The Waste Management Association of Australia is calling for greater involvement in consultations following the surprise announcement by the NSW EPA today that it is revoking the Resource Recovery Exemption and Order, which permit the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land, plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land.
The waste and resource recovery industry was informed some six weeks ago that the EPA had completed research into the impacts of mixed waste organics and the expectation was that the regulator would then release its findings for wider consultation. Industry has afterall had a long history of transparent and constructive consultation on the issue, dating back to 2008 when Hyder Consulting (now Arcadis) completed an extensive project into the chemical contaminants of alternative waste treatment (AWT) organics – the “AWT DORF”project – that was sponsored by industry, WMAA, and numerous State governments and departments, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
The EPA said in a statement released today that “there was robust scientific basis” for its decision to cease the use of the mixed waste organic material for agricultural purposes, adding that both the NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the health risk assessment and advice.
“It is imperative that industry is given a chance to review the findings particularly as the EPA has confirmed in today’s statement that the use of mixed waste organic material on agricultural land is unlikely to present any health risk to the general public. This is consistent with research and assessments conducted by industry,” WMAA CEO Ms Gayle Sloan said.
“We are calling on Government to openly and collaboratively work with industry to ensure that NSW’s resource recovery industry’s future is not undermined and that industry and local government are not adversely impacted by this decision,” said Ms Sloan.
“Industry and local councils have invested significantly in AWT in NSW over many years with the support of the EPA. The EPA itself, in its review of waste and resource recovery infrastructure, noted in 2017 there was in fact a one million tonne shortage of AWT processing capacity across the State.”
WMAA acknowledges that there must be continued leadership by the EPA to drive positive resource recovery outcomes based on robust consultation and WMAA is looking forward to working with Government on the future of recovery in NSW.
“We await the release of the technical report but in the interim, we need to ensure that collections do not cease because of this decision and that we do not lose the community’s confidence in resource recovery in NSW. It is also important that industry does not suffer losses because of this decision,” Ms Sloan said.
“It is vital that we maintain public confidence in our industry particularly given the challenges of late. Industry and government have a shared responsibility to work together to find long-term sustainable solutions. We appreciate Government is willing to look into financial relief packages for industry and local government that may be severely impacted by the revocation of this exemption and order.”