The resources sector is working towards achieving waste management and resource recovery targets
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 2015 report, 41 percent of commercial and industrial waste, which includes contributions from the resources sector, was recovered across Queensland during 2014–15. While the recovery rate for commercial and industrial waste fell 6 percent in 2014–15 from the total recorded during 2013–14, the amount recovered (1,069,457 tonnes) was still close to the long term average of 1,105,000 tonnes. In comparison, the recovery rate for municipal (domestic) waste in 2014–15 was 31 percent, representing a 3 percent fall from the total recorded during 2013–14.
Figure 1: Trends in commercial and industrial waste disposal and recovery in Queensland (2008–15)
Figure 2: Trends in the disposal and recovery of kerbside domestic waste in Queensland (2010–15)
Figure 1 & 2 Source: EHP, 2016
In line with the Waste Strategy, the recovery rate target for commercial and industrial waste is set at 55% across Queensland by 2024. There is still a lot of 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 industry new options to reuse and recycle material no longer classified as regulated waste.
QRC is also continuing to work on the End of Waste framework under the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 to allow the industry to more easily reuse or transfer material for beneficial purposes.
Examples of where ‘waste’ can be used for the benefit of another purpose 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.