Shoalhaven mayor Amanda Findley is disappointed by the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision to stop a popular waste reuse scheme.
At the end of October, the environmental watchdog stopped the use of mixed-waste organic material on agricultural land.
The decision was made after a seven-year study found “potential risks to the environment from the presence of some contaminants.”
Mixed waste organic material is predominantly made from the organics in general household red-lid bin waste, and has been used as soil amendment and alternative to landfill for the past 20 years.
However, the report found the scheme had “limited agricultural benefits” but had potential to contaminate produce and degrade soil quality. The risk however to human health was low.
Cr Findley said while the practice hadn’t been rolled out in the Shoalhaven, the material was important in the rehabilitation of mining works.
“There is so much contamination entering the environment from plastic waste that I am surprised the EPA have target this product, that is useful for mine rehabilitation,” she said.
While the Shoalhaven won’t be directly impacted, Cr Findley said she held concerns for other councils.
“This product will now be landfilled in NSW, and that means councils will have to pay the levy on the material that will now be dumped.”
The region’s current waste depot, which has the contents of red bins from North Durras to Berry dumped on it, only has enough space to sustain landfill at its current rate until 2024.
Earlier this year, two Shoalhaven councillors travelled to Poland to tour a waste facility. The facility sorts red bin waste to separate organic and green material to be made into a reusable product, such as mulch. This would reduce the amount of waste going into landfill in the Shoalhaven, which is near capacity.
Shoalhaven council is considering a waste facility of this type for the region, and Cr Findley said fortunately, the EPA’s changes would not impact these plans.
“It will not impact on the current direction that Shoalhaven Council is heading with waste management, however other councils will have varying degrees of impact,” she said.
Cr Findley said the Shoalhaven’s future plans seek to divert up to 90 per cent of waste from the landfill and take a giant leap forward in technology.
“The plans will be released as soon as confidentiality permits,” she said.
“We humans generate an awful lot of waste and this make the waste industry an essential service to us all.”
Given the potentially significant implications for farming, and our state’s reputation for growing clean, safe and quality fresh food and fibre, NSW Farmers said they were disappointed the state government and the EPA did not consult with farmers in the development of this response.
“Anything which suggests a risk to, or that could jeopardise, the reputation of our state’s fresh produce must be avoided,” NSW Farmers president James Jackson said.
“It is therefore regrettable that the Government and the EPA failed to openly communicate this review, and its findings, to all stakeholders, particularly the people using it as compost on their farms.”