IssuesConditionProcesses and Agents of ChangeWaste Management and Contamination
At a glance
Hazardous waste (or 'controlled waste') is any waste, the quantity and nature of which poses a substantive and unacceptable hazard to the public, the environment, or both, unless the material is dealt with by appropriately rigorous and cautious means. Hazard may stem from materials that are, for example, toxic, reactive, corrosive, flammable, explosive, or infectious (DELM 1993).
The storage, transportation and disposal or treatment of hazardous wastes, therefore, has inherent health implications to the community and the potential to impact on the functioning of local ecosystems in Tasmania. Hazardous waste is expensive to handle, treat and dispose of due to the high degree of caution required in all aspects of its management. An inadequate infrastructure for managing hazardous waste can also be an impediment to environmentally sound industrial development within Tasmania (Nolan ITU 1999).
Solid Waste management is reviewed separately in this SoE Report. However, there are key relationships and connections between hazardous waste and solid waste management. For example, appropriate management of the solid waste stream relies on ensuring that the hazardous waste component is separated out for treatment and disposal. Without the separation of hazardous waste from the normal solid waste stream for special treatment and disposal, it enters landfills and impacts on the ability of landfill operators to manage the waste. The hazardous waste potentially has significant environmental and human health impacts (e.g. groundwater toxicity).
This 'At a glance' section provides an overview of the issue of hazardous waste in Tasmania. More detailed information and references are available in the Hazardous Waste Issue Report. An indicator of the Quantity, Composition and Disposal of Hazardous Waste Generated in Tasmania is presented in this Issue Report.
A recommendation is provided on Waste Management.
- A hazardous waste management project is currently under development to address several of the identified deficiencies in the State's management regime for these wastes. Among the key issues is a lack of accurate data on controlled waste generation and disposal within Tasmania, which is a significant barrier to the development, monitoring and management of any modern waste management strategy. To facilitate improved data collection, a uniform waste classification and data collection system is currently under development. This project will provide the quantitative tools by which the effectiveness of waste minimisation and improved waste management programs can be assessed. This will assist Tasmania in meeting its national and international waste management reporting obligations. Additionally, there are strong linkages between this project and the Tasmania Together process which is developing targets in relation to Goal 24 Standard 8. (Indicator 8.1 Waste Disposal to Landfill and Incineration).
- In March 2000, the DPIWE released a public discussion paper entitled Towards a Tasmanian Waste Management Strategy (DPIWE 2000). Once developed, this strategy will replace and build upon the existing Tasmanian Hazardous Waste Management Strategy and the Solid Waste Management Policy. It will provide a framework for waste management reforms.
- In 2000, a partnership agreement on waste management was established between the Tasmanian Government and the Local Government Association of Tasmania. The agreement sets out the requirement for the establishment of three regional waste management bodies. To date the Southern Waste Strategy Authority is the only one that has been established in Tasmania.
- The control of hazardous waste movement in Tasmania has been set out in the Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Waste Management) Regulations 2000 and the National Environment Protection Measure, Movement of Controlled Wastes Between States and Territories 1998, which was issued by the National Environment Protection Council.
- In the period since the last SoE Report, three national plans for scheduled waste (intractable hazardous wastes difficult to safely dispose of without special technologies and facilities) that are relevant to Tasmania have been developed under the National Strategy for the Management of Scheduled Waste 1993, including:
- As part of the management plan for organochlorine pesticide waste, a free collection scheme, 'ChemCollect', was carried out in Tasmania and across mainland Australia, for two years until the end of 2002. The scheme was conducted to ensure that unwanted and de-registered agricultural and veterinary chemicals, particularly organochlorine pesticides, were safely collected from rural areas and destroyed in a socially and environmentally acceptable manner. The rural and chemical industry associations have been developing an ongoing industry funded scheme called ChemClear, to collect unwanted registered rural chemicals post ChemCollect.
- As a component of the Industry Waste Reduction Agreement, signed in 1998, the drumMUSTER collection program was also developed. drumMUSTER is a collection scheme for non-returnable containers that contained crop protection or animal health chemicals.
- DPIWE currently has a Trade Waste Exchange Program (TWEX) that provides a free and confidential waste material exchange system, including some hazardous wastes. Interested persons can register for available and wanted waste.
- Draft Guidelines for the Management and Disposal of Medical Wastes in Tasmania (May 1998) have also been published.
