NSW set to remove asbestos waste levy

The NSW Government is working to remove the asbestos waste levy to facilitate easier and cheaper legal disposal.

The NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy 2019-21, released by Environment Minister Matt Kean earlier this month, aims to reduce the illegal and improper disposal of asbestos waste.

According to Mr Kean, the strategy was developed after findings showed that asbestos waste accounts for up to eight per cent of illegally dumped waste across the state.

“The safe and lawful management of asbestos waste is a priority for this government, and that means making legal disposal of asbestos waste easier and cheaper,” Mr Kean said.

“To do this, we will work to increase the number of facilities which can lawfully receive asbestos waste, and make it cheaper to dispose of asbestos by removing the waste levy on separated, bonded and wrapped asbestos waste up to 250 kilograms.”

Mr Kean said the strategy also sets out plans to disrupt unlawful asbestos dumping by increasing risk for bad operators.

“Illegally dumped asbestos poses a threat to human health and our environment and results in significant clean-up costs,” Mr Kean said.

“We will monitor repeat offenders with GPS trackers to deter illegal dumping and cancel vehicle registration for people caught doing the wrong thing.”

The maximum penalty for illegal dumping of asbestos in NSW is $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

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Matt Kean addresses industry at AWRE

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says local councils have been shut out of the waste and resource recovery conversation for too long, due to a “cosy” relationship between government and industry.

Addressing delegates at the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council’s (NWRIC) Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo industry breakfast, Mr Kean said his department intends to bring councils and the wider community back to the decision making table.

“Policy has been developed for too long by government working with industry, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but costs keep rising for communities and local councils. Lets not forget that waste is over a third of peoples council rates,” Mr Kean said.

“Rate-capping caps the amount of council rates on every single item on the bill except for waste, so there’s been no incentive for industry to delivered cheaper, better outcomes for the community, and that’s something I would like to see change.”

Mr Kean added that after speaking with local councils, it was clear to him that they agree.

“We need to have them as part of the conversation, and we need them at the table to talk to industry and develop policy that is going to deliver waste management services in the cheapest most environmentally sound way possible,” Mr Kean said.

“We need everyone effected by this industry to be part of the conversation, and that’s what I’m looking to do differently to my predecessors.”

At the event, chaired by NWRIC CEO Rose Read, Mr Kean also addressed the Council of Australian Government’s recent proposal to ban international waste exports.

According to Mr Kean, NSW is working closely with other governments to develop a ban timeline, which he anticipates will be tabled next month, following the November Meeting of Environment Ministers.

“We need to face the fact that the export of waste undermined the confidence of consumers who expected that when they were told they were recycling waste it was actually being recycled, the same goes for MWOO, I just want to point that out as well,” Mr Kean said.

“That’s why I was proud to sign up to a timetable to ban export waste. It’s a step towards rebuilding consumer confidence and delivering improvement in our waste management practices, including recycling.”

When asked by Ms Read why NSW’s waste levy revenue was not being reinvested in industry, Mr Kean said he had concerns over how levy revenue is currently spent.

Mr Kean added that he doesn’t believe scattering the levy delivers good environmental outcomes and said his department will review levies and targets in the 20 year waste strategy.

Ms Read also asked Mr Kean whether the state government was open to establishing a trust account to report on where levy funds are spent.

The Environment Minister replied that he wouldn’t make policy commitments on the fly, and said his government is committed to establishing policy in a considered and comprehensive manner.

Additionally, Mr Kean said his department would work to deliver greater policy and funding transparency.

Referencing NSW’s forthcoming 20 year waste strategy, Mr Kean called the policy a “huge body of work,” and reiterated the importance of working with local government to deliver positive outcomes.

“When I became the minister earlier this year, the 20 year waste strategy was flagged and it was underway, but I asked the department to put a hold on that strategy because I believe it needs to be more comprehensive,” Mr Kean said.

“I’ve reset the agenda in terms of what I want the strategy to achieve, and that agenda will be developed in consultation with industry, with local government and the community. We hope there will be a discussion paper early next year.”

Mr Kean said he hopes to deliver a strategy that provides industry certainty and enables investment before the end of 2020.

“It cant just work for Sydney, its got to work for the regions as well,” Mr Kean said.

“Major reform is on the table, so I’ve asked my department to engage in frank conversations with community groups, local councils and industry about how we can better deliver outcomes.”

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$1 million awarded by NSW’s love food, hate waste program

In an Australian first, communities across NSW will deliver two-year whole-of-city approaches to food waste prevention, as part of the state government’s $1 million Love Food Communities grants program.

Grants have been awarded to the City of Sydney, Central Coast Council, Midwaste and North East Waste.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said roughly 750,000 tonnes of food is thrown away by households and businesses in NSW each year.

“I want to see less food being wasted across our communities and these grants will support the recipients to do just that by changing behaviour and giving people and businesses the tools they need to make informed decisions,” Mr Kean said.

“Together, these four newly funded projects will reach 17,000 households and nearly 500 businesses. This is a huge undertaking and will be the first time we see a whole-of-community approach taken to prevent food waste in NSW.”

Participants are required to undertake a food waste survey to understand how much food they are throwing out, implement a succinct program to amend some of their food practices, and at the end of the program re-measure their food waste.

As well as households and businesses, each project will target at least one other sector where there is scope to have a huge impact in food waste reduction such as aged care, schools, pubs and clubs and food manufacturers.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the city will work with its Green Building tenants and Sustainable Destination partners – Hilton, Accor Hotels, Hyatt – to achieve at least 20 per cent food waste reduction within their business.

“Food waste in our residents’ red-lid bins makes up approximately 35 per cent of the city’s general waste – waste that’s bad for our wallets and bad for our environment,” Ms Clover Moore said.

“We’re pleased to be working with the state government to increase awareness about food waste across businesses, apartment dwellers and tertiary education campuses to deliver a clear reduction in waste and create a more sustainable city.”

Hilton Sydney Executive Chef Kruno Velican said organisations must have professional sensitivity and a comprehensive acceptance of how global businesses can impact the communities they serve and environment in which they operate.

“Hilton Sydney has completed two rounds of the ‘Your Business is Food’ program and has reduced its food waste by 50 per cent, saving almost $860,000 from 2016 –2018,” Mr Velican said.

“Hilton Sydney has also partnered with Addi Road to deliver the daily surplus breakfast food to the community organisation and its patrons. This not only reduces food waste sent to landfill but also ensures that perfectly good food is enjoyed by people facing food insecurity.”

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