Managing our waste better

WASTE management has become a topical issue of late, with a fire earlier this year at a hazardous waste disposal facility in Bellevue focusing government and community attention squarely on all areas of waste disposal and waste management.

Several major issues have been identified as areas of concern within the waste disposal and management industry, including the issues of access to landfill sites and of tightening government regulations concerning disposal of waste at landfill sites.

There are no new landfill sites proposed for the metropolitan area, which points to the likelihood of landfill operators increasing prices for the disposal of waste, as space becomes limited at the current landfill facilities.

Cleanaway Technical Services WA manager Rob Goldfinch says even though the government is trying to encourage recycling by establishing key recycling initiatives within the solvent, construction and demolition industries through the Waste 2020 policy, such programs are likely to take some time to be fully effective.

But he maintains that if industry shows a supportive attitude, major reductions could be expected in the amount of waste going to landfill that could and should be recycled by industry or government-run initiatives.

Mr Goldfinch also says the fire at the Bellevue hazardous waste facility has highlighted the fact that there are inadequate disposal facilities in WA for several key waste lines, such as recyclable solvents, complex chemical wastes, strong organic/biodegradable wastes and some mining processing wastes. Currently the only option available for disposing of some of these types of hazardous waste is to export it to hazardous waste disposal facilities interstate.

Mr Goldfinch believes the fire at the Bellevue waste facility also has raised awareness and concern in the wider community over the location and adequacy of hazardous waste disposal facilities within the State.

“There is a perception in both the community and industry that our regulatory authorities lack the muscle to enforce proper environmental controls on industry operators, because they are working with inadequate legislation, or are seriously under resourced in the policing area,” he says.

The government is currently reviewing the legislation pertaining to hazardous waste disposal and storage and that relating to clearing and cleaning contaminated sites.

Mr Goldfinch says the long-term direction of the industry is promising, as tightened regulations and increased accreditation will lead to improved waste management practices and more accountable environmental processes being adopted by industry.

“Environmental service providers will need to be smarter, more efficient and demonstrate best practice technologies to grow their businesses in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Mr Goldfinch says.

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