Since the launch of a Palaszczuk Government crackdown eight months ago, there have been more than 100 investigations into alleged unlicensed waste industry operations.
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles, who set up the Waste Industry Compliance Investigation Taskforce last August, said the operation had helped the Department of Environment and Heritage increase its “compliance response” across the board when it came to illegal waste storage, transport and disposal.
“Under the operation, codenamed Tora, EHP has investigated 102 cases of allegedly unlicensed waste-business operations, with another 32 investigations still underway,’ Dr Miles said.
He said Operation Tora, and a closer dialogue with industry leaders, was helping support professional and responsible operators in this essential service industry, and had enhanced the way the waste industry and the public reported unlicensed operators to investigators.
“The waste industry has expressed ongoing concerns about unlicensed operators who break the law and gain an advantage over responsible operators, by not complying with regulations or paying applicable fees,” Dr Miles said.
“Unregulated waste transport may result in human health and environmental impacts – undermining our waste management regulations’.
Since the introduction of the Waste Industry Compliance Taskforce, a total of 55 enforcement actions have been taken against waste operators, in accordance with EHP’s published enforcement guidelines.
“Examples include EHP fining a company more than $11,000 for illegally storing regulated waste oil and other hydrocarbons and fining an individual $2277 for illegally transporting asbestos-containing material,’ he said.
He said joint operations had been conducted with Queensland Police – including one today (Wednesday) – as part of the crackdown on the illegal transportation of regulated waste.
Inspections across south-east Queensland involved police checks of drivers and vehicles, and EHP checks of compliance with regulated waste and other transport requirements. Sixty-four heavy vehicles had been inspected during two joint activities this month.
“Vehicles were variously carrying grease trap and septic waste, tannery waste, asbestos, construction and demolition waste, paper pulp waste, food waste and poultry waste,’ Dr Miles said.
“A number of transgressions were recorded, such as failing to provide environmental authorities and waste types not separated properly as per regulation’.
Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) CEO Rick Ralph said Operation Tora and the initiatives it supported such as the joint action with Queensland Police went a long way towards stamping out illegal waste transport activities and facilities.
“We thank the State Government for committing to the Operation Tora taskforce, which will help industry in its fight to shut these licence loopholes,’ Mr Ralph said.
“WRIQ looks forward to working further with both the police and EHP to make sure illegal waste and recycling operators find it harder to conduct their illicit activities, and facilities’.
The transport of regulated waste is managed under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008.
Under section 426 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the maximum penalty for carrying out an environmentally relevant activity without holding an environmental authority for that activity is 4500 penalty units ($530,100) for an individual and five times that for a company.
These types of penalties would be for serious offences, where a defendant’s actions caused serious and/or irreversible environmental harm – and would be subject to prosecution in a court of law.
For offences of a comparatively minor nature, for example transporting regulated waste without proper authorisation, a penalty infringement notice (PIN) provides an alternative to court action.
The giving of a PIN is based on the reasonable belief that an offence has been committed and a PIN is set at $11,385 for a company and $2277 for an individual.
For further details on Operation Tora see www.ehp.qld.gov.au/waste/