Celebrating milestones

Thirty years of making a difference

cupcakes with NSW EPA 30 years in the icingIn March 2022 the EPA turned 30.

The significant milestone was marked in many ways: a large all-staff event, speeches and presentations, and the planting of a commemorative tree in Sydney’s Centennial Park. Special EPA cupcakes also helped mark the occasion.

‘Thirty years ago, by an act of parliament, the EPA was formed,’ said NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, James Griffin. ‘Today, people have an environmental defender they know and love.’

But most inspiring of all was reflecting on our rollcall of achievements, many of them hard-won. Turns out we’ve done a lot in 30 years.

We’ve improved water quality of the State’s beaches and waterways, something former EPA Director General, Lisa Corbyn, described as ‘one of the proudest moments we’ve had’.

We’ve stopped cruise ships from polluting our harbours with high-sulfur fuel.

A/CEO Jacqueleine Moore addresses guests at the birthday eventIn 2011 we investigated and prosecuted Orica for its dangerous chemical leaks from its plant on Newcastle’s Kooragang Island on Awabakal Country, an incident which led to enhanced powers for the EPA.

In 2015 we spearheaded the clean-up of the Wollangambe River, removing thousands of tonnes of coal fines from Clarence Coal Colliery. The clean-up involved 14,000 hours of labour and 800 helicopter flights.

‘The Board is justifiably proud of the EPA and its people,’ said EPA Chair Rayne De Gruchy.

We’ve enforced countless remediations of industrial sites at Botany, Cockle Creek, Newcastle, Homebush Bay and many other locations across the State.

We’ve regulated forestry and logging, particularly in our coastal and central western native forests, putting in place an innovative program to deal with the pollution these activities can create. After the 2019–20 bushfires we developed site-specific rules to help protect recently burnt coastal forests.

We’ve created innovative programs encouraging waste avoidance and waste minimisation, working with councils and the community.

staff watch on while the EPA tree is planted by the Minister

We’ve addressed illegal dumping by bringing in new waste legislation and sending out regional illegal dumping squads.

In 2017, we created the hugely successful Return and Earn container deposit scheme, which has now seen more than seven billion containers returned.

We’ve delivered Australia’s largest waste recycling program, Waste Less, Recycle More, which included community recycling centres and successful campaigns such as Love Food Hate Waste and Hey Tosser!

That’s a lot to celebrate. And a lot to be proud of.

‘These are not things that are easily won or held,’ said former NSW Environment Minister, Tim Moore. ‘They need to be continually fought for and the EPA has been very strong in making that case to government, in ensuring that money is well spent and targeted to what’s going to make a difference.’

In for the long haul

Five long-term EPA staff members share their memories and thoughts.

James Allen

James Allen Regulatory Operations Metro

Starting year

‘My most vivid and fondest memories are from when I was a young operations officer in the early ‘90s. Doing site inspections at some of the biggest and most iconic industrial and manufacturing plants in Sydney, experiencing the scale of their plant and operations up close, was often mind-blowing and incredible!’

Patricia Fabiano

Patricia Fabiano Regulatory Practice and Environmental Solutions

Starting year

‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working at the EPA because of what it stands for and the people it attracts. I’m proud to be working in an organisation that is effective and innovative. Most of all, I’ve been honoured to have worked with – and continue to work with – many dedicated and brilliant people.’


Peter Lawson Regulatory Policy, Initiatives and Advice

Starting year

‘The people at the EPA are dedicated and professional and the work we do really makes a difference. It’s hard to imagine such a rewarding career anywhere else.’

Tim Riding

Tim Riding Regulatory Practices and Environmental Solutions

Starting year

‘I’ve stayed at the EPA for a long time as water quality issues are always interesting, ever-changing and so important for public health, the economy, recreation and ecosystems.’

Winston Wickremeratne

Winston Wickremeratne Regulatory Operations Regional

Starting year

‘It’s been a great pleasure to work with like-minded, passionate and dedicated people in the EPA, committed to protecting and sustaining the environment we live in for future generations.’

A three-yearly report card of the environment

cover of the 2021 NSW State of the Environment Report featuring a pink flannel flowerOur most recent NSW State of the Environment report was officially launched in February 2022.

The report gives a snapshot of environmental conditions in NSW and comes out every three years. We compile and publish it, but many agencies – Forestry Corporation of NSW, Hunter Water Corporation, Transport for NSW and others – provide input.

‘NSW State of the Environment is always a mammoth undertaking, but important for NSW,’ says Rick Noble, Manager of the Knowledge, Strategy and Reporting team that produces the report.

The most recent report is the second to be housed on a purpose-built website. This allows for lots of interactive features such as graphs, charts and maps. And, importantly, we included Aboriginal perspectives, an acknowledgement of the deep connection Aboriginal people have to the land, water and sky. Including their perspectives also led to the EPA adopting a Statement of Commitment to Aboriginal People, which acknowledges Aboriginal people as the enduring custodians of the land, sea, waters and sky of NSW.

‘We’re very excited about having Aboriginal perspectives in the 2021 report,’ Rick Noble says. ‘Aboriginal people have cared for Country for thousands of generations, and we are grateful to the members of the State of the Environment Aboriginal Peoples Knowledge Group for their valuable insights.’

Seven billion containers and counting

a woman hands over a large bag of items at a recycling centreSeven billion containers! That’s how many had gone through the NSW Container Deposit Scheme, Return and Earn, by 24 February 2022. Placed end-to-end they’d reach to the Moon and back.

Over 717,000 tonnes of materials have been recycled.

When Return and Earn launched in late 2017 no-one could have predicted this success.

The NSW public has embraced the scheme, with more than three-quarters of adults having used it. There are more than 620 return points across the State.

And more than $30 million has been returned to charities and community groups via donations and fees from hosting return points.

The network operator’s contract has been extended until December 2026 and soon we’ll see even more return points, with more flexibility and automation. NSW residents will find it even easier to return the next seven billion containers.


tonnes of materials have been recycled since commencement


return points across the State


of adults have participated in the scheme


of people support the scheme


satisfaction rate among participants

$30 million

returned to charities and community groups via donations and fees from hosting return points