Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

Landfill sites

Landfill facilities must be managed to a high environmental standard to reduce any risk of harm to the environment and the community.

Do you need a licence?

The onus is on you to find out whether you need a licence. Fines and penalties apply to operating without a licence, or not complying with licence conditions.

Full cost of landfill calculator

The Full cost of landfill calculator is an Excel-based decision support tool designed to help landfill operators determine the ‘real’ cost of sending waste to landfill.

Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills, Second Edition 2016

In April 2016 the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) released the revised Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills – Second Edition.

This second edition provides an updated set of minimum standards for design, construction and operation of a modern landfill facility. Further details about the main changes are outlined in the Questions and Answers below.

The EPA will use these guidelines to assess landfill licence applications and set conditions for new or varied landfill licences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, and to assess issues that arise during the operational and post-closure periods of landfills.

The guidelines will also form the basis of the EPA’s input to consent authorities at the planning stage of new landfills and landfill cells under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

These Guidelines maintain the already strong environment protection regime that applies to NSW landfills, and will assist the landfill industry by providing clarified and updated guidance on landfilling technologies and techniques and the EPA’s minimum requirements.

Questions and Answers: Solid Waste Landfill Guidelines – Second Edition

Why have you changed the guidelines?

The EPA’s Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills – Second Edition have been updated to incorporate legislation and policy changes along with emerging landfilling technologies and techniques.

What about the 1998 Draft Environmental Guidelines for Industrial Waste Landfilling?

This second edition of the landfill guidelines incorporates both the Solid Waste Landfills (1996) and the Draft Environmental Guidelines for Industrial Waste Landfilling (1998) into one document.

Why have you removed the 'primary environmental goals' 'related environmental goals' and 'benchmark techniques' in the draft guidelines?

These guidelines provide guidance for the environmental management of landfills in NSW by specifying a series of ‘Minimum Standards’, which are the consolidated and refined goals and benchmarks from the previous edition. The minimum standards are a mix of design and construction techniques, effective site operations, monitoring and reporting protocols, and post-closure management requirements.

The minimum standards in these guidelines reflect the following broad goals for landfilling in NSW:

  • landfills should be sited, designed, constructed and operated to cause minimum impacts to the environment, human health and amenity
  • the waste mass should be stabilised, the site progressively rehabilitated, and the land returned to productive use as soon as practicable
  • wherever feasible, resources should be extracted from the waste and beneficially reused
  • adequate data and other information should be available about any impacts from the site, and remedial strategies should be put in place when necessary
  • all stakeholders should have confidence that appropriately qualified and experienced personnel are involved in the planning, design and construction of landfills to high standards.

How will these guidelines be applied by the EPA?

The EPA will use these guidelines to assess landfill licence applications and set conditions for new or varied landfill licences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, and to assess issues that arise during the operational and post-closure periods of landfills.

Most proposals for new or expanded landfills require development consent or approval under an Environmental Planning Instrument made under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This Act is administered by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and local councils. These guidelines will form the basis of the EPA’s input at the planning stage.

It is not proposed that the new requirements be applied retrospectively to existing landfill cells that are operating well.

The minimum standards in these guidelines apply to general solid waste and restricted solid waste landfills. There are some additional (higher) standards for restricted solid waste landfills, recognising the more highly contaminated nature of those wastes.

Why have you introduced a requirement that technical design reports and construction quality assurance documents to the EPA must be prepared by appropriately qualified and experienced persons?

The vast majority of reports and documents are already developed this way. For the small number that are not yet taking this approach, this will expedite approval processes and improve compliance, and provide both the EPA and NSW communities the confidence that landfills are being designed and constructed to appropriate standards.

Are the new guidelines consistent with the requirements in other jurisdictions?

Yes. The new guidelines reflect good industry practice and are consistent with the requirements in other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas.

Who undertook this review?

The EPA undertook the review of the guidelines. The draft second edition was subject to an independent review by the international consultancy SLR Consulting, and further refined following three months of public consultation in 2015.

How do these guidelines assist landfill operators?

  • The guidelines do not introduce any new approvals or licensing processes.
  • The guidelines will assist operators with approvals and compliance by providing additional technical information, particularly for emerging techniques and technologies, and clarifying the EPA’s requirements.
  • The guidelines incorporate more information on proven alternative techniques and technologies that may reduce the cost burden on operators in appropriate circumstances.
  • The guidelines do introduce a new requirement that technical design reports and construction quality assurance documents to the EPA must be prepared by appropriately qualified and experienced persons. This is already done for the vast majority of facilities, and for the small number not yet taking this approach will expedite approval processes and improve compliance, and provide both the EPA and NSW communities the confidence that landfills are being designed and constructed to appropriate standards.
  • The guidelines include refined Construction Quality Assurance (CQA) requirements developed by independent experts GHD. These provide the necessary assurances that construction methods and materials are satisfactory based on reasonable testing and assessment requirements.

Do these guidelines strengthen or weaken environmental protection?

These Guidelines will maintain the already strong environment protection regime that applies to NSW landfills. They will assist the landfill industry by providing clarified and updated guidance on landfilling technologies and techniques and the EPA’s minimum requirements.

Will the EPA be providing further information and training to the industry on the new guidelines?

Following release of the revised guidelines, the EPA will be in contact with key industry groups and stakeholders on the best way to provide relevant information on the new guidelines.

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Page last updated: 29 April 2016