Australia: New Hazardous Waste Regulations

Last Updated: 11 August 2009
Article by Elisa de Wit

The Victorian Environment Protection (Prescribed Waste) Regulations 1998 (old Regulations) have been replaced by the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 (new Regulations), which came into effect on 1 July. The new regulations are supported by Industrial Waste Resource Guidelines which can be found on the Environment Protection Authority's website, and Industrial Waste Guidelines published in the Government Gazette on 9 June 2009.

Objectives of the new Regulations

The intent underlying the new Regulations is to establish a legislative framework which protects the environment. In particular, the new Regulations are aimed at assisting industry to implement the waste hierarchy, which seeks to avoid, reuse and recycle waste, with disposal being the last option. They are also aimed at encouraging industry to use industrial waste as a resource, particularly where a secondary beneficial use is available.

What is Prescribed Industrial Waste?

The old definition of Prescribed Industrial Waste was prescriptive, in that wastes coming under this category were set out in a list in the old Regulations. The new Regulations define Prescribed Industrial Waste by exclusion, and provide that Prescribed Industrial Waste is any industrial waste or mixture containing industrial waste, except:

  • materials listed in Schedule 1
  • materials with direct beneficial reuse that have been consigned for use
  • exempt material (where secondary beneficial reuse is available)
  • material which is not Category A, B or C waste.

Schedule 1 wastes include those (non-hazardous) wastes traditionally able to be recycled, such as cardboard, glass, paper and plastic.

Direct beneficial reuse is available where an industrial waste can be used as an input or raw material substitute into a commercial, industrial, trade or laboratory activity without prior treatment or reprocessing. In turn, secondary beneficial reuse allows for treatment or reprocessing.

Secondary beneficial reuse

In order to obtain the benefit of secondary beneficial reuse, and to have material exempt from the application of the Regulations, it is necessary to seek authorisation from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Either a producer or receiver of industrial waste may seek authorisation, or alternatively the EPA may authorise the secondary beneficial reuse itself. An applicant for authorisation is required to include various matters in its notification, including details of characteristics of the material, the likelihood of unacceptable risk to humans or the environment and any applicable waste minimisation and management plans.

If the waste material comprises Category A or Category B prescribed industrial waste, the application for authorisation must be accompanied by a statement from an environmental auditor that the information provided in the application is correct. If the material is Category C, a statement from an environmental consultant must be provided. In both cases, the auditor or consultant must be independent.

Assessing and classifying waste

Producers of Prescribed Industrial Waste are required to assess and categorise the waste, and manage the waste in accordance with the classification. The steps to be taken include:

  • considering whether it is possible to avoid or reduce production of waste
  • considering whether the waste can be reused or recycled
  • considering whether there are any treatment or reprocessing options
  • if none of the above is available, classifying the waste (i.e. Category A, B or C).

In order to undertake the above exercise, it is necessary to consider whether the particular option is available. An option will be available if the technology or facilities are "practicably accessible". "Practicably accessible" is defined in the new Regulations as "having regard to the location of the premises and the scale of the business conducted by the Prescribed Industrial Waste producer and the financial viability of that business, the technology and facilities are reasonably available and reasonably affordable".

The new Regulations specifically provide that Prescribed Industrial Waste must not be diluted, mixed or treated if this would reduce the potential to reuse or recycle or to reduce the hazard category unless the treatment obtains a better environmental outcome.

Transportation permits and transport certificates

The new Regulations contain similar provisions to the old Regulations in relation to the need to obtain transportation permits and complete transportation certificates. A difference in relation to transportation permits is the need to provide a declaration that a vehicle is fit for the purpose of transporting the particular prescribed industrial waste. There is also the ability for the EPA to impose a condition on a transportation permit requiring a report to be provided of any spillage, leak, escape or other loss to the EPA.

In relation to the transportation certificates, the main difference between the old Regulations and the new Regulations is that there is no longer a requirement for the waste receiver to send a copy of the completed certificate to the waste producer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Elisa de Wit
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