynote presentations, practical case studies, lively panel sessions and white paper discussions.
The Waste Summit provides an opportunity for attendees to learn from industry peers and stay informed across areas including policy, legislation, circular economy, waste-to-energy, solid waste management, new technologies and advancements.
Waste Expo Australia will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 October. It will be co-located with All-Energy Australia 2017, the country’s premier clean energy and renewables event, as part of Australian Sustainability Week. To register for Waste Expo Australia, head to their website.
Max Spedding will present Waste and Recycling in Australia – Where to next, at 10:15am on Wednesday 11 October, at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council has released its Industry Roadmap document, a national plan for a circular economy to improve Australia’s waste and recycling industry.
It comes after a Four Corners investigation into stockpiling, the illegal transportation of waste and numerous other issues.
Interstate transport and stockpiling
The council said it has been actively advocating for a solution to the issue of interstate transport of waste materials between Sydney and South East Queensland. Media reports have focused on the cause of this as related to the landfill levy, which is non existent in Queensland.
In July this year, NWRIC wrote to both NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and Queensland Environment Minister Stephen Miles – asking for urgent government action to mitigate this problem. The NWRIC said this correspondence was a continuation of industry advocacy on this issue going back several years.
Council members have ratified a national position opposing the unnecessary interstate transport of waste. The NWRIC says Australia’s largest waste and recycling companies believe the inter-jurisdictional variation in landfill levies undermines new investment into resource recovery infrastructure, particularly in NSW. As a solution, the council has called for all states to recognise the portability of landfill levy liabilities and put in place regulations to collect these wherever waste is landfilled.
In response to the issue of glass and plastic stockpiling, the NWRIC’s Roadmap calls for better planning to ensure commodities can be managed to accommodate market fluctuations.The roadmap calls on state governments to effectively re-invest landfill levy revenue to create and simulate markets for recycled materials and build new recycling infrastructure.
Odour, dust and noise
The NWRIC said a significant national effort has been made to consolidate Australia’s landfills and recycling facilities into larger, more centralised sites. This work has considerably reduced public nuisance from odour, dust and noise. Improvements in facilities management has further reduced these emissions.
However, the nature of waste processing means that some emissions are inevitable. The industry is calling for state and territory government to undertake effective, whole of government planning initiatives to create landfill and recycling sites segregated from sensitive residential and commercial development. The most effective tool for reducing public nuisance from waste management is good planning.
Australia’s national resource recovery rate of over 50 per cent puts us well ahead of many of our OECD counterparts, including the US and Canada. Despite some setbacks, Australia’s overall recycling rates continue to improve.
The waste and recycling industry employs close to 30,000 people according to 2009 statistics by Access Economics, making it Australia’s largest green collar employer and one of the nation’s fastest growing manufacturing sectors. The NWRIC believes that with improved planning, regulatory harmony and effective re-investment of landfill levy revenue – the economic, social and environmental performance of the industry will continue to improve.
A new body working to create a cohesive national vision for Australia’s waste management industry, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has officially formed, following the first meeting of its executive in Sydney on February 13.
NWRIC has received support from Australia’s largest waste management companies – and has begun operations.
The Council will be empowered to begin its work thanks to the support of its national members – Alex Fraser Group, Cleanaway, J. J. Richards and Sons, Solo Resource Recovery, Suez, Toxfree, Remondis, ResourceCo and Veolia.
“The waste and recycling industry needs a national voice to advocate for a fair, sustainable and prosperous industry for all stakeholders,” said Phil Richards, Chairman of the NWRIC’s host association Board.
“Australia’s waste management industry is an essential service, and through the NWRIC, we will be asking the Commonwealth along with State Governments to support our initiatives to take the industry forward.”
The NWRIC will serve waste management enterprises by creating industry led policy. The Council will be led by newly appointed CEO Max Spedding, and supported by Secretariat manager Alex Serpo.
The NWRIC will work in close partnership with jurisdictional affiliates. This partnership will allow the Council to represent and canvas concerns from many of Australia’s 450 small and medium sized waste management enterprises. Together, state affiliates and the national office will coordinate to create, and advocate for, cohesive national policy.
From today, the Council will commence working to create, share and build support for policy positions which will move the industry forward. Initial areas of focus include better planning, a fair market, the national harmonisation of the regulations governing the industry and effective policing of standards.
The Council welcomes media enquiries, dialogue with waste management companies seeking involvement in the NWRIC and feedback from stakeholders.