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Waste Management in New South Wales: A Review

Waste Management in New South Wales: A Review

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 01/2001 by Stewart Smith

The Waste Minimisation and Management Act 1995 (the Waste Act) introduced a definition of waste that encompasses substances that are discarded, rejected, unwanted, surplus or abandoned. Regulations under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 define liquid and non-liquid waste types into different classes, depending on their likely impacts on the environment (page 1).

Waste is identified in three sectors: municipal; commercial and industrial; and construction and demolition. Municipal waste is defined as the waste arising from domestic premises and from council activities associated with servicing residential and public areas. Commercial and industrial waste includes materials generated by commercial establishments such as offices, stores and hotels, and non-biodegradable waste generated in industrial or manufacturing processes. Building and demolition waste is derived from the construction, refurbishment or demolition of new or existing buildings or structures. Approximately 5.0 million tonnes of waste are disposed of annually in NSW. Of this, approximately 4.0 million tonnes are disposed of in the Sydney Metropolitan Area (page1).

The Waste Act establishes the framework for the strategic planning and funding of waste reduction at a State and regional level and within industry sectors. It sets out roles and responsibilities for all essential stakeholders. The Act also includes the waste hierarchy and incorporates the Government's then 60% waste reduction target by the year 2000 (page 5).

Total waste disposal in NSW adjusted for gross State product decreased from 1990 to 1993 and then stabilised at 20% to 25% below 1990 levels. The 1998 total level of waste disposal was 18% below the 1990 levels when adjusted for gross State product (page 10).

The Waste Act requires a review five years after its date of assent, and a report must be presented to Parliament before 22 December 2001. In August 2000 the Minister announced the review of the Waste Act. In August 1999 the Minister for the Environment Hon Bob Debus MP established the Alternative Waste Management and Practices Inquiry. The Report of the Inquiry was provided to the Minister in April 2000. The Inquiry noted that an ample array of technologies exists to enable management of waste in NSW as a potential resource. No one technology was deemed suitable for waste streams. Four classes of technology and 14 generic types of technologies were described and evaluated (page 12).

In light of the findings of the Alternative Waste Inquiry, Mr Tony Wright was commissioned by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning to advise him on, amongst other things, available landfill capacity for solid putrescible waste in the Sydney region and the implications of this on the need or otherwise for the proposed Woodlawn landfill. Recommendation one of the review was that early action to establish a satisfactory new landfill site should be taken (page 22).

On 30 November 2000 the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning Hon Dr Andrew Refshauge MP granted development consent to the proposal by Collex Waste Management to develop a putrescible waste landfill facility at Woodlawn, 270 kilometres southwest of Sydney (24).