Recycling Council calls for improved safety, fire and environmental standards
Members of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) met on 12 October to discuss key issues affecting the waste industry, with the meeting resulting in several calls to action.
NWRIC members including national waste companies and all mainland ‘state’ waste and recycling associations discussed initiatives which would help to protect and enhance safety and environmental standards. As noted by NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards, “Effective waste management and recycling requires high standards which protect workers, the public and the environment.”
With this in mind, said Richards, “governments should register all facilities and transporters undertaking waste processing, recycling or waste transport to assist with their compliance activities”. Richards claimed that an enhanced registration program will give the state’s Environmental Protection Authority the power to protect standards.
In addition to a program to register all waste transporters, the Council calls for state government action to ensure that all waste processing facilities hold an Environmental Protection Licence (EPL). Licensing of all facilities is urgently needed to maintain equal standards, the Council argues, and to ensure that compliance activities cover all facilities, regardless of size.
Key standards the industry are concerned about include: the stockpiling of combustible material; landfill levy avoidance; poorly managed small landfills; illegal dumping for commercial gain; and fraudulent activity involved in cash for scrap.
“In some instances, the fines for operating an illegal or a substandard facility are lower than the cost of going through the licensing and compliance measures,” said NWRIC CEO Max Spedding. “Regulators must ensure that compliance costs apply to all facilities, and that fines and regulatory action protect those operators that put in place standards at or above compliance requirements.”
The NWRIC is separately calling for the development of national fire management standards for waste and recycling facilities, as well as an audit of combustible waste stockpiles, in order to protect public safety and restore trust.
“Following a series of major fires, we’re calling on regulators in every state and territory to conduct audits of stockpiles of combustible material to ensure future fires do not harm public safety and further tarnish the reputation of our industry,” said Richards.
“We note the recent regulatory action by the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority, and urge other states and territories to follow their example.”
Related to the stockpiling of combustible material is new concerns with access to overseas markets — especially to China — for plastics. Additional government support to enhance markets for paper and plastics is urgently needed to reduce the commercial pressure for operators to stockpile, according to the Council.
With used tyres stockpiles existing in all Australian jurisdictions, in each case representing a critical fire hazard, the Council believes that a mandatory product stewardship scheme should be introduced under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act 2011 without further delay.