South Australia strengthens its EPA with new Act

The South Australian Government has strengthened its Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) with the passing of its Environment Protection (Waste Reform) Amendment Act 2017.

The new legislation is part of a suite of measures to ensure a level playing field across the waste industry and provide the right settings to protect the environment.

The changes provide the Environment Protection Authority with greater powers to better tackle illegal dumping and excessive stockpiling as well as supporting innovative resource recovery. The powers allow the EPA to take more timely and proportionate actions to deal with licence breaches.

The Act permits the EPA to apply to a judge of the Supreme Court for a warrant in an illegal dumping investigation by marking waste in vehicles, installing GPS devices and installing cameras in specific premises or vehicles.

“The warrant can be taken to authorise the senior authorised officer to enter or interfere with any premises, vehicle or thing as reasonably required to exercise the powers specified in the warrant,” the Act says.

The EPA can also issue an environment protection order to prevent or minimise environmental harm or deal with stockpiled or abandoned waste or other matter. Unauthorised stockpiling can occur where facilities exceed maximum allowable limits imposed by the Act.

The amendments were developed following a two-year engagement program with waste and resource recovery sector, the broader community and across government.

The government estimates the South Australian waste and resource recovery sector is a $1 billion industry and employs around 5000 people.

Environment Minister Ian Hunter said the EPA has a strong focus on the illegal dumping of commercial level or hazardous waste, with dedicated investigations staff. The new powers will build on existing EPA powers to support the agency in successfully identifying and taking action against illegal dumping.

Improved deterrence aims to assist in reducing the significant costs each year in cleaning up illegally dumped waste.

National radioactive waste management facility tenders open

Tenders have opened for site characterisation works on a national radioactive waste management facility.

The tender forms part of phase two of the proposed facility, with three sites voluntarily nominated in South Australia, including two in the rural service town of Kimba and one at Wallerberdina, near the Flinders Ranges.

The national radioactive waste management facility will consolidate Australia’s radioactive waste holdings, which are currently spread across more than 100 locations around the country.

Bruce McCleary, General Manager of the national radioactive waste management facility taskforce said that site characterisation is an important activity in the next part of the project.

Mr McCleary said that site characterisation involves looking in detail at all aspects of each site, and understanding whether they fit the technical criteria to be a suitable location.

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“Phase two involves building a detailed understanding of the nominated sites, through in depth community consultation and technical assessments,” he said.

“Community consultation is now well underway, including appointment of locally engaged officers and establishment of site offices at both sites, creation of committees and working groups, and regular visits from members of the project team and experts to provide information on the project.”

Phase two of the project involves assessing flora and fauna, geology and seismic risks; inputting into the detailed business case, with reference to site specific design and cost estimates, and an additional option for the preparation and development of submissions for licensing and approvals.

McCleary said this second phase of the process at all three sites will be underway until the end of next year. For more information head to www.tenders.gov.au

The tender closes 28 November 2017, at 3:00 pm (ACT Local Time).

South Australian recycler plans to take on e-waste

Telstra e-waste reuse and recycling strategy went live in November 2016

South Australian Port Pirie based recycler Nyrstar could become Australia’s first e-waste recycling facility.

Nyrstar will soon accept a range of electronic products, including printed computer circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, mobile phones and related devices.

It will also accept photovoltaic cells from roof solar panels, alkaline batteries and potentially other batteries such as lead acid and nickel cadmium.

Currently e-waste generated in Australia is either landfilled or exported.

If sent offshore, it can end up in countries without stringent environmental or health and safety regulations, leading to environmental contamination and hazards for workers recovering e waste components.

The waste and resource recovery industry employs up to 5,000 South Australians. The sector turns over $1 billion each year and contributes more than $500 million to Gross State Product.

South Australia is the only state in Australia that has legislated to ban e-waste from landfill.

The state has also implemented Container Deposit Legislation and a ban on single-use plastic bags.

“While waste and materials management is a key environment issue, it presents an opportunity to contribute to the State’s economic growth and competitive advantage,” said Regional Development Minister Geoff Brock.

“The planned expansion of facilities like Nyrstar mean that we can recapture valuable resources that would otherwise have been sent offshore or landfilled, and create jobs here in South Australia.”

“The transformation of the Nyrstar Port Pirie smelter to a multi-metals processing and recovery facility will also provide the technology to process e-waste, including printed circuit boards, television screens, mobile phones and alkaline batteries,” said Nyrstar Vice President, Metals Refining, Bertus de Villiers.

“Featuring proven state-of-the-art technology available in Europe, Asia and North America, the site will be Australia’s first e-waste treatment facility, helping to reduce landfill and recover valuable metal to reuse in consumer products,” Mr de Villiers added.

“The expected treatment rates of e-waste from 2018 is expected to be less than 3000 tonnes per annum, increasing to more than 20,000 tonnes per annum as the facility ramps up, with a recovery of 98 per cent of metal content.”