Waste management reforms commence on 16 November 2018

Changes to the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 (Waste Regulation) commence on 16 November 2018.

The changes are contained in the Protection of the Environment Operations Legislation Amendment (Waste) Regulation 2018 (Amendment Regulation) (PDF 230KB)

The changes

The most significant changes are

Commencing 16 November 2018

  • a prohibition on exhuming waste at current or former landfills
  • increased penalty notice amounts for asbestos waste offences

Commencing 15 May 2019


Other changes commencing on 16 November 2018 include

  • improving the handling of asbestos waste
  • clarifying claims for transported waste deductions
  • new operational purpose deductions for bedding layers and biofilters
  • clarifying how waste activities are monitored at licensed facilities
  • amending the definition of land pollution
  • clarifying licensing requirements for a small number of scheduled activities
  • updating references to local government areas

The proposed changes complement existing waste policy in NSW, including the NSW Government's Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2014-21, and the significant investment in grants and funding opportunities through the NSW Government's Waste Less Recycle More program ($802 million plus over nine years).

Consultation

The changes have been developed after extensive public consultation with stakeholders including local councils, waste facility operators and industry bodies. After careful consideration, the EPA has revised the Amendment Regulation to ensure that it is as targeted and effective as possible, while also aiming to minimise any unintended adverse consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions  

The changes have been made to ensure that waste facility operators implement appropriate processes and procedures to minimise the risk of harm to human health and the environment.

The EPA also seeks to ensure the community has confidence in the quality of the recycled products they use.

The changes also ensure the EPA has the regulatory tools to efficiently and effectively regulate the waste industry in accordance with the objects of the POEO Act.

The EPA has a responsibility to efficiently regulate waste facilities and ensure that recovered materials are produced with all the necessary procedures to protect the community and the environment.

In 2014 the NSW Government introduced the new Waste Regulation, which has resulted in significant improvements to the operation of most waste facilities and improved the EPA’s ability to regulate them.

Since that time, however, the EPA has identified some ongoing poor waste management practices, particularly in relation to the handling of construction waste, asbestos and the exhumation of waste.

These poor practices expose the community and environment to risks from contaminated material (including asbestos) and undermine the objectives of the waste hierarchy under the POEO Act, which prioritises resource recovery, recycling and re-use over disposal.

The majority of the changes commenced on 16 November 2018 when the Amendment Regulation was published on the NSW legislation website.

The Standards and the concessional levy rate for compliant recovered fines applied as daily cover at landfills commence on 15 May 2019. The later commencement date is to provide facilities with time to ensure they have in place the necessary procedures and infrastructure to meet the relevant requirements.     

  • The levy deduction for recovered fines applied as alternative daily cover at an appropriately licensed landfill has been increased from 50% to 75% of the applicable rate.
  • The proposed restrictions on transporting waste from a licensed landfill have been removed.
  • The proposed restrictions on waste processing/resource recovery facilities claiming a transported waste deduction greater than 12 months after receiving the waste has been removed.
  • The hardstand required by the Standards for the tipping, spreading and inspection of construction waste no longer needs to be made from concrete.
  • The proximity principle has been retained.

Asbestos contaminated waste poses significant risks of harm to human health and the environment and must be disposed of at a landfill site that can lawfully receive it.

To protect the community, there are significant on-the-spot fine increases from $750 to up to $7,500 for an individual and $1,500 to up to $15,000 for a corporation; including for not transporting and disposing of waste safely.

The prohibition against exhuming waste applies to all current and former landfills.

This prohibition will not affect a former landfill site if the landfill site is closed and capped and no waste is removed from beneath that cap, or if the waste is exhumed in an emergency to protect human health or the environment.

The EPA may approve exhumation in limited circumstances where exhuming waste is necessary for operational works. Waste disposal facilities would need to provide detailed impact assessments and demonstrate an understanding of all material contained in the relevant cell.

The Standards require prescribed C&D waste facilities to

  • implement a two-stage inspection process with a focus on ensuring asbestos waste and other contaminants do not enter the facility      
  • implement sorting and waste storage requirements to improve the quality of recovered resources and avoid cross-contamination of materials
  • ensure that construction waste is only transported from the facility if it has been handled in accordance with the Standards on-site
  • ensure that all staff managing, supervising or undertaking tasks required by the Standards have been appropriately trained (including training in asbestos awareness).

From 15 May 2019, the Standards will apply to all licensed waste facilities that are not licensed solely for waste disposal (e.g. landfills) which are located in

  • the ‘metropolitan levy area’ and receive 6,000 tonnes or more ‘construction waste’ in any 12-month period or
  • the ‘regional levy area’ and receive 6,000 tonnes or more construction waste in any 12-month period from the ‘metropolitan levy area’
  • Failure to comply with the Standards will be a breach of a condition of a C&D waste facility’s environment protection licence and section 64 of the POEO Act.
  • On the spot fines of $15,000 (corporation) and $7,500 (individual) and a maximum court‑imposed penalty of $1,000,000 (corporation) and $250,000 (individual) apply.     

In the absence of a national approach to address the adverse impacts caused by the unnecessary long-distance transport of waste for disposal, the ‘proximity principle’ provision is retained.

A national solution is necessary to effectively address the adverse impacts on the environment, human health and the waste hierarchy caused by the long-distance transport of waste for disposal.

NSW is seeking to build consensus with other States and the Federal Government to develop a robust and coordinated regulatory response to the long-distance transport of waste and promote consistent waste management standards at facilities across Australia that minimise the risk of harm to human health, the environment and the waste hierarchy.

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