Construction Waste Dumping in WA at an All Time High
Despite the Western Australian government’s ambitious goal to divert 75 per cent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2020, the growing mountains of construction and demolition waste around the state is proving problematic.
In September last year, the landfill levy rate was increased to $90 a cubic metre, up from $12 only three years previously. In July this year, this rate will rise again, meaning businesses will be charged $105 per cubic metre to dispose of their demolition and construction waste in landfills.
The levy increases have been introduced in an attempt to reduce the amount of hard waste in circulation, encouraging businesses to invest in recycling facilities, so waste can be repurposed rather than piling up in landfill. However, the amount of illegal dumping and financial stress being placed on businesses is proof that the state’s new waste policies aren’t achieving their intended goals.
One of the biggest issues is that there is little to no commercial demand for the end product when waste is diverted to a crushing plant to be recycled. For some businesses, storing their rubble is becoming a challenge, as they can’t afford to dump it in landfill, but have no other viable alternative.
However, construction and demolition stockpiles are only half the problem, as illegal dumping as a result of the levy hike is rampant. Asbestos is also commonly found in illegally dumped loads.
A Waste Authority report that was released late last year revealed that stockpiles of construction waste have reached in excess of 1.6 million tonnes, despite there being 51 licensed recycling plants in Perth. One of the biggest concerns about these stockpiles is that residents living nearby are worried about the dust blowing their way. This is due to the range of contaminants, including asbestos that the dumped waste often contains. If regulations are complied with, their should be a low risk of airborne contaminants, however, the reality is that not all operators follow the rules, which is evident with the amount of illegal dumping taking place.
In response to the issue, the head of the Federal Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency said the waste issue needs national attention.
Chief executive Peter Tighe said there was a “problem in oversight and ensuring compliance nationally”.
Problems with airborne contaminants arise when asbestos isn’t completely removed from buildings prior to demolition. To combat the issue, Mr Tighe believes there needs to be checks at every stage during the recycling process, starting with ensuring all asbestos is removed prior to demolition.
“The problem is the contamination goes down the supply chain,” he said.
“You can’t rely on self-regulation because it just doesn’t work at the end of the day.
“There’s too much attraction to cut corners.
“If any asbestos made it through to the crushing process, it could become hazardous.
“When you crush it, it goes from a non-friable product that might be dangerous around the edges to a situation where when you bust up that cement matrix that’s when you get fibres in the air.”
Murdoch University recently conducted a study that revealed there are a number of operators working in the construction and waste industries that don’t have the appropriate licenses or follow the correct procedures. The report acknowledged the spike in stockpiling and illegal dumping and noted that many companies are dodging the levy by taking their waste to landfills further afield.
Further investigation into the matter is currently underway.
Businesses operating outside of legal requirements aren’t a foreign concept in most industries. However, here at BWC Civil we take our environmental and legal obligations very seriously, and only dispose of our waste safely through our partner company, Bulk Waste Collection. If you would like to learn more about our services, take a look around our website or give us a call today!