It’s a Monday morning. Bleary eyed, you realise the rubbish is being collected in a matter of minutes. You quickly toss the remaining milk bottle, last night’s pizza box and a couple of jars in the recycling bin, separating it from the rest of your rubbish, before hauling it all outside. Whether you realise it at the time or not, in sorting these items, you are actually engaging in a form of waste classification.
While recycling at home and in the office remains a voluntary matter (though strongly encouraged!), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict guidelines as dictated by the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, surrounding the classification and disposal of waste. As such, ensuring that you classify your waste correctly is not only significant environmentally but also has legal ramifications if done incorrectly.
Proper waste classification is important as it minimises risks to environmental and human health by ensuring suitable management and disposal are followed. In NSW waste can be classified in six different categories (further information can be found here):
Six waste classes are used:
- Special Waste (clinical and related waste, asbestos waste, waste tyres)
- Liquid Waste (has an angle of repose of less than 5 degrees above horizontal, become free flowing at or 60 degrees Celsius or when transported, is generally not capable of being picked up by a spade or shovel)
- Hazardous Waste (containers previously containing a substance of 1,3,4,5 or 8 as explained by the Transport of Dangerous Goods Code, coal tar waste, lead-acid or nickel-cadmium batteries, lead paint)
- Restricted Solid Waste (The highest classification of solid waste though the EPA has not issued a list of pre-classified items to identify them)
- General Solid Waste (putrescible) (household waste containing putrescible organics, waste from garbage bins collected by the Council, manure, disposable nappies, food waste, animal waste etc)
- General Solid Waste (non-putrescible) (glass, plastic, rubber, bricks, concrete, paper, cardboard, garden waste, synthetic fibre waste, virgin excavated natural material (VENM) etc)
In addition to these waste classification categories, there are also a number of exemptions which can be issued for materials that meet certain criteria. If these materials meet the conditions of the exemption, the materials can be re-instated within the designated land uses outlined within each exemption as opposed to being disposed of as waste. For example, excavated natural material (ENM) is an exemption commonly requested by waste producers due to the financial benefits when tipping and/or the suitability of the materials to be re-used on site due to its uncontaminated nature.
In the case of mixed waste, it is desirable to separate them (if possible) before classification. If this is not practicable, the whole waste must be classified according to the highest category of waste. Particular care must be taken when analysing asbestos waste given its potential hazards. If asbestos is combined with other waste it must be treated to ensure that the management and disposal requisites of both asbestos and the other form of waste are dealt with.
ADE has extensive experience in conducting many forms of Waste Analysis and Classification in accordance with the appropriate Health Investigation Levels and Ecological Investigation Levels. Don’t be caught out – proper analysis and classification can pay dividends in the future.
A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Head Office
Unit 6/7 Millennium Ct.,
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 8541 7214
A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Laboratory
4/10-11 Millennium Ct
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 9648 6669
A. D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd (ADE)
PO Box 288
Upper Coomera LPO,
QLD, 4209 Australia
(07) 5519 4610