Net Zero - the EPA’s responsibilities
Net zero emissions from organic waste
Under the Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030, the EPA is making sure NSW achieves net zero emissions from organic waste by 2030. “Net zero” means we remove at least as much dangerous greenhouse gas pollution from the air as we put into it.
Organic waste, such as food scraps and garden trimmings, makes up about 40% of the waste in red-lidded kerbside garbage bins. When sent to landfill, the decomposing material releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that may escape into the air.
However, when this waste is properly composted and recycled, it produces much less methane gas, soils can be improved to store carbon, and biogas can be created to generate electricity.
To do this, the EPA is leading the world with developing new policies to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. In particular, it will
- support local councils to provide communities with best practice food and garden waste management infrastructure
- make sure composts or other organic soils for land application are the best they can be
- make it easier for waste facilities to start using innovative technologies to recover and process organic waste, including technologies that turn waste into energy such as aerobic digestion
- update regulatory settings to make sure that any residual methane gas emissions from the organic waste industry are offset, which means removing the same amount of greenhouse gas or more from the air (for example, by planting new trees).
These policies will help make sure NSW uses any opportunity to process organic waste here in our State, and make it cheaper for local councils and people in the community to dispose of organic waste.1
Reporting on progress under the net zero plan
The NSW Minister for Energy and the Environment has provided specific directions to the EPA on the information pertaining to the Net Zero Plan to be included within the State of the Environment Report.
The EPA is responsible for letting the public know about the state of the NSW environment and climate and how well the NSW Government is doing against the Net Zero Plan, in the NSW State of the Environment Report.
These reports are produced every three years, and include information from all NSW Government agencies that share responsibility for managing the state’s environmental assets. They provide a snapshot in time of the main environmental issues in NSW.
State of the Environment Reports published between 2021 and 2030 will include information on what the Net Zero Plan has done for the environment in that time, including how much emissions have been reduced (and how much more they could be reduced in the future). The report will also talk about what effect the Net Zero Plan has had on the economy.
Other EPA actions, programs and resources that support the NSW Government’s climate change objectives
- The EPA contributed to the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework.
- The EPA encourages major industry sectors to help the NSW Government achieve net zero emissions by 2050, by proactively reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and planning for the risks of climate change.
- The EPA oversees a number of programs, across industry and in the community, that help manage greenhouse gas emissions. These include programs to reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill, increase recycling and the use of recycled materials, and capture greenhouse gas emissions at landfills (e.g. Waste Less, Recycle More, the Organics Infrastructure Fund, Bin Trim, Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste landfills, Love Food Hate Waste and the Better Waste and Recycling Fund).
- The EPA also helps support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by regulating licensed industry for other environmental reasons. Some of the EPA’s licence conditions, which are designed to reduce or limit air pollution from industrial activities, may also reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. The EPA’s overall regulatory framework also helps support a healthy environment, that is more resilient to climate change.
- The EPA is committed to becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030.
1. NSW Government (2020), Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020–2030, State of NSW and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Parramatta, March 2020, URL: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/climate-change/net-zero-plan