Questions and answers

Why is the EPA maintaining its October 2018 position to stop the use of Mixed Waste Organic Outputs (MWOO) as a soil amendment?

  • In October 2018 the EPA revoked the general and specific Resource Recovery Orders and Resource Recovery Exemptions for the application of MWOO to land due to risks associated with chemical and physical contaminants. 
  • Since then the EPA has undertaken further work and commissioned a range of additional research to consider if further controls could allow the material to be safely applied to mining and forestry plantation sites. 
  • After reviewing previous and new assessments of the human health and ecological risks of applying MWOO to land, and considering further controls, the EPA’s position is that it does not intend to grant any general exemptions or issue any related orders allowing MWOO to be used as a soil amendment on agricultural, mining rehabilitation or forestry land.

How is MWOO processed? 

  • MWOO is processed from mixed waste. Each facility operates differently but essentially, they all use two processes to produce it
    • mechanical sorting and separation which aims to remove plastic, metal, and other large items such as bottles and batteries from the waste 
    • pasteurisation and biological stabilization
  • Some facilities then blended the material with biosolids and/or compost produced from garden or food and garden waste 

Has the previous application of MWOO on agricultural land created any significant health risks?

  • An expert panel convened by NSW Health has reviewed the evidence and does not expect any health effects from past use of MWOO on agricultural land in NSW. 
  • If you would like more specific information, please contact our Helpline on 131 555.

How is MWOO currently used?

  • MWOO cannot currently be applied to land. 

How was MWOO historically used? 

  • Previously, the specific rules around the use and application were detailed in a Resource Recovery Exemption that allowed mixed waste organic output to be used in certain farming activities, in plantation forestry and for mine rehabilitation, subject to strict limits. 

Can technology be used to improve the quality of MWOO so that it can be applied to land?

  • The research found there is no commercially available technology to remove the small physical contaminants (less than 2-5mm). 
  • Experts recommended that as glass, heavy metals and the chemical polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent they must be removed before MWOO can be land applied.

Does this announcement apply to the application of compost or biosolids?

  • No. The October 2018 regulatory change to stop the application of MWOO applied to MWOO only and did not affect the manufacture and application of compost and biosolids.

What support is the NSW EPA providing to impacted stakeholders? 

  • A proposed transition package has been developed to help the AWT industry transition to sustainable resource recovery outcomes; these may include production of refuse derived fuel or other innovative new products and uses.  
  • The proposed transition package includes funding for AWT operators to undertake research and development into alternative products and end market for household general waste and to make the required changes to their facilities to produce these products.
  • The package will be refined through public consultation.
  • More than 40 NSW councils are already providing source separated food organics and garden organics (FOGO) kerbside collections to households, or food-only collections in multi-unit dwellings, as alternatives for food recovery.
  • The EPA’s proposed transition package would help increase this rate further by providing infrastructure funding for Alternative Waste Treatment operators to install a new processing line for FOGO at their facilities.

How can the public provide feedback? 

  • The NSW EPA is seeking feedback on the future use household waste and mixed waste organic outputs and a proposed transition package to support the alternative waste industry to move to sustainable uses.
  • Impacted stakeholders and other members of the community are encouraged to participate so that all views, advice and information can be considered.
  • A feedback form and a series of fact sheets are available at https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/awt.

What to do with existing MWOO material

  • If you are a landholder, you may know mixed waste organic outputs under trade names such as OGM (organic growth media), Agriblend or Pasture-ARRT Rejuvenate, supplied by Global Renewables, Biomass Solutions or Suez respectively.
  • The EPA has written to all known landholders to inform them of these changes, let them know what they can do with pre-existing material and stockpiles, how they can find out more information and to support them.
  • If you believe that you have this material stored and have not received notification from the EPA, please contact the EPA on 131 555, or at info@epa.nsw.gov.au

What do landholders need to do?

  • Stop applying mixed waste organic outputs to your land
  • If you have any of this material stored, or would like to discuss your personal circumstances contact the EPA on 131 555, or at info@epa.nsw.gov.au
  • There is no change to the use of compost, which you can continue to use.
Page last updated