More than $100,000 in fines have been issued in the past three months to people who have been illegally operating in the Queensland waste industry.
The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has also issued 16 Direction Notices to immediately cease activities for operators in breach of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said ensuring waste was handled appropriately was fundamental to protecting the environment and Queensland’s communities.
“Guaranteeing licensed waste operators who follow the law are protected from operators who are not licensed is also important to the economy,” she said.
DES launched a team of compliance officers dedicated solely to investigating and enforcing unlicensed waste matters in the state in November last year.
The Unlicensed Waste Team has undertaken almost 20 site visits of waste operations and waste tyre handlers who were believed to be operating outside the law.
Compliance officers have issued 15 Penalty Infringement Notices for offences under the EP Act and Environmental Protection Regulation 2019, with fines totalling more than $100,000.
In addition to this work to ensure the waste industry is operating appropriately, a waste stockpile fire prevention guideline has also been developed by DES, with support from the Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ).
According to Scanlon, the new guideline will assist waste facility operators to manage combustible waste stockpile fire risks and reduce the environmental impacts of a fire at their premises.
“We have had some significant issues in relation to used tyre stockpiling which have led to fires. When they occur, waste fires are a threat to the environment and to human health,” she said.
“The consequences of waste fires include the release of air-borne contaminants, firewater run-off, combustion products, firefighting chemicals and toxic smoke, and the significant cost to taxpayers of cleaning-up the mess.”
WRIQ CEO Mark Smith added that Queensland’s waste and recycling sector collectively managed the waste and recycling needs of the state.
“The safe management of Queensland’s waste is a shared responsibility and involves everyone in the supply chain,” he said.
“For the waste and recycling industry, they can eliminate, reduce and manage their risks through the adoption of the government’s guideline.
“Others in the supply chain should look to understand their role in fire prevention. For example, the public play a role here which includes not putting batteries into the landfill or recycling bin.”