Waste And Landfill Policies

27 Oct 2010 archivespeech
This speech is to move that the Environment, Resources and Development Committee inquire into and report on the Environment Protection Authority's Environment Protection (Waste to Resources) policy and the standard for the production of use of waste derived fill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21:27): I move:

That the Environment, Resources and Development Committee inquire into and report on the Environment Protection Authority's Environment Protection (Waste to Resources) policy and the standard for the production of use of waste derived fill.

 As honourable members may be aware, the first part of the EPP, which has come into effect on 1 September this year and will progressively come into effect in subsequent years, relates to waste and, in particular, its recovery before it is sent to landfill. I think, overall, there is bipartisan support for much of this. However, the implementation of it is to be done by the council sector, recyclers and the waste sector, and some concerns have been raised which I think merit further investigation.

The landfill bans which come into effect from 1 September 2010 include: hazardous waste, lead acid batteries, liquid waste, medical waste, oil, whole tyres, aggregated cardboard and paper, aggregated glass packaging, aggregated metals, aggregated PET or HDPE plastic packaging and vegetative matter collected by councils. From 1 September 2011 it will include: vehicles, PP or LDPE plastic packaging and whitegoods; and on 1 September 2012, PVC or PS plastic packaging, fluorescent lighting, computer monitors and televisions (that is, e-waste) and whole earth mover tyres.

 I note the government has set diversion limits of 75 per cent of materials not to go into landfill and trials which have been undertaken, I think at most, have yielded in the order of 60 per cent to 65 per cent where there is best practice. The issue of food trials has been discussed at length in this place and that is part of the issue of how to manage that particular part of the process.

In terms of local government, there are certainly some within the local government sector who are very concerned that this is going to be a significant cost to them. We have also seen recently in the budget the increase in the solid waste levy, which is going to have a direct impact on local government's ability to manage to reduce the amount going to landfill and to implement recycling practices.

The other issue that council is very concerned about is the increase in illegal dumping, which is a direct result of this policy and also a direct result of the increase in the solid waste levy. This is particularly an issue for country councils, which have the tyranny of distance. It was discussed on ABC 639 on 2 September. Anita Crisp, who is the chief executive of the Central Local Government Association, was interviewed particularly in relation to e-waste. What she had to say in relation to the e-waste collection round is that they are particularly reliant on external funding.

It is not just an issue for the Central Local Government Association; it is an issue for the Eyre Peninsula as well. They have the same problems, where they need to be able to collect a critical mass before they are able to make it worthwhile to transport a load of that material to the metropolitan area where these processing facilities are. I also note that the annual grants for country councils were cancelled in 2009, and that has had a detrimental impact on country councils' ability to continue to implement these policies.

A consultant by the name of Janet Binder reported at a forum organised by the LGA and Zero Waste on 6 July this year, which I attended. Ms Binder reported on her findings, and this is just a taste of some of what she had to say: there was a lack of investment of levy into regions and there is concern about the dollars for waste transfer stations and the legislative requirements through DAC, which has delayed some of those developments, and also the licensing requirements of the EPA.

The application process itself for some of these developments requires data about waste diverted from landfill, which is difficult to provide if the transfer station itself has no weighbridge. So, clearly, there are issues in implementing the government's policy. So, while the government has laudable aims, I think some of these other areas need to be investigated more closely. Zero Waste or the EPA—I forget which agency it was—also stated at that forum that there have been some prosecutions for illegal dumping, probably about half a dozen in the last few years, but without significant penalties. So, they have not been able to police that as well as they would like.

The lack of policing of illegal dumping is a regular complaint from the waste management industry. I think the views that are expressed in relation to that is that the EPA does not actually track or record waste. There are sites which are not licensed by the EPA. In effect, someone can set up a shingle, say that they are running a recycling industry, and the levy is not applied. Obviously, they would have concerns about the increases in the waste levy increasing that sort of activity.

I note from Zero Waste's most recently available report, which is 2008-09, that it is looking at implementing a system called the Zero Waste SA Environment Users System (ZEUS), which is designed to allow the electronic capture, storage and reporting of waste and recycling data across metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, and at a state level for South Australia. It is due for completion in 2009-10 and will collect data on annual surveys of recycling, audits of landfills, transfer stations, and so forth. If that is implemented, it will assist a great deal, but I wait with bated breath to find out how far that has progressed. It certainly has not been implemented, and there has been a problem in that the EPA has not been able to monitor what is going on. That is the EPP issue.

The other issue is the standard for the production and use of waste-derived fill, which is a relatively new policy that will require excavated fill to be reused rather than go to landfill, and a risk-based approach to soil contamination means that a testing process may be required prior to land redevelopment. The Civil Contractors Federation has raised this issue with a number of Liberal members, and some of its concerns are that it was not consulted, that the terminology is confusing and that increased red tape is required of its members. CCF members are generally the first professional group on a construction site, yet they had no input into the planning and formulation of the standard. In addition, they have said that the way in which the standard has been written is a move away from current industry language: for example, no longer is the term 'clean fill' used (which is something most people would be familiar with), but instead it must be referred to as 'waste-derived fill'. The CCF believes the standard will be a very costly process and will impact on residential and commercial development.

I asked a question of one of the ministers here on 20 July and received a reply today that is in contradiction to the information the CCF has been provided. I will not read it out as it is available in Hansard, but I note that the language used in this reply from the government is that 'issues of costs and approval time frames associated with the standard were raised during a consultation process and these are being addressed'. Further it states:

 The EPA have advised they are working to provide the Department of Planning and Local Government with guiding documents.

It sounds like that process is in train but has not been finalised, yet this is something the industry is having to deal with as it is at the moment.
The CCF has run information sessions, including with EPA advisers who were able to answer questions and so forth, and published information in its magazine, which certainly indicates that it sees that greater community information needs to be provided. To quote from its Down to Earth magazine of autumn 2010, where they talk specifically about this measure, it says:

Of particular interest to members is the classification of the 100-tonne rule of waste soil from a site where no potential contaminated activity has occurred being classified as waste and therefore requiring authorisation (an EPA licence) to receive, store, treat or process.

It is in plain English. Part of the problem is that soil, which is to be moved, if over the 100-tonne rule, means that it needs to be tested. If it had been uncontaminated previously, that is quite over the top. This will directly impact not just on civil construction but things like swimming pools could well cost an extra $3,000 just because of this rule. With those comments, I commend this motion to the council and look forward to further contributions from members in due course.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I Hunter.