EPA VIC released updated guidance in August on moving prescribed industrial waste from Victoria across Australia. The State General Manager for SUEZ in Victoria, Kelvin Sargent, explains what the new guidelines mean for the industry and offers a view on next steps on this subject.
EPA Victoria’s (EPA VIC) recent announcement of updated industrial waste resource guidelines (IWRG) regarding the movement of prescribed industrial waste (PIW) is a positive step forward for the industry.
These updated rules affect producers, consigners, transporters and receivers of PIW.
As part of EPA VIC’s focus on helping industry better understand their PIW obligations, the latest guidelines include additional details about obtaining waste transport certificates and consignment authorisation from the receiving state or territory.
The reaffirmation of the regulations comes after months of discussions with SUEZ and the Waste Industry Alliance, drawing the Victorian State Government’s attention to the broader issues around the interstate transportation of controlled waste.
Current interstate movements of PIW are primarily covered by the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 (“Regulations”).
Under the updated Regulations, any person wanting to transport non-liquid PIW, including solids and sludges, from Victoria to another state or territory must obtain prior approval from EPA VIC. In addition, they must comply with the following requirements:
- Obtain consignment authorisation from the state or territory jurisdiction receiving PIW;
- Owners of any vehicle transporting PIW across state borders must hold a permit issued by EPA VIC; and
- The producer, transporter and receiver must complete interstate waste transport certificates for each consignment of PIW.
These regulations are not new. Instead, EPA VIC has simplified the requirements pertaining to all three categories of PIW.
The updated rules do provide certainty around the movement of PIW but, to date, have not been effectively enforced. As the recently-released IWRG highlights: “It is your responsibility to ensure that those obligations are complied with.”
As the responsibility of reporting the interstate transportation lies with the producers of PIW, most do not lodge the correct paperwork. As a result, there aren’t any accurate figures showing the great extent of this problem for the Victorian Government.
We cannot, however, ignore the role the industry plays in accepting waste. In order for the Regulations to be effective, it is crucial for waste operators to only accept PIW, both interstate and locally, that has been approved through the appropriate channels.
The bigger picture
In 2008, the Victorian Government introduced a PIW levy for Category B industrial waste and contaminated soils, set at $250 a tonne.
Within four years of the introduction of the levy, Queensland’s Government repealed its landfill levy. This made it more economically viable for PIW producers in Victoria to transport waste across the Victorian and New South Wales borders to Queensland. This practice creates extra truck movements, meaning more heavy vehicles are on busy and dangerous major highways every day. Additionally, it increases the carbon footprint of PIW disposal due to diesel usage of trucks travelling up to 2,000 kilometres to Queensland.
The practice also comes at a significant economic cost to Victoria – for every 1,000 tonnes of PIW transported to Queensland, the Victorian Government loses $250,000 in waste levy revenue.
It also undermines investment in resource recovery infrastructure, such as soil processing facilities, and creates uncertainty for owners of existing infrastructure. SUEZ owns and operates the only Victorian landfill facility that can accept Category B PIW and is recognised as a waste facility of state important.
More to do
In 2014, the New South Wales Government introduced the proximity principle within the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014. This aims to prevent waste from being transported for disposal more than 150 kilometres from where it was generated with some exceptions.
The principle also states that waste should be disposed of at the nearest lawful facility with corporations facing penalty notices of up to $15,000 if caught not meeting the regulations.
SUEZ would like to see a similar principle adopted in Victoria. It would not be costly to enforce and would achieve better environmental outcomes for all.
Waste is a local issue and should be disposed of as close to where it is generated as possible. The management of waste is an essential service and provides various opportunities for investment in local jobs, infrastructure and technology. The Andrews Government should be commended for its interest and action. Progress is definitely being made in light of the updated Regulations and the public review of the EPA VIC, but there is still more to do in order to address the bigger picture.
The guidance document, Movement of prescribed industrial waste from Victoria (publication IWRG832), is available on the EPA VIC website.
EPA VIC is also reminding those in the waste industry about its existing guidelines on transporting waste from Victoria, which can also be found in the ‘Standards and compliance guidelines’ section of the website.