- Tasmania's small population and less dense and diverse industrialisation have resulted in relatively low annual volumes of hazardous wastes, and therefore lower waste management pressures than other mainland states. Economies of scale have consequently often lead to problems with the establishment and operation of hazardous waste reuse, treatment and disposal facilities in Tasmania. Waste generators incur significant difficulties in managing their wastes in an environmentally responsible and timely manner. The diverse nature of the waste stream means that no single method of treatment or disposal will deal with all harmful wastes. Landfilling to approved sites-with or without pre-treatment-remains the primary means of managing controlled wastes. However, waste avoidance, waste minimisation and resource recovery (in order) are the priority and preferred actions to manage hazardous waste.
- A number of waste management facilities currently permitted to accept controlled wastes do not meet accepted best practice environmental or engineering standards. The absence of purpose built facilities within the State to manage certain wastes means that certain controlled wastes require treatment on the mainland and are transported under the requirements of the National Environment Protection (Movement of Controlled Waste Between States and Territories) Measure.
- An indicative estimate of the total hazardous waste generation rate for all industries producing hazardous waste in 1999 was in the order of 870,000 tonne/year. However, in comparison with a similar study conducted in Victoria, it is likely that this estimate was well above the true rate (Nolan ITU 1999).
- A survey of the 283 industry operations that produced solid hazardous waste in 1999 found that the total rate of hazardous waste generated by the 99 respondents was 303,124 tonnes/year (Nolan ITU 1999). Of the total annual volume of hazardous waste generated by the 99 respondents, 81% was adequately disposed of and 19% had inadequate disposal. However, because the response was only 35% of the total number of industries that produced hazardous waste in Tasmania, these figures are not necessarily representative.
- There is limited information on disposal methods for household hazardous waste in Tasmania, but national data indicate the majority of household hazardous waste is being disposed of via normal garbage collection systems (ABS 2000). An increase in the use of this method also occurred, from 62% of households surveyed in 1996 to 85% in 2000.
- In 2000, only 39.4% of Tasmanian households knew of services or facilities that were available in their area for the safe disposal of household hazardous waste, a slight increase compared to 1996 (33.4%). This is slightly higher compared to the overall figures for national household awareness - 31% in 1996 and 37% in 2000 (ABS 2000).
- There is no dedicated hazardous waste disposal site in the State that can accept all types of hazardous waste. There are 24 landfills across Tasmania that are licenced to receive some types of hazardous waste, (e.g. animal wastes, waste oil, asbestos and a limited number of other waste types). However, there is concern by landfill operators and waste generators that the disposal methods at many landfills are not inherently secure with respect to the risk of environmental contamination from hazardous waste and its impact on human health (Nolan ITU 1999). Only 37% of landfills have documented their procedures for handling hazardous wastes, and only 30% of landfill operators have provided staff with training on the safe management of these wastes (Nolan ITU 1999). The disposal practices for hazardous waste at some landfill sites in 1999 indicated they could lead to a significant risk of environmental degradation (e.g. increases in the toxicity of leachate waters).
- Hazardous waste that cannot be received by landfills in Tasmania is currently transported to the mainland at considerable cost and risk of accidental spills or leakages.
- There are 12 landfill sites across the State that receive medical waste and 11 that receive quarantine waste. Although all the landfills that receive quarantine waste follow approved quarantine directives, the current method of handling quarantine waste does not provide adequate protection to the agricultural industries or the Tasmanian community (Nolan ITU 1999).
- There is currently a lack of clear guidelines and uniform standards on the level of treatment required for all of the various hazardous waste categories. At present disposal standards are only applied to contaminated soils.
- There is a lack of education within industries, at landfills and among the general community about the proper identification, classification, treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes, as well as methods for potential recycling.
- There are limited alternatives for the disposal of medical and quarantine hazardous wastes, other than landfill sites.
- The overall lack of a reliable and accurate method for determining the total hazardous waste generation rate, disposal routes, and procedures in Tasmania means there is uncertainty for hazardous waste management.
- There is no information available on the quantities or rates of household hazardous waste generated in Tasmania.
- It is not known what percentage of privately operated, industry-specific landfills dispose of hazardous wastes into their landfills.
- A survey of the major types of industry in Tasmania generating hazardous waste (including 283 business operations) was conducted in 1999 (Nolan ITU 1999). However, the response rate was only 35% (99 businesses). The reliability of the estimates of hazardous waste quantities was therefore poor, because the responses were unlikely to be fully representative for each industry type or for the total industry production overall.
- Tasmanian data for the methods of disposal of household hazardous waste could not be assessed due to a high standard error within the data available (ABS 2000).