Better future for general household waste

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is seeking feedback on the future use of general household waste, Mixed Waste Organic Outputs (MWOO) (which is made from this waste) and on a proposed transition package to support the alternative waste treatment (AWT) industry to move to sustainable uses.

Following extensive scientific research, the EPA does not intend to allow MWOO to be used as a soil amendment on agricultural, mining rehabilitation or forestry land, the EPA’s Chief Environmental Regulator, Mark Gifford said.

“The research undertaken on MWOO has been extensive, including an assessment of human health and ecological risks when applied as a soil amendment and advice from scientific experts,” Mr Gifford said.

“The research clearly shows that the potential risks outweigh the limited benefits of applying MWOO on agricultural land, given the levels of contamination left behind such as glass and plastics, as well as metals and chemicals.”

NSW Health has advised that they do not expect any adverse health effects as a result of past use of MWOO on agricultural land. The health risk assessment identified certain circumstances where exposure to chemicals could occur at levels that are higher than referenced doses, but these circumstances would be unusual and short lived.

The expert panel has also advised that they do not expect any adverse health effects from past use of MWOO on agricultural land.

The NSW Government is also consulting on a $6.5 million package for industry to consider new, more sustainable solutions to manage general household waste.

“This is just the first step in considering new and future uses for general household waste, with significant work underway to improve the management of waste in NSW through the development of a 20 Year Waste Strategy,” Mr Gifford said.

“Our waste can be a valuable resource and we want to make the best use of it. 

“The $6.5 million package includes funding for AWT operators to undertake research and development into alternative products and end markets for household general waste, and to make the required changes to their facilities to produce products, such as refuse derived fuel or other innovative new uses. 

“These changes will help to create new environmentally friendly solutions for household waste, for local government and the community.” 

Part of the funding available is for new infrastructure for the AWT industry to introduce food organics and garden organics (FOGO) processing lines at their facilities.

More than 40 NSW councils are already providing FOGO kerbside collections to households, or food only collections as sustainable alternatives in managing general household waste.

The NSW Government is also extending existing funding to minimise the risk of disruption to kerbside collection services and ensure that any additional transport and landfill costs are not passed on to councils or ratepayers. 

MWOO has not been permitted to be applied to land for 12 months. MWOO is not the same as compost and this does not apply to compost, garden potting mix or biosolids.