Building on our work to protect the environment and human health from waste pollution

Pollution from waste can have long-term impacts on the environment and human health.

Pollution can be caused by illegal dumping, littering and contamination from hazardous materials like asbestos. It can also be caused by poorly managed waste, where noise, odour and emissions can cause harm to the surrounding community.

We have a strong regulatory framework that sets the rules and standards for how individuals and businesses can handle waste. We back this up with strong compliance and enforcement to make sure polluters are held accountable.

Our plan

Illegal dumping of waste poses a risk to human health and the environment, especially if the waste is hazardous (such as asbestos). Illegal dumping is unpleasant and burdens local councils and other land managers with clean up costs.

The NSW Government has partnered with public land managers, local councils and the community to combat illegal dumping. For example, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has co-funded regional illegal dumping squads (RID squads). These squads are regionally based teams that specialise in investigating and preventing illegal dumping.

Another example is the EPA’s Waste Crime Taskforce (WCT) which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting offenders for serious waste crimes. The WCT runs strategic compliance campaigns to target opportunistic dumpers, illegal dumpers and organised networks of unlawful waste operators.

To continue successful programs, we will provide an additional $16 million in funding. We will also introduce new measures to move to a modern regulatory approach to combat illegal dumping. Legislative measures may include:

  • requiring electronic waste dockets at waste receiving facilities to minimise the opportunity to falsify dockets
  • requiring the generator to pay disposal fees directly to waste facilities to ensure the waste is transported to the facility and not illegally dumped
  • working to strengthen the investigation and enforcement powers of EPA officers to combat illegal dumping and increase the penalties for waste crime offences.

There are many hazardous substances used in everyday commercial and industrial settings. There are also dangerous legacy substances such as asbestos that remain in our community. Once they reach the end of their useful life, these substances need to be handled, treated and disposed of according to appropriate standards to minimise risks to human health and protect the environment.

We already have strong policy approaches and statutory requirements in place to ensure the safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous and harmful wastes, such as the NSW Government’s Asbestos Strategy. The Asbestos Strategy sets out priority areas where we will continue to work to reduce mismanagement of asbestos waste, including closing loopholes, and reducing cost of disposal.

The NSW Government is leading the establishment of a nationally consistent tracking and data system, which will improve the quality of data and give us better oversight of hazardous waste movement in NSW and other states. This will greatly increase our capability to detect and address potential illegal and dangerous stockpiling and support legitimate operators.

The new tracking and data system will be a critical part of our strategic infrastructure planning and will assist in identifying critical hazardous waste infrastructure needs. We will work with industry to encourage more investment to fill identified gaps.

As well as the tracking system, we will also investigate a scheme for accredited waste assessors to assist with waste characterisation and classification and a product stewardship scheme for high-risk hazardous waste.

Households and businesses commonly use items like batteries, paint and gas bottles, but they can be difficult and/or costly to recycle. When people dispose of these items in regular kerbside recycling, they can contaminate other waste streams or even cause fires at recycling facilities.

To help stop problematic waste from being illegally dumped (or sent to landfill), we have invested $127 million in household waste programs. This includes establishing 95 Community Recycling Centres (CRCs) around NSW, with another 15 in development. Since 2014, these CRCs have accepted more than 11,300 tonnes of waste, partnering with industry-led product stewardship schemes like Paintback to fund the recycling and treatment of these wastes.

The NSW Government will continue to support these important community resources, with more than $50 million in funding. We will continue providing support for the popular Household Chemical CleanOut events, which provide safe collection and disposal of harmful items such as garden and pool chemicals, household cleaners and poisons.

It is estimated the direct cost of cleaning up litter in NSW is $180 million each year, a cost paid by all of us. The NSW Government has invested in a range of successful programs and initiatives to tackle litter including the NSW container deposit scheme, Return and Earn, which has successfully diverted over 5 billion containers from litter and landfill for remanufacturing. Coupled with the highly successful Don’t be a Tosser! campaign and a suite of other litter behaviour and enforcement programs, litter in NSW has fallen by 43% since 2014, exceeding the state’s target of 40% by 2020.

Building on the success of our litter programs, we will invest $38 million in litter prevention programs to protect our natural environment and waterways. These programs will be further enhanced by strengthening our regulatory framework, with a focus on plastic litter through the phasing out.

We will establish new litter partnerships designed to support capacity building and empower industry, community organisations and stakeholders to take ownership of local litter. A partnership approach with local councils, industry and the community will tackle place-based litter issues through prevention pilots and enforcement activities.

The waste levy is a market-based instrument legislated under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. In operation for almost 50 years, the waste levy incentivises waste avoidance and recycling over landfill disposal. It applies in the Metropolitan Levy Area (Sydney, Illawarra and Hunter regions) and the Regional Levy Area (the Blue Mountains, Wollondilly and the area north of Port Stephens to the Tweed River).

The levy has driven investment in NSW’s resource recovery industry, servicing households and businesses across the state. It has been particularly successful in driving the construction and demolition recycling sector, where the levy makes heavy materials like concrete prohibitively costly to dispose of, leading to increased recycling rates.

One-third of the waste levy revenue is returned to the environment portfolio, with more than half the funding going to waste and circular economy programs and activities. Over the last nine years, the waste levy has funded the $800 million Waste Less, Recycle More program, the largest waste program of its kind in Australia. It will continue to fund the implementation of this strategy.

We recognise the need for regular, transparent evaluation of the levy, and will put in place 5-yearly reviews to ensure it continues to achieve its policy objectives.

The NSW resource recovery framework provides clear rules and guidance for using recovered materials. The framework has been refined since its introduction and is now the most comprehensive framework for regulating resource recovery in the country.

The EPA regularly engages the industry through the resource recovery framework to approve specific orders and exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

We will continue to improve our policies, regulatory requirements and procedures so that they are clear, transparent and incentivise high-quality resource recovery.

As part of this strategy, we will review and optimise legislation or other measures to facilitate testing of innovative business models, technologies or processes for resource recovery in NSW.

By shifting our focus towards supporting innovation, we can work with local government and industry to help meet gaps in the market and create opportunities for more jobs and investment in NSW.

Local governments play a critical role in managing the impacts of waste. The NSW Government will continue to support councils’ litter and illegal dumping prevention activities with more than $10 million in grants. We will continue to support collaboration for regional organisations of councils, council groups, joint organisations and voluntary regional waste groups through $15.6 million in funding.

We will provide further support through our $16 million investment in a new joint procurement facilitation service, making it easier for local government to come together and deliver good value for ratepayers and achieve better waste and recycling outcomes.

The Landfill Consolidation and Environmental Improvements Grant Program will continue to support regional councils through $6 million in funding. This program will improve community safety and amenity through better site security and access, litter control and overall supervision and operation of landfills.

We will provide continued funding of $4 million for the Aboriginal Communities Waste Management Program, supporting the planning and delivery of waste management projects in Aboriginal communities across NSW.