Yesterday, a NSW Parliamentary Committee (Committee) produced its report following a long and complex inquiry which delved into the regulation of waste, and planning for waste infrastructure in NSW more broadly, including ‘Energy from Waste’ (EfW) technology.
The Committee made many bold findings and 36 wide-ranging recommendations for the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Government. Significantly, these include:
- urgently investigate, identify and implement alternative solutions to China’s plastic waste importation ban;
- develop and implement a strategy to replace the proximity principle, which was effectively abandoned in 2016, to end the interstate transportation of waste, and pursue a national approach (Although note that this has already commenced through COAG);
- audit the Waste Less, Recycle More program to ensure that the funds are fully expended to meet the objectives of the program;
- investigate opportunities to embed zero waste strategies and the circular economy in NSW;
- consider appointing an independent chairperson of the board, in place of the Chief Executive of the EPA and conduct an independent review into the EPA, to consider the adequacy of funding, improving community engagement, effectiveness of its enforcement and perceived conflict of interest between compliance and education roles;
- identify a body to lead waste management infrastructure planning;
- establish an expert body on EfW chaired by the Chief Scientist to examine and report on the regulatory framework to create certainty for the market and communities;
- investigate options for reforming the waste levy grant system and consider opportunities to allocate a proportion of the waste levy funds back to the industry to support waste management solutions and the development of innovative waste management;
- allocate more resources into conducting investigations into large-scale illegal dumping; and
- create an offence for the exhumation of waste from landfill sites (Although note that this has already been proposed in the draft Protection of the Environment Operations Legislation Amendment (Waste) Regulation 2017 exhibited last year).
This is the second inquiry into the EPA over the past 4 years, following the 2014–2015 inquiry by a different NSW Parliamentary Committee into the EPA’s performance.
We will be considering the report and recommendations in more detail. In the interim, please contact a member of our team with any questions about what this means for your business.