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New waste-related regulations for Queensland

Written by Equilibrium on 13 June 2019

How your business can identify early opportunities to improve environmental performance and prepare accordingly.

The schedule of waste-related Environmentally Relevant Activities (ERAs) has remained largely unchanged since they were introduced on 1990s. Since this time there have been significant changes in waste management practices, the emergence of new waste technologies and improvements in risk-based waste classification that were not considered when the current waste-related ERAs were developed.

This short blog discusses the new regulations, identifies potential impacts on Queensland businesses and provides solutions for assistance with meeting new requirements.

In short, the Environmental Protection (Waste ERA Framework) Amendment Regulation (2018) now allows the overall risk of waste management activities to be more accurately assessed, determined by the classification of waste and the type and scale of the process being undertaken, so that an appropriate level of regulation can be applied by the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

With the newly released Waste ERA Framework now in effect, Queensland based companies operating in the recovery, transport, storage (including west transfer stations), processing, treatment (including incineration and thermal treatment), recycling and disposal of waste and recyclable materials may be impacted as a result of the introduction of new waste classification categories, threshold changes and the application of risk-based regulation for waste management and other environmentally relevant activities.

It is anticipated that the new Regulations will largely involve an overall increase in cost to process and manage waste streams in Queensland, which will ultimately impact the waste and recycling industry through increased compliance costs.

Businesses can expect that environmental licences and permit costs (applications and annual fees) will change, and in many cases increase. It is also anticipated that activities currently not requiring an Environmental Authority may need to apply based on potential threshold changes.

Are you a target industry or facility?

The new waste-related ERA framework provides improved regulation and clear regulatory support for new and emerging technologies. If you are operating a business that processes organic materials, operates a waste disposal facility or transfer station (including tyre storage) the regulation changes could impact on your existing Environmental Authorities (EA) over the next 12 months as well as potentially require you to apply for a new EA in line with the changes to ERAs and other threshold limits.

If you operate a metal recovery, crushing, milling or screening, battery recycling, regulated waste transport, storage, reprocessing, treatment of waste tyre recycling facility then from 1 July 2019 there may be changes to relating to your EA to operate.

If you need to transition to the new ERA thresholds or make an amendment application to your existing EA, then in most instances this will need to be completed by 15 November 2019. If you need to apply for authorisation to conduct an activity under a new EA then the deadline is 12 months from 23 November 2018. The date when the new regulation came into effect.

With new classifications now applicable to regulated waste, your site activities may now be classified as a higher risk, impacting on not only your operations but also the annual fees payable to the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

If you are looking to apply a new ERA for your site, if it is prescribed (concurrence) ERA then there may be a requirement to apply for a development permit where there is a material change of use under the Planning Act 2016 and Planning Regulation 2017.

It is through these changes and the introduction of a landfill levy, commencing 1 July 2019, that the Queensland Government is providing the resource recovery and waste sector with the policy certainty that has been lacking within the state, leading to significant under-investment in new and expanded resource recovery infrastructure in Queensland and inhibiting the transformation and growth of Queensland’s recycling and waste management industry.

The benefits of improved environmental performance

The Regulation provides for a reduction in annual fees payable by demonstrating good environmental performance and where there has been no compliance action taken against your business by DES in the previous three years.

If you ascertain that your environmental emissions score is lower than that used to assign the risk to your business, you are a partner of the ecoBiz program or have an accredited Environmental Management System you could also be eligible for a discount of between 10% and 50% of your annual fee.

There may also be transitional exemptions for existing recycling and recovery facilities or discounts for new or existing recycling facilities which contribute to making Queensland self-sufficient in waste processing.

Conclusion

Being on top of your regulatory and compliance requirements is a prudent and commercially astute approach. The community expects it, and customers increasingly demand it. Being prepared is the key, and it is as a strategy that can minimise risk and maximise corporate responsibility, while also achieving annual fee reductions and improved product and process outputs.

The right activities and preparation can greatly reduce the amount payable to not only conduct an ERA but also to dispose of certain waste residual from recycling activities.

Don’t hesitate to make contact if you have specific queries or issues associated with the Environmental Protection (Waste ERA Framework) Amendment Regulation.

This article was authored by Madelaine Waters and Damien Wigley.

More information

For more information contact Damien Wigley at damien@equil.com.au or mobile 0404 899 961

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