Toxic hospital waste attracts EPA fine

A shipment of hospital waste exposed to toxic chemicals has been secured and sent for proper disposal, during an investigation by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

According to EPA Western Metropolitan Regional Manager Stephen Lansdell, the waste was found at a container depot in Altona.

“EPA officers found two shipping containers that had been sitting for more than two weeks at the premises of Melbourne Container Transport, in Kororoit Creek Rd,” he said.

“Inside, they found plastic-wrapped pallet loads of cardboard boxes and plastic containers carrying surgical masks, gowns, gloves and other items used by doctors when applying cytotoxic chemicals used in some cancer treatments.”

The EPA has fined the company $8261 for depositing industrial waste at a site that is not licensed to accept that type of waste.

“The contents of the containers were safely incinerated by a licensed company on the day they were opened for inspection,” Mr Lansdell said.

“While it was resolved without any hazard to people’s health, a case like this is disappointing because businesses have a clear responsibility to know the rules and do the right thing by the environment and the community.”

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2006, the company has the right to have the decision reviewed, or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.

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Indonesia rejects Australian plastic waste

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) have confirmed, following a review, that the shipping container in Indonesia at the centre of recent media reports is from an Australian recycling company.

The container consists of approximately 13 tonnes of mixed plastic material derived from household kerbside recycling from suburban Melbourne.

According to a Fairfax Media report, the entire container is considered toxic by the Indonesian Environment department and is not acceptable for import.

In total, 65 containers from France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United States and Australia have been seized.

ACOR’s review was advised the material was not “toxic” however, and contained waste from council recycling bins, such as plastic containers for motor oil and food products.

In the statement, ACOR argued one shipping container should not define any specific company, or the wider Australian recycling system.

“It does though reflect the reality of what is collected from Australian ratepayers via councils’ kerbside recycling programs, and our industry’s subsequent attempts to do something useful with very heterogeneous material,” the statement reads.

“Similar container loads of exported mixed plastic have long met all expected requirements under both Australian and Indonesian law and policy. However, across Asia, authorities are changing their approaches in line with their own domestic circumstances.”

Of the 37 million total tonnes of waste annually diverted from landfill in Australia, four million tonnes are exported.

“Approximately 415,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled by Australia every year or some 11 per cent of our society’s total consumption,” the statement reads.

“Of that, some 235,000 tonnes are exported overall, and some 60,000 tonnes have been exported to Indonesia in the last twelve months or so, according to Federal Government figures.”

According to the statement, plastic exported to Indonesia represents approximately 1.5 per cent of total material exported for recycling.

“Material has historically been exported because overseas buyers pay for it as inputs to make useful products. In the case of mixed plastics in particular, there has historically been under capacity of domestic infrastructure and robust markets in Australia,” the statement reads.

“In Europe, unlike here, there are specific policies in place to promote domestic recycled content manufacturing. Without export, our recycling rate for plastics could fall to as low as five per cent.”

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