‘Stop the blame game’: waste, recycling sectors back EPA

Industry peak bodies say they are ‘astounded’ by the NSW environment minister’s public criticisms of agency over handling of report.

The waste and recycling sectors have rallied around NSW’s Environment Protection Authority and its acting chair and CEO after the state’s environment minister publicly criticised the apparent delay in releasing a key report.

Late last month, the EPA announced it was stopping the use of mixed organic waste, which is made up of household red-bin organic waste, on agricultural land, plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land.

NSW EPA acting chair and CEO Anissa Levy said the restricted use of the mixed waste organic material had been permitted on the basis that it provided beneficial reuse of waste, but “extensive independent research” commissioned by the EPA found that it no longer passed that test.

The research found there were limited agricultural benefits from the practice but there were potential risks to the environment, the authority said in its statement on 25 October.

On Tuesday Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton was widely quoted as criticising the EPA’s handling of the issue, with the ABC reporting her as saying the EPA showed “very poor judgement” in withholding a report for five months.

But on Wednesday waste management and resource recovery industry associations issued a joint statement calling on the minister to “show leadership and stop the blame game.”

The peaks said they recognised that the situation was “far from ideal” but the industry was working constructively with the EPA on the matter.

“Even though we saw this minister publicly attack her own department around the interstate movement of waste in August 2017, we are astounded to have a Minister of the Crown who has been in that role for just shy of two years publicly blame the acting chair and CEO of the EPA who has been in the role for less than six months,” the peaks said.

“Industry wants to see the minister providing leadership and direction for, as well as working with our sector, rather than pointing fingers at her staff,” said the statement from the Waste Management Association of Australia, the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council and the Australian Organics Recycling Association.

The EPA says it is contacting all councils affected by the change to their waste management services as well as all affected landholders.

The authority said that the NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have reviewed the initial findings of the health risk assessment and further work is “expected to be completed in the coming months.”

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