One year on from National Sword, regulators shared their policy response at Waste 2019, while industry leaders discussed the critical steps to move the sector forward.
A coordinated statewide multi-agency crackdown in NSW on illegal dumping and waste transportation has disrupted the criminal waste trade.
For the first time, the states five Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) Squads and Programs led a multi-agency unannounced roadside operation to crackdown on illegal operators. The operation brought together the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the NSW Police and local councils.
During the November 2018 operation, waste transport vehicles were intercepted and checked for waste transport and disposal compliance, as well as vehicle and road safety compliance.
The month-long operation 468 heavy vehicles saw stopped, with the resulting compliance actions:
- 130 RMS defect notices and 31 NSW Police infringement notices were issued.
- 22 penalty notices and 16 official cautions were issued by the RID Squads, totalling $16,447. Notices and cautions were issued to waste transporters for offences including uncovered loads and allowing waste to escape onto the road.
- Four trucks carrying loads of waste to unlawful sites were redirected to lawful waste facilities.
- The disposal sites of 45 waste trucks are being inspected by the RID Squads and the EPA to check whether the waste was lawfully disposed. Follow up regulatory action will be taken where necessary.
This operation aligns with other initiatives underway to tackle this scourge, including the EPA’s Waste Crime Taskforce which targets organised criminal activity and disrupts the waste dumping business model.
RID Squads and Programs are regionally-based teams specialising in combating and preventing illegal dumping, co-funded by the EPA and member councils. The RID Officers work for local councils, working across council boundaries using a strategic, coordinated approach to combat and prevent illegal dumping while focusing on particular issues in their region.
They work across 35 local government areas. These include the Western Sydney RID Squad, Sydney RID Squad, Hunter and Central Coast RID Squad, Southern Councils Group RID Program and ACT-NSW Cross Border Program.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has moved its flagship Local Litter Check tool online.
The Local Litter Check has been a key part of the EPA’s litter grant program for five years, enabling grant recipients to detail their specific litter problem and track the effectiveness of their intervention program.
Local Litter Check is a free tool for people in the community, councils and other land managers. The tool helps understand and design solutions for local litter problems.
The check is a series of steps that guide users to gather evidence about site characteristics and litter behaviour in a local litter hotspot, such as a park, beach or bus stop. Using Salesforce software, users do a physical count of how much litter is in the area, enter the information and a data aggregator then helps them to determine what action should be taken to tackle the local litter problem.
EPA Litter Prevention Unit Head Rupert Saville said the digital move would help more community members join the battle against litter.
“Making a litter prevention tool paperless – it’s a perfect match,” Mr Saville said.
“The format may have changed but the tool stays the same – a physical count of litter, together with a site assessment and community surveys are still the best ways to gather evidence to understand and solve a local litter problem.
“Our system now consolidates this data in the one place to help us know what’s happening with litter across NSW.
“It will enable even more corners of the community to prevent litter and work towards the Premier’s Priority of reducing litter volume by 40 per cent by 2020.”
The online version aims to provide quick and accurate data for before-and-after analyses and is compatible with desktop and mobile devices. The paper form will remain available as a backup.
The NSW EPA, in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, is developing a 20-year waste strategy for the state.
The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, driving sustainable recycling markets and identifying and improving the state and regional waste infrastructure network.
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It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.
Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.
This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.
A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.
A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.
The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The NSW EPA has developed a free online training course for councils, regulators and organics recyclers to improve their knowledge around best practice compost facility management.
The NSW EPA has partnered with police, the ACT Government and local councils to target rogue operators supplying waste soil from construction sites advertised as clean fill to property owners.
Compliance and road side checks were part of the crackdown to ensure fill going to a site had the appropriate council approval to accept it.
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By targeting rogue operators during transport, the NSW EPA aims to stop contaminated and non-compliant materials being illegally dumped or passed off as clean fill to innocent land owners.
Accepting large amounts of fill can create potential dust issues and pollute waterways.
NSW EPA Senior Officer Janine Goodwin said in some of the worst cases, operators are providing unsuspecting residents with soil cheaply or for free that is contaminated with construction and demolition waste, heavy metals or even asbestos.
“Councils require landholders to apply for development approval to bring larger volumes of fill onto private property. If a property is used to accept this material without proper council approval, both the landholder, the owner of the waste and the transport contractor may be fined and the landholder may discover they have to pay to have the material removed,” Ms Goodwin said.
