Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

About us header images - leftAbout us header images - centreAbout us header images - right

Publications archive - Annual reports

Disclaimer

Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

THEME: Industry

Improve the environmental performance of industry, government and communities

Environment Australia is working with Australian industry to improve its environmental performance. An increasing number of companies now view environmental protection as a benefit, not a cost. Several industry sectors are reducing their impact on the natural environment, in terms of resource extraction as well as waste released into the environment.

Sustainable development depends on Australian industry doing more with less. That in turn depends on businesses adopting the tools they need to make their operations more eco-efficient. These tools include: environmental accounting; public environmental reporting; environmental management systems; environmental performance measurement; and life cycle assessment.

Recognising and accelerating the efforts of Australian industries to improve their environmental performance is achieved through these Environment Australia programmes:

  • Sustainable Building, Construction and Mining;
  • Greening of Government;
  • Eco-efficiency;
  • Waste Management;
  • Product Stewardship;
  • Financial Sector Engagement;
  • Environment Industries;
  • Environmental Risk Assessment;
  • National Pollutant Inventory; and
  • Chemwatch.

PROGRAMMES THAT PROTECT AND CONSERVE THE ENVIRONMENT

Environment Australia undertakes a wide range of activities concerned with improving the environmental performance and sustainability of industry. Programmes address building, construction and mining; greening of government; eco-efficiency; waste management; product stewardship; the financial sector; and promotion of Australia's environment management industries.

Environment Australia also funds and administers programmes which protect the environment and human health from hazardous substances and organisms. These cover chemicals management, hazardous waste, biotechnology and environmental risk assessment, which encompasses chemical and biological aspects. Information on industrial emissions to the environment is provided through the National Pollutant Inventory.

Sustainable Building, Construction and Mining Programme

Objective

To promote best practice environmental management in the building, construction, mining and minerals processing sectors.

Result

Mining

The Best Practice in Environmental Management in Mining Programme started in 1994. It provides tools to help mining firms improve their environmental performance. These tools include 21 booklets that illustrate best practice mining operations. They have been uploaded onto the internet. Three new titles are being prepared. Over 10 000 Mandarin language versions of the booklets have been provided to China.

Following the cyanide spill from a Romanian mining operation in early 2000, initiatives were implemented to enhance the environmental performance of mining companies. The Government of Hungary accepted an offer of $300 000 from Australia in the form of water monitoring equipment to help improve its water quality monitoring capacity. In October 2000, the Government co-hosted with the United Nations Environment Programme a workshop for mining regulators.

Environmental Ratings System

An environmental ratings system for commercial and domestic buildings is being developed to provide consumers and industry with environmental information that will help them make informed purchasing decisions.

Greensmart

The Partnership Advancing the Housing Environment agreement with the Housing Industry Association was further developed to improve the environmental performance of builders and associated trades. Two new Greensmart display villages were set up in Sydney and Adelaide. These villages demonstrate the benefits of environmentally sensitive housing and promote the Greensmart virtual village website.

Greening of Government Programme

Objective

To improve the environmental performance of Commonwealth departments and agencies through better environmental management and greener procurement.

Result

New initiatives

The Government agreed to a range of ecologically sustainable development initiatives, including encouraging all Commonwealth agencies to introduce environmental management systems by December 2002. As part of Environment Australia's support strategy for agencies, a model environmental management system was finalised and launched through the Environment Australia website.

Green procurement guide

Work is under way to green the procurement practices of Commonwealth agencies with the development of a green procurement guide, checklist for procurement officers, and a green procurement website.

Eco-efficiency Programme

Objective

To develop and implement activities to promote the adoption of eco-efficiency by Australian business and industry.

Result

Eco-efficiency agreements

Eco-efficiency is concerned with increasing the efficiency of natural resource use so as to reduce resource use, pollution, waste and costs to industry. Twelve voluntary eco-efficiency agreements were finalised with seven more in discussion. These three-year voluntary agreements provide a mechanism to reach hundreds of thousands of companies throughout Australia to demonstrate the benefits of an eco-efficiency approach. Industry associations provide funds and in-kind assistance that matches and often exceeds the resources provided by the Commonwealth.

Measurement

A survey of the eco-efficiency performance of Australian industry was conducted by Monash University. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will undertake future surveys.

Promotion

Eco-efficiency, and the tools to implement it, have been promoted through various mechanisms including the eco-efficiency and cleaner production website, which had 121 847 hits during the year. The cleaner production module for tertiary education courses, Business Sustainability: A Cleaner Production Approach to Small Business Management, was finalised and run by the University of Queensland and Griffith University this year.

