Rubbish bins

Problematic Waste

WALGA has developed a Problematic Materials Report from a survey of Local Governments to identify which materials were problematic to manage, why they were problematic and areas where action was needed.

The top five problematic materials for Local Government identified in the survey were:

  • Tyres
  • Asbestos
  • White goods/ scrap metal
  • Mattresses
  • Household Hazardous Waste

For the top five problematic materials, the main reasons they were problematic were illegal dumping and environmental impact.

The Report identifies a number of actions to respond to these problematic materials, which are detailed in the recommendations. Some of these actions require immediate response, such as the issues with scrap metal recycling.  Other issues are ongoing and will require long term commitment to developing solutions, for example asbestos management.

Download the Problematic Materials Report here.

What Is Problematic Waste?

Problematic wastes are wastes that have the potential to cause environmental damage but are beyond the scope of the Controlled Waste Regulations.  Under specific conditions, these wastes can have acute environmental impacts (Waste 2020, 2001).  These wastes include tyres, batteries, electrical waste, laboratory waste, household hazardous waste and waste oils.

Tyres

Approximately 1.5 million passenger vehicle tyres are sold in Western Australia each year, i.e. 15,000 tonnes of rubber (Waste 2020, 2001).  50% of these tyres are accounted for through disposal at metropolitan landfills or retreading.  However, it is difficult to determine the exact disposal method of the fate of the remainder, but is likely to include:

  • disposal to rural landfills;
  • disposal of large earthmoving and truck tyres into rock dumps and tailings dams on mine sites;
  • overseas export;
  • drainage works and fences; and
  • illegal dumping.

Only 2% of tyres are recycled through retreading and crumbing in Western Australia (Waste 2020, 2001).  The mechanical crumbing process is expensive and the market for crumbed rubber is limited, restricting this option as a viable strategy for the recycling of tyres.  A more viable alternative may be energy recovery - for either power generation or kiln fuel.  Tyres are successfully burnt in Victoria and a feasibility study is currently examining this option at Gladstone in Queensland.

Vehicle Batteries

Approximately 800,000 vehicle batteries are disposed  of annually, i.e. 12,000 tonnes of waste lead-acid vehicle batteries generated per annum (Waste 2020, 2001).  Disposal or recycling is difficult to track, although anecdotal estimates are optimistic.  There is an export market for lead recycling, but this is highly price dependent.

Electrical Waste

The damaging components of electrical wastes include lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium.  A combination of actions has been initiated on a national level aiming to reduce the environmental impact of these wastes, including regular collection, trade ins, collection points at landfills and transfer stations and scavenging.  Environment Australia has developed a product-stewardship strategy for the management of these wastes.

Waste Oil

An estimated 30 to 35 million litres of oil is recovered annually in Western Australia, of which 80% is reused, principally in large furnace and boiler activities (Waste 2020, 2001).  The main sources of this oil are engines, gear or transmission oils, industry and domestic engine oil.  Approximately 10 million litres of used oil remains unaccounted for each year.  Environment Australia recently released a National Product Stewardship strategy for the management of waste oil.

Asbestos

The Controlled Waste Regulations apply to the handling, transportation and disposal of asbestos waste. These Regulations take affect when asbestos material becomes a waste. Materials containing asbestos is regulated under the Health Act and asbestos in the workplace is addressed under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations.

Any person handling, transporting and disposing of asbestos waste must comply with the obligations under the Controlled Waste Regulations.

Controlled Waste (asbestos) information fact sheet

References

  1. Towards Zero Waste: Actions for the Problematic Waste Sector, 2001, Waste 2020
  2. Environment Australia, 1999, Comprehensive Product Stewardship System (CPSS) for Waste Oil - Discussion Paper
  3. Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility Disposal Guide, 2000, Department of Environmental Protection, Western Australia.