“We have been checking things like documentation to make sure the waste is correctly classified and going to a site that has consent to accept it.”
ACT EPA’s Narelle Sargent said waste being transported between the ACT and NSW needs approval.
“Transporters and builders are on notice that the illegal transport and disposal of waste will not be tolerated in the ACT region, and large penalties apply,” Ms Sargent said.
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.
Winners of the Keep Australia Beautiful NSW Sustainable Cities Awards have been announced and include the NSW container deposit scheme and a hospital recycling program.
The NSW EPA sponsored and presented two awards for waste management and litter reduction.
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- NSW litter reduced by a third with help from Return and Earn
Winning initiatives include Auburn Hospital’s Think before you bin it project to improve recycling and reduce hospital waste and the City of Canterbury Bankstown’s We Like Greenacre Litter Free, which resulted in a 54 per cent reduction in litter in Greenacre over three years.
The Vinnies Container Deposit scheme won the inaugural Return and Earn Litter Prevention Award, as the organisation have collected millions of containers at their automated depot and over the counter return points in NSW.
The Return and Earn school’s category went to Glenmore Park High School, which mobilised its school community to collect litter to fundraise for a minibus for the Special Needs Unit.
NSW EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said these projects along with other winners demonstrate the power of acting locally to reduce waste and litter in communities.
“All of the winners demonstrate extraordinary leadership in waste and litter reduction initiatives in our communities, and I commend them all on their efforts,” Ms Levy said.
Ms Levy said the NSW Government is committed to reducing waste and litter in the environment.
“We have dedicated $802 million over nine years to 2021 as part of the Waste Less Recycle More initiative – the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia,” she said.
“We have also introduced the state’s largest litter reduction initiative, the Return and Earn container deposit scheme, to help achieve the Premier’s target of a 40 per cent reduction in litter volume by 2020.
“More than 814 million containers have been returned to return points across NSW in just over ten months, and drink container litter volume has already dropped by a third since November last year.”
The NSW EPA has opened applications to grants worth up to $250,000 to establish five ‘Love Food Communities’ across the state.
The funding aims to assist councils tackle the issue of food waste across an entire community, including homes, businesses, schools, supermarkets, clubs, pubs and community groups.
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All projects involved will include delivery of the EPA’s Food Smart and Your Business is Food programs for households and businesses.
The Food Smart program aims to educate NSW households about reducing food waste, with participants receiving a toolkit with bag clips and food huggers to reduce food waste. Your Business is Food provides businesses with information, advice and resources to reduce the amount of food that is disposed of.
Applications to the grants are open to local government in two stages. Stage one is the submission of an Expression of Interest by 19 November 2018, which will be assessed by an independent panel.
Successful applicants will be invited to the second stage to develop a detailed project plan. Funding of up to $20,000 is available for the project planning stage.
Final applications must be submitted by 18 March 2019.
For more information and to access the application form, click here.
A new organics processing facility has been opened at the Whylandra Waste and Recycling Facility to recycle food and organic waste from the surrounding councils.
The Dubbo Regional Organics Processing Plant (DROPP) commenced operations in early July and has begun receiving food and garden waste from Dubbo Regional Council, Mid-Western Regional Council and Narromine Shire Council.
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It aims to divert a significant amount of organic waste from landfill and turn it into compost, reducing environmental pollution caused by leachate and methane gas production.
The facility received more than $7 million of funding from the NSW EPA, Dubbo Regional Council and JR Richards & Sons. The project was supported by the Environmental Trust as part of the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More Organics Infrastructure initiative, funded by the waste levy.
Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Ben Shields said the high-tech composting facility was built to handle organic material collected by three council as part of the new Food and Garden Waste Management service.
“It is great to see neighbouring Councils working collaboratively and sharing resources to achieve a common goal,” Cr Shields said.
NSW Member for Dubbo Tony Grant said the regional organics recycling will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by landfill.
“The carbon footprint of trucking the waste is minor compared to methane that would otherwise be produced by food and garden waste buried in landfill,” Mr Grant said.
“This is a fantastic local initiative where organic waste from the region will be processed locally and reused locally,” he said.
Image: Mayor of Dubbo Region Councillor Ben Shields, Member for Dubbo the Hon Troy Grant and Mayor of Narromine Shire Councillor Craig Davies officially opened the DROPP.