This change does not apply to compost or biosolids.
The use of mixed waste organic material has already been restricted since 2010. This has included regulations on the processing and distribution, and prohibiting its use for urban and domestic purposes.
The decision by the EPA to stop further use of the material is now being made after a comprehensive, independent research program concluded that there are limited agricultural or soil benefits from applying mixed waste organic material at the current regulated rates, but there are physical contaminants and potential environmental risks.
The NSW EPA received the final Technical Advisory Report in late May. The EPA reviewed the report and sought further information from industry, including records of the amounts and distribution of material, as well as operational information about the alternative waste treatment facilities.
The EPA also convened and sought specialist advice from an interagency committee, including Department of Primary Industries, NSW Health, NSW Food Authority and Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer, to review the information and agree on a course of action. That action included commissioning a human health and ecological risk assessment. Consideration also needed to be given to the statewide impacts of any proposed regulatory changes on waste collections, stakeholders involved and the community, before the final decision was taken to stop the application, and to inform what support was needed.
You can find out more about the research below.
Find out how this affects you
- EPA Environment Line: 131 555
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is mixed waste organic material?
Mixed waste organic material is a soil amendment made predominantly from the organic material in the household general waste (red lid bin) which was applied to agricultural land, mine-site rehabilitation, and plantation forests.
It is produced at alternative waste treatment facilities, primarily to divert general household waste from landfill, and is sold or provided by mixed waste organic material companies as a soil amendment to improve agricultural soils.
It is also known as Mixed Waste Organic Outputs, ‘MWOO’, with the trade names Agriblend, Rehab-ARRT Rejuvenate, Pasture-ARRT Rejuvenate, and OGM (organic growth media).
Since this material was first produced 20 years ago, there has been a major shift to greater separation of organic materials (food and garden waste) and general waste.
It was considered as an appropriate method at the time for diverting mixed waste from landfill to more productive uses – a key component of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle principles for best practice waste management.
Are there any health risks?
The use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public.
This is based on the review of the initial findings of an independent assessment commissioned by the EPA. The assessment used very cautious assumptions to estimate how much exposure a person might have to chemicals present in mixed waste organic material.
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the assessment, and further work is currently being done, overseen by an independent panel formed by the Office of the Chief Scientist. This work is expected to be completed in the coming months.
How was this regulated in the past?
Prior to 2010, the manufacture and distribution of mixed waste organic material was unregulated.
In 2010 the EPA imposed tough restrictions around the production and land application of the material, implementing strict controls on how much material could be applied to agricultural land and stipulating the types of agriculture it could be used on, and applying withholding periods for agriculture products post-application.
Prohibited uses included in the keeping and breeding of poultry or pigs, food root crops, vegetables or crops where the harvested parts touch or are below the surface of the soil.
Specific rules around the use and application on agricultural land are detailed in the Resource Recovery Exemption (PDF 91KB) which mixed waste organic material producers were required to provide to all consumers (landowners) under requirements in the Resource Recovery Order (PFD 90KB).
What research was conducted?
As part of its ongoing regulatory role into the production and application of mixed waste organic material, the EPA commissioned six independent research trials.
The studies found there were limited agricultural benefits from applying mixed waste organic material at the regulated levels and that there are physical contaminants and potential environmental risks.
In particular, deterioration of soil health, chemical and physical contaminants such as small pieces of plastic and glass, were of concern.
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the health risk assessment, and further work is being done, overseen by an independent panel formed by the Office of the Chief Scientist. This work is expected to be completed in the coming months.