What is waste?
The Environment Protection Act 1993 (the Act) defines waste as:
- any discarded, rejected, abandoned, unwanted or surplus matter, whether or not intended for sale or for recycling, reprocessing, recovery or purification by a separate operation from that which produced the matter; or
- anything declared by regulation or by an environment protection policy to be a waste;
whether of value or not.
The EPA has also produced the Waste definitions guideline that reflects the above definition and includes a range of definitions of specific wastes and waste-related terminology.
The EPA is responsible for regulating the generation, treatment, storage and disposal of waste. Therefore once a material becomes a waste, it falls under EPA regulatory control.
The status of a material as a waste (which includes by-products or leftover surplus materials) is determined at its place of generation and is not dependent on:
- it being wanted
- it being intended or capable of being reused, recycled or recovered
- it having value or able to be sold or traded
- the recipient asserting that it is a resource.
When waste is no longer regulated as waste
To achieve a more sustainable environment, there is real value in diverting suitable waste for resource recovery, through activities such as recycling.
Waste, or material resulting from the treatment of waste, is no longer a waste or waste material when:
- it constitutes a product that meets EPA specifications or standards; or
- if there is no specification or standard, it constitutes a product that is ready and intended for imminent use, without the need for further treatment to prevent any environmental harm.
The Waste to Resources Environment Protection Policy (W2R EPP), in conjunction with the Act, sets out the criteria for when a waste (or a material resulting from the treatment of waste) can be said to no longer be a waste (and therefore regulated as such).
Standards and specifications
The following documents detail the process for waste to be deemed a suitable product:
- Standard for the production and use of Waste Derived Fill (WDF Standard)
- Standard for the production and use of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF Standard) and;
- Standard for the production and use of Waste Derived Soil Enhancer (WDSE Standard)
- Waste Derived Fill (Blast Furnace Slag) Specification 2015
Where it is proposed to reuse a waste as a product and there is no EPA specification or standard, the waste will remain waste until it can be demonstrated that it constitutes a product that is ready and intended for imminent use without the need for further treatment to prevent any environmental harm that might result from such use.
Ready and intended for imminent use means that upon request you can demonstrate to the EPA, amongst other things, that:
- there is an immediate market for the recovered material; and
- the recovered material and its use complies with all relevant State and Federal legislation including regulations and policies made under it, Australian Standards and any specifications required by the market place eg engineering specifications; and
- the waste has undergone a physical or chemical process, such as an operation to recycle, reprocess, recover or purify it, and/or, sampling and testing of the physical and chemical characteristics of the material has been undertaken by a suitably qualified person, the results of which demonstrate:
- that environmental harm, including harm to human health, will not result from the storage, transport and use of the recovered material, and
- that the recovered material is suitable for its intended use.
More detail on the EPA’s expectations on recovered materials is available on 2007–10 Waste Management Reform project.