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Fractionalised waste system

YOUR editorial of February 6 noted that it was “time to clean up the mess” in WA.  Your commentary stated that: “We simply haven’t got the economies of scale to efficiently deal with this issue”. With respect, this is not correct.

Perth is estimated to send almost 3,000,000 tonnes of waste to landfills each year. Just a third of this amount is enough to generate the economies of scale necessary to stand up facilities such as the one proposed by GOWA at Kwinana which, following extensive review by the DEP and EPA, received environmental approval in January 2001. 

This facility will deliver effective and efficient waste management services, providing solutions for all types of waste, including those wastes that have caused the problems at Bellevue and Brookdale, at a similar cost to landfill. 

Ironically, at a time when it is telling industry to clean up its act – and has introduced legislation such as the Contaminated Sites Bill – the State Government is also developing a policy on waste that will lead to extensive and sustained contamination of land. This will occur through ongoing use of landfills and the application on farm-land of heavy metal and dioxin contaminated ‘compost’ derived from rubbish and sewage sludge.

The State Government’s policy on waste is being developed by the Waste Management Board (WMB). The strategy being developed by the WMB will ensure that local government bodies, who are well represented on the WMB, will continue to control much of Perth’s waste. The fractionalised sys-tem that results will perpetuate the myth that WA lacks the economies of scale necessary to ensure that waste management can become efficient. It is a policy that offers few solutions for management of industrial wastes and relies on the use of landfills well beyond the timeline envisaged by the Government’s Waste 2020 Strategy.

If no alternatives to landfilling waste existed, this might be passed off as a necessary evil. This though is not the case.

The Government knows privately funded zero landfill/zero contamination alternatives with real solutions to industrial waste problems exist. Yet it is choosing to ignore these alternatives. 

Instead it is allowing local governments to continue to contaminate land through operation of landfill facilities, and encouraging them to invest millions of dollars of ratepayers money in small scale secondary waste treatment facilities incapable of handling all the waste that goes to landfill and which, by and large, offer no options for management of industrial waste.

The Government’s policies on waste and contamination of land are incompatible. At a time when governments are making industry responsible for cleaning up its waste problems, WA Government policy on waste encourages site contamination and denies industry access to the tools necessary to properly discharge its obligations. 

If industry allows the Government to continue to develop its current strategy on waste unchecked, for some industries the cost of managing their waste going forward  will be so high that the cost of doing business in WA will become unsustainable.

Current Government policy promotes double standards. If fines are to be meted out to those who are guilty of contaminating land, then the local government operators of landfills should be expecting to receive theirs in the post once the bill is passed. It would be better for all concerned if local governments were encouraged to work with private industry that is capable of providing real solutions to the management of waste, including management of contaminated sites.

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