Information

Information booklets on the environmental benefits of design efficiency have been produced. Demand required the Design for Environment booklets to be reprinted. The booklet, Shop Smart, Buy Green: A Consumer's Guide to Saving Money and Reducing Environmental Impacts assists Australian consumers to choose products that, from their design to their disposal, do minimum damage to the environment. The booklet, Product Innovation, the Green Advantage: An Introduction to Design for Environment for Australian Business provides industry with the information needed to introduce a design for environment programme.

Waste Management Programme

Objective

To promote the benefits and assist in the delivery of practicalities of effective waste management and resource use, recovery and re-use.

Result

In partnership with industry and the community, Environment Australia is working to reduce the major waste streams that go to landfill. This waste includes construction and demolition waste, green (or organic) waste, packaging, and consumer goods such as electrical equipment.

Green waste

Depositing organic waste in landfills generates 3.4 per cent of Australia's annual greenhouse gas emissions. The Government provided $880 000 to enable better recovery and re-use of green waste, to address structural inefficiencies and to improve the uptake in secondary markets such as garden compost and potting mixes.

Packaging

The National Packaging Covenant was extended with a mentoring programme for small to medium businesses. Large companies and industry associations have assisted smaller operators to reduce their usage of packaging. The programme helped to raise awareness of alternatives to plastic shopping bags and to encourage supermarkets and other food outlets to recover and re-use packaging materials. An independent assessment of kerbside recycling reported that about 800 000 tonnes of packaging material is recycled each year and that household recycling of packaging delivered $266 million to the community in environmental and social benefits.

The WasteWise Construction Programme

The number of partners participating in the WasteWise Construction Programme increased to 14 construction companies and industry associations. The programme promoted waste minimisation and increased recycling and re-use of building and demolition waste. WasteWise partners estimated that in 2000 approximately 400 000 cubic metres of material, or about 78 per cent of total waste generated, was diverted from landfill.

Your Home

A new housing consumer awareness-raising activity titled Your Home was completed to help builders and consumers make smarter environmental design and construction choices. Environment Australia is working with CSIRO to develop a guide on the use of recycled concrete aggregate in construction projects. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology provided material and training that will encourage the application of life cycle assessment techniques.

Product Stewardship Programme

Objective

To develop and implement arrangements which give businesses responsibility for managing the safety, health and environmental performance of products from cradle-to-grave.

Result

Lubricating oils

The Government introduced product stewardship arrangements for waste oil through the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000 which commenced on 1 January 2001. A 5-cent levy was introduced on every litre of new oil produced or imported to provide economic incentives and benefits that will increase the collection and recycling of waste oil.

Packaging

The National Packaging Covenant was established in 1999 and now has 254 signatories representing all elements of the packaging supply chain. The covenant is the leading instrument for managing packaging waste in Australia. Participating organisations reported the economic benefits that have resulted from managing their packaging and reducing their environmental impact.

The Commonwealth Government has submitted an action plan under the National Packaging Covenant to address the use of packaging within government. The Commonwealth provided support for the implementation of the covenant and funding for actions such as the small to medium business mentoring programme.

Automotive and electrical

Product stewardship arrangements for the automotive and the electrical and electronic product categories were explored in reports prepared and released for community and industry consultation. Discussions are continuing with industry and other stakeholders on the development of stewardship mechanisms.

Financial Sector Engagement Programme

Objective

To work with Australia's financial sector to encourage financial institutions to incorporate environmental information in their investment, lending and insurance decision-making.

Result

There is a growing appreciation of and interest in the influence the finance sector has over the environmental and social sustainability of the economy. A range of Environment Australia projects and activities help Australian industry to maximise the commercial opportunities presented by incorporating environmental criteria into business practices. Publications were produced on the integration of environmental issues into the services, products and operations of the financial sector.

Environmental accounting

Work is in progress on fostering the introduction of environmental management accounting practices in Australia. Environment Australia actively supported the United Nations Environment Programme finance initiatives by co-sponsoring the first Australasian conference on the role of the finance sector in promoting sustainable development held in Manila in April 2001.

Environment Industries Programme

Objective

To pursue sustainable development both nationally and internationally by identifying and promoting Australia's environment industry capabilities and expertise.

Result

Green Olympics

The Olympic Games held in Sydney in September 2000 provided a unique opportunity to promote Australia's environment industry capabilities and expertise to the world. The success of the Green Olympics was followed closely by environment trade delegations from Japan and China, the Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum, and an environment business delegation to China in May 2001. Australian business representatives pursued opportunities through contacts made during these visits.

