The resources sector is working towards achieving waste management and resource recovery targets
Disposal and recovery
In 2014, the Queensland Government released The Queensland Waste Avoidance and Resource Productivity Strategy (2014–2024) (Waste Strategy), which provides direction and targets for waste management and resource recovery in Queensland over the next 10 years.
According to the State of Waste and Recycling in Queensland 2016 report, approximately 1.3 million tonnes (or 47.2%) of the 2.8 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste reported in 2015–16, which includes contributions from the resources sector, was recovered. This is an improvement on the 41.3% recovery rate reported in 2014–15. To put these values into context, a summary of waste recovered and disposed for other headline waste sources is provided below.
Source: Queensland Government (2016) State of Waste and Recycling in Queensland 2016
In line with the Waste Strategy, the recovery rate target for commercial and industrial waste is set at 55% across Queensland by 2024. While the percentage of waste recovered has positively been trending upwards over the years, there is still work to be done by commercial and industrial waste generators, which includes the resources sector, to further reduce landfill waste and increase recycling and reuse in order to reach this target. However, it is important to note that many resource companies are currently recovering everything feasibly possible given the restrictive requirements for regulated waste provided under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
Regulated waste is a type of waste that requires a higher level of management to prevent harm to the environment or human health. The best means of achieving a direct reduction in waste from the resources sector sent to landfill is through reform of the regulated waste framework.
QRC is working with its member companies and Government to develop legislative provisions and mechanisms for positive change in waste disposal behaviour and better environmental outcomes without imposing unnecessary cost burdens (e.g. taxes or levies).
QRC is currently advocating for alignment of the existing regulated waste framework with a risk-based approach to the categorisation of various waste streams. The proposal will hopefully lessen the regulatory burden on member companies currently having to handle low risk waste as if it was a high environmental or health issue. It is likely that the introduction of such reform will give the resources sector new options to reuse and recycle material no longer classified as regulated waste.
End of Waste framework
The End of Waste framework under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 allows the resources sector to reuse or transfer waste material to a third party for beneficial purposes. Examples of where waste can be beneficially used rather than being disposed to landfills, include:
- Reuse of treated water sourced from coal seam gas wells for crop irrigation; and
- Reuse of drilling muds for rehabilitation of well pads.
QRC is continuing to work with Government on the development of End of Waste regulations.