EPA NSW has released several updated regulations that affect waste and recycling businesses in the state in the last year. The Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) Executive Director Tony Khoury provides an overview of these new rules and where he would like to see changes in future.
The Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 – commonly known as the 2014 Waste Regulation – became effective on 1 November 2014. The regulations are supported by the Waste Levy Guidelines, which detail how waste is measured to calculate levy liability, when certain levy deductions can be claimed, and requirements for records, surveys and reports.
NSW has a waste levy, which for 2015/16 is $133.10 a tonne for the Metropolitan Levy Area and $76.70 a tonne for the Regional Levy Area.
This new regulatory framework introduces rules to ensure that waste is not stockpiled at processing sites, where the waste levy can be avoided or payment delayed. This has resulted in significant reporting obligations on all waste facilities.
We need the EPA to be an effective regulator so that good, lawful, legitimate operators in NSW can confidently invest in best practice waste management solutions without the threat of being undercut by rogue operators.
The EPA has also introduced lower thresholds for depot licence requirements, tracking for waste being transported interstate, and a proximity principle.
The proximity principle aims to address the environmental and human health impacts in NSW associated with the unnecessary haulage of waste over long distances. It requires waste generators and transporters in NSW to ensure that their waste is transported for disposal to a lawful facility that is located within a 150-kilometre radius from where it was generated. This law does not apply to waste transported by rail, nor to recyclables that are transported beyond the 150-kilometre boundary.
The introduction of these rules has resulted in some unintended consequences.
With NSW having a high waste levy and Queensland having no levy, much lower landfill fees and lower environmental standards, there is still a large volume of waste and recyclable material that is sent to south east Queensland for disposal.
Whilst the EPA had great intentions with the proximity principle, the law is not working and needs an urgent review. The reason that waste material is transported for long distance disposal is the lower cost of landfill. There are also environmental implications, such as lower recycling rates in NSW, the additional consumption of fossil fuels and the pressure on our rail corridor.
Let’s just hope that this higher unnecessary risk does not result in our having to deal with any tragic accidents or fatalities. WCRA has highlighted these concerns to the EPA and to the NSW Government.
Container Deposit Scheme
The NSW Government announced that it plans to introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS) from July 2017.
WCRA broadly supports a CDS in NSW. How it will all work is yet to be determined – this will be finalised in 2016, after a community and industry consultation. However, the scheme needs to ensure that there are no significant unintended consequences on the kerbside recycling sector.
In terms of the composition of the CDS implementation committee, the government and the EPA have failed to recognise the importance of business and the waste management industry. The committee is made up largely of consultants and government officials.
WCRA is involved in two of the operating committees. However, it is difficult to understand the logic of the nominations, as several of the people appointed to these committees have significant commercial interests in the outcomes.
We have pointed out and highlighted these concerns to the EPA and the NSW Government. We will do our best to ensure that WCRA makes a positive contribution to the process.
Aspirations and expectations
I think regulation in NSW has some way to go to improve the waste industry for those who work within it and its outcomes.
If I were able to introduce one thing, it would be around improving the situation for collection drivers. I would pass universal laws that allowed for the collection of waste and recyclables to occur at the safest possible times, for example between 11.00pm and 5.00am, when there is less traffic and fewer pedestrians.
By undertaking waste and recyclable collections during these quieter periods, productivity levels would increase, there would be a lower risk of accidents, and there would be many fewer waste collection vehicles on the road during peak commuter periods. Now there’s a win, win, win.
If one thing is true, it’s that the waste management and recycling industry is constantly evolving. I will be interested to see what the future has in store.
WCRA is an industrial body of waste employers in NSW, which was set up in May 1948. It is registered with both the Fair Work Commission and the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. WCRA has 180 members across NSW and the ACT, who own, operate or control an estimated 95% of the vehicles used in waste and/or recycling collections. Wherever a NSW council (including the ACT Government) contract out their waste collection services, they do so to a WCRA member.
A full calendar of WCRA events up until 30 June 2016 can be accessed on the website.
Tony Khoury can be contacted at the WCRA office on 02 9604 7206, or by email.