Industry action agenda

The Environment Industry Action Agenda is a joint initiative between Environment Australia and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources to maximise business opportunities flowing from market reforms and to develop innovative competitive solutions to enhance ecologically sustainable development. Extensive consultation with industry was undertaken to develop the action agenda, with industry leaders driving the process.

Promotion

Australia's capabilities and expertise in environmental management have been promoted through the internet database Australia's EnviroNet; the sponsorship of key industry events; an Olympics promotional kit; the publication EnviroBusiness Update; and through capitalising on continuing international interest in the Australian environment sector.

National Environment Protection Council

Objective

To establish National Environment Protection Measures by participating in the National Environment Protection Council.

Result

The National Environment Protection Council agreed to: a National Environment Protection Measure for diesel vehicle emissions; the development of a National Environment Protection Measure for a set of priority air toxics in ambient air; plans for a consistent approach to monitoring air quality in all States and Territories; ensure the future of the National Pollutant Inventory by agreeing to a three-year funding package; and a scoping study of clinical waste management throughout Australia.

An independent review of the National Environment Protection Council Acts concluded that the council has been effective and should continue its work.

Environmental Risk Assessment Programme

Objective

To minimise the impact of agricultural, veterinary and industrial chemicals, and genetically modified organisms through thorough environmental risk assessments of their use.

Result

Biotechnology

On 3 July 2000 the Government launched the National Biotechnology Strategy. Environment Australia is a portfolio member of Biotechnology Australia. An environmental risk assessment project is being undertaken to improve basic knowledge and assess environmental risks associated with the release of genetically modified organisms.

Genetically modified organisms

Three consultancies with CSIRO were commissioned at a cost of $256 000. These consultancies address risk assessment procedures in relation to the release of genetically modified organisms; the risk of viral recombination facilitated by the organisms; and the effect of genetically modified insect-resistant plants on the biodiversity of soils.

Chemicals

Under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 environmental hazard assessment reports were completed and published for new and existing chemicals. The latter included a number of persistent organochlorins. The environmental parts of these reports were completed within statutory timeframes.

Environmental assessment reports were completed and published for both new and existing agricultural and veterinary chemicals under the National Registration Scheme of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994. Environment Australia's involvement in the registration process ensures that all new agricultural and veterinary chemical proposals undergo a thorough assessment of their likely environmental impact before being placed on the market.

National Pollutant Inventory

Objective

To provide governments, industry and the community with current, easily accessible information on point source and diffuse emissions of pollutants into the environment.

Result

The National Pollutant Inventory is an internet database providing information to the community, industry and government on the types and amounts of certain substances emitted into air, land or water around Australia. In January 2001, the Minister launched the second year of collected National Pollutant Inventory data for public use. Data on the emissions of 83 pollutants were received from 1967 facilities in 67 industry sectors.

Information from the National Pollutant Inventory will enable trends in pollutant emissions to be assessed and environmental management needs to be identified.

Chemwatch - ChemCollect Programme

Objective

To collect and destroy unwanted chemicals and pesticides, particularly persistent organochlorides, in rural areas.

Result

The ChemCollect programme provides landholders in rural areas with the opportunity to dispose of unwanted agricultural and veterinary chemicals at no cost. These chemicals, particularly the persistent pesticides, pose a risk to the environment, to people and to markets for agricultural products.

The Commonwealth funds half of this $27 million programme, under bilateral financial agreements with the States and the Northern Territory. Management of the collections is the responsibility of the States and the Northern Territory. Collections have been completed in the Northern Territory and are under way in all States except Tasmania, where they will start shortly.

By July 2001 about 600 tonnes of chemicals had been collected.

DEPARTMENTAL OUTPUTS THAT SUPPORT THESE PROGRAMMES

Output group 1.1 - Policy advice and accountability

Domestic | International | State of the environment | Corporate reform

Policy advice was provided to the Minister on industry-related environment protection matters. Advice provided took account of the views of major industry groups, government agencies and stakeholders.

Major policy initiatives aimed at improving the environmental performance of industry and government included waste management and product stewardship including establishment of the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council; voluntary eco-efficiency agreements; engagement of the financial services sector; and specific sectoral issues relating to mining, building and construction.

Chemicals and organisms

Significant achievements were made in policy initiatives concerned with protecting the environment from hazardous chemicals and organisms. These included international and domestic management of persistent organic pollutants, the collection of unwanted farm chemicals, and continued development of industry handbooks for the National Pollutant Inventory.

