News

Mixed waste use banned

By Country News

Mixed waste organic material is no longer able to be used on agricultural land in NSW after an independent report found the use of the materials was having limited agricultural or soil benefits when applied at the previous regulated rates.

The use of mixed waste organic material (predominately household general waste) had already been restricted since 2010 and NSW Environment Protection Authority acting chair and chief executive officer Anissa Levy said there was a robust scientific basis for the EPA’s decision to stop the use of the material altogether.

‘‘The restricted use of the mixed waste organic material had been permitted on the basis that it provided beneficial re-use of waste,’’ Ms Levy said.

‘‘Extensive independent research commissioned by the EPA found that it no longer passed that test.

‘‘The research found there were limited agricultural benefits from the application of mixed waste organic material at the regulated maximum levels of application, but there were potential risks to the environment from the presence of some contaminants, such as small pieces of plastic and glass, as well as concerns about soil quality degradation.’’

These comments led to The Daily Telegraph reporting on the issue. It quoted NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who, the report said, had ‘‘declared the health risks linked to a two-decade toxic waste dumping program cannot be dismissed and likened the uncertainty to asbestos scandals in the 1980s’’.

‘‘The report found the 18-year-old scheme to use treated household waste including used nappies and food scraps as fertiliser in rural areas may have exposed humans and livestock to cancer-causing toxins,’’ the article said.

Responding to the article, NSW Farmers president James Jackson was disappointed the organisation was not consulted before the decision was made to stop the use of the materials.

‘‘With respect to the EPA, NSW Farmers was not consulted in the development of this review, we weren’t asked to participate in the review, we weren’t advised about its recommendations, nor were we consulted about the implementation of these recommendations,’’ he said.

‘‘Given the potentially significant implications for farming, and our state’s reputation for growing clean, safe and quality fresh food and fibre, it is disappointing that the 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.

‘‘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.’’

The EPA reviewed the report and has sought further information from industry and convened and sought specialist advice from an inter-agency committee, which will agree on a course of action.

That action included commissioning a human health and ecological risk assessment.

The ban on using mixed waste organic materials came into effect on October 26.