The hugely popular television series ' War on Waste' focuses most attention on supply chain parties up and down the chain from waste services providers, such as manufacturers and retailers. However, the waste sector seems to be fighting its own war on a number of fronts.

The waste sector is currently facing pressure from:

  • allegations of improper interstate dumping of waste to avoid waste levies
  • continuing illegal dumping of asbestos waste, including in residential streets
  • the ban by China on receiving Australian recycling materials
  • council decisions (albeit temporary) to discontinue recycling services.

In relation to Chain of Responsibility (CoR) enforcement, statistics from Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) show that the 'garbage/waste' sector is, by a very significant margin, the number one offender for on-road heavy vehicle offences within NSW.

This is reflected in the fact that the waste sector has been the most targeted by high profile CoR court prosecutions, with proceedings being brought against:

  • two local councils for allegedly failing to appropriately supervise and manage mass compliance by their appointed third party municipal waste services provider in VIC; verdict guilty.
  • a scrap metals trader, recycling yard and transport operator in relation to failure to manage dimension compliance for a scrap steel load, resulting in the parties being fined and ordered to pay $222,000 to repair damage to tunnel infrastructure caused by the over-height load in NSW; verdict guilty.
  • a waste services provider for failure to appropriately supervise and manage mass compliance by its subcontracted transport operator, resulting in fines and costs totalling $982,000 in NSW; verdict guilty.

Why is the waste sector considered to be a problem?

In short, membership is diverse and fractured. Also, the physical characteristics of waste and the way that it is often collected (in dribs-and-drabs from multiple sources) contributes to complexities in mass management in particular.

Why should the waste sector focus on CoR compliance?

The sector at the top for on-road offences is naturally going to be most targeted by enforcement agencies. Enforcement agencies are increasingly adopting a risk-targeted approach to enforcement, focusing their attention on the worst-performing sectors who have the most room for improvement.

This means that the waste sector will get greater attention and be the target for greater penalties and prosecution than other sectors. Even if a business is properly addressing CoR, it can still expect to be the subject of greater regulatory scrutiny simply due to being involved in the waste sector. For this reason, it is important at an industry level that waste sector participants band together and address CoR.

One of the most significant customers of the waste sector are local councils and government agencies, in particular in relation to municipal waste collection and processing. Rightly or wrongly, NSW authorities have identified councils as a group who have historically been slow to address CoR – but that is fast changing. We have recently worked and spoken with a large number of councils who have put CoR compliance and management squarely on their radars.

Waste service providers to councils can expect to see a far greater level of scrutiny from their council customers within the next six months, as more and more councils seek advice and guidance on the development of their CoR management – including service provider compliance performance management.

So, addressing compliance within the waste sector is not only good for getting enforcement agencies off your back, it is an excellent way to give risk and compliance assurance to your customers.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.