Councils

Advice and briefings were provided to the Minister for meetings of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, the National Environment Protection Council and the committees of these councils. Environment Australia provided advice on environmental impacts to the Minister in his statutory role advising the Gene Technology Regulator.

Supervising Scientist

The Supervising Scientist provided briefs to the Minister on advice relevant to environmental protection from uranium mining, and reports to the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory and Technical Committees. This reporting included progress on the implementation from the independent science panel on the Jabiluka Mill alternative and from the Ranger leak report. A bi-monthly newsletter was distributed to Aboriginal associations, and the Northern Land Council was regularly informed through the advisory committee and other communications processes. Reports were provided to national environmental science committees including the Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Committee.

Output group 1.2 - Programme administration

Grants | Schemes

Grants

Eleven grants totalling $961 400 were approved to industry associations through voluntary agreements to promote eco-efficiency to their members. In addition 106 grants for funding under Transitional Assistance (Product Stewardship Arrangements for Waste Oil) were received and assessed.

Six grants totalling $438 267 were given under the Business of Sustainable Development programme to improve the sustainability of industry. Issues addressed included supply chain management in industry, improving the performance of the building and construction sector, sustainable investment and environmental accounting.

Funding of $100 000 was provided for the development of the Environment Industry Action Agenda. Two Environment Australia staff were seconded to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources to work on the secretariat.

Under the recycled organics initiative, seven projects were funded for a total of $880 000 to encourage diversion of the 8 million tonnes of solid organic waste that is currently being sent to landfill.

Output group 1.3 - Strategies

Agreements | Codes | Coordination

A major new activity under the Business of Sustainable Development Programme was the development of voluntary eco-efficiency agreements with industry associations. The Minister and the relevant industry boards approved 12 eco-efficiency agreements.

Environment Australia participated in the National Packaging Covenant Council. Commonwealth responsibilities included the development of a Commonwealth packaging action plan, and administration of the National Environment Protection Measure for used packaging materials.

More than 600 tonnes of unwanted farm chemicals have been collected through successful cooperation between the Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory Governments under the ChemCollect Programme

Output group 1.4 - International participation

Forums | Obligations | Representation

Briefs and speeches

Briefs and speeches were prepared for meetings with and delegations from China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Chile and Israel. Material to promote the Australian environment industry was prepared for multilateral organisations such as the World Trade Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Business delegation to China

Environment Australia led an environment business delegation to China. The delegation, which included the Minister, built on the work of the Department with China's State Environment Protection Administration to improve industry linkages between the two countries.

Indonesia

A report and accompanying briefs on the Joint Working Group on Environment with Indonesia were prepared for the Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum in late 2000. Parties agreed to re-invigorate the Joint Working Group on Environment. Planning commenced for the next meeting of the working group, to be held in September 2001.

International meetings

Environment Australia attended seven major international meetings on business and sustainability. Australia contributed $20 000 to the United Nations Environment Programme Financial Sector in Asia-Pacific conference, held in Manila, and to the Third Asia-Pacific Roundtable on Cleaner Production, also in Manila.

Chemicals management

Environment Australia was active in finalising negotiations for a new international treaty on persistent organic pollutants. The outcomes of the treaty (now known as the Stockholm Convention) met the Australian Government's objectives and Australia was among the first countries to sign the convention after its adoption in Stockholm in May 2001.

Australia's agenda was pursued in a wide range of international chemical forums, with negotiating positions successfully achieved in all areas including prior informed consent for international trade in hazardous chemicals, implementation of the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, and agreed test guidelines and biotechnology policies.

Environment Australia was the main sponsor of a workshop on chemicals management for South Pacific countries held in Cairns in April 2001.

Uranium Mining

To better communicate the work of the Supervising Scientist in environmental protection from uranium mining activities, officers presented technical papers at major international science forums including the International Atomic Energy Agency's international symposium on the production cycle and the environment and the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting on protection of the environment from ionising radiation, both in Vienna, and the seventh International Mine Water Association Congress, in Poland.

Output group 1.5 - Information

Databases | Websites | Education

Australia's EnviroNET

Australia's EnviroNET site continues to be the premier internet gateway to the Australian environment industry, with over 1000 companies in the environment sector registered on the database. The site received approximately 320 000 hits during the year.

National Pollutant Inventory

Visits to the National Pollutant Inventory site continued to increase, with more than 310 000 visits to this website during the year. Work started on the development of a new mapping tool.

Other internet sites

Website activities included: development of a clearing house for public environmental reports; updating of the eco-efficiency and cleaner production home page that received 121 847 hits; provision of a model environmental management system for government agencies; continued maintenance of the National Packaging Covenant website; and making available on the internet the Best Practice in Environmental Management in Mining publications.

Publications

Two editions of EnviroBusiness Update, a newsletter providing information to the environment business sector on government programmes and industry initiatives, were produced and circulated. Over 5000 copies of each edition were distributed.

A Framework for Public Environmental Reporting: An Australian Approach was published and 10 000 copies distributed to companies.

In a joint initiative between Australia and the United Nations Environment Programme, training kits based on eight of the highly successful Best Practice in Environmental Management in Mining booklets were prepared.

Two Designs for the Environment booklets were created, one for producers (more than 3000 distributed) and one for consumers (more than 20 000 distributed).

More than 11 000 copies of the Environment Industry Olympics promotional kit containing the publications, Greening the Games, Australia's Leading Edge Environmental Solutions and the Australian Environment Industry Directory, had been distributed by the end of June 2001.

The publication Profiting from Environmental Improvement in Business: An Eco-Efficiency Kit for Australian Industry continued to be popular.

Education

The cleaner production module for tertiary education courses, Business Sustainability: A Cleaner Production Approach to Small Business Management, was finalised, with manuals published for facilitators and students.

The second year of the Partnership Advancing the Housing Environment programme was successfully concluded with the completion of awareness-raising builder impact nights and the introduction of new environmentally sensitive Greensmart display villages.

Conferences

Environment Australia continued its support of industry in running environmental conferences to raise awareness and improve environmental performance. Financial support and advice was given to international events on cleaner production and sustainable consumption that were run for the Asia-Pacific region.

Supervising Scientist

Information on the activities of the Supervising Scientist to stakeholders was communicated through individual reports and facts sheets. These included Supervising Scientist reports describing environmental protection research and environmental protection issues for the broader audience. All new research projects carried out by the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist included an Aboriginal communications strategy. Proposals to produce information papers in Aboriginal languages were not progressed because of the limited benefits due to loss of meaning in interpretation.

Further information on the Supervising Scientist is contained in the Annual Report of the Supervising Scientist later in this report.

Output group 1.6 - Legislation

Reforms | Standards | Regulations

The Supervising Scientist previously prepared revised environmental requirements for Jabiluka, which will be finalised in consultation with the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. Explanatory material was developed on the application of best practicable technology at the Ranger mine, in accordance with the Ranger environmental requirements. A further three biological protocols were developed by the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist. The Nabarlek site is also being used as a case study in a project to verify ecosystem function analysis methodology as an indicator of rehabilitation success.

Environment Australia is responsible for the implementation and administration of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989. In accordance with section 61 of the Act a detailed report covering the operation of the Act is included later.

The Government introduced product stewardship arrangements for waste oil through the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act which commenced 1 January 2001. The collection of the oil levy and payment of benefits is administered by the Australian Taxation Office.

ACTIVITIES AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF LEGISLATION THAT ACCORD WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Environment Australia works in partnership with Australian business and industry through voluntary initiatives and programmes to improve their triple bottom line - economic, social and environmental performance. This means achieving broad environmental improvements in areas such as waste reduction and recycling, resource efficiency in production, and reduced emissions. Environment Australia also works to improve price signals so that environmental costs and benefits are appropriately valued by industry when making investment decisions. Where appropriate, regulatory approaches are also used to achieve specific environmental improvements. Examples include the National Packaging Covenant and the product stewardship legislation to improve the level of waste oil recycling.

Waste oil

The Product Stewardship Arrangements for Waste Oil provide incentives for expansion of recycling and provide a long-term, environmentally and economically sustainable sink for waste oils. They promote intergenerational equity by providing a higher benefit rate for full recycling of waste oil into base oils. By funding the product stewardship arrangement benefits through a levy on oils, a portion of the costs of waste oil recycling is borne by the oil markets.

Eco-efficiency

Environment Australia works with a wide range of industry sectors to improve general industry performance by promoting the uptake of eco-efficiency through tools such as public environment reporting, environmental management systems, life cycle assessment techniques, design for environment principles, environmental management accounting, supply chain management and other tools with wide applications to a range of industries. Eco-efficiency delivers more sustainable development by doing more with less, thereby improving both economic and environmental outcomes.

Risk assessments

By conducting risk assessments on chemicals, genetically modified organisms and biological agents, Environment Australia aims to protect the environment from the threats posed by new organisms in both the long and the short term.

Supervising Scientist

Actions taken to implement ecologically sustainable development principles through implementation of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act included: