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Hazardous Waste Technical Group - 48th meeting

Tuesday 17 August 2001
Kensington Room, Stamford Hotel
Cnr Robey and O'Riordan Streets, MASCOT NSW 2020

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Minutes

Present:

Chair

Professor Paul Greenfield

Members

Mr John Hogan
Dr Peter Scaife
Dr Peter Nadebaum
Dr Jennifer Stauber

Observers

Dr Peter Brotherton

Secretariat

Ms Sandra Riddell
Dr Geoff Thompson
Dr Greg Rippon

Apologies

Dr Paul Brown
Mr Peter Di Marco
Dr Robyn Eckersley
Mr James Johnson
Ms Diane Kovacs
Mr Stephen Moore
Dr Neil Stacy

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 47th meeting

1. Amendments were made to paragraph 22 to correct "hydrogen purge" to "methanol purge and rinse". As amended, the draft Minutes were accepted.

Agenda Item 2. Matters arising

2. There were no matters arising.

Agenda Item 3. Progress report on operation of the Hazardous Waste Act

(a) Permit report for previous twelve months

3. Since the previous meeting, two export permits and two import permits had been granted and one permit application had been refused. Four permit applications were currently being processed. In the agenda paper, for the Tomago application, the tonnage should read 8,200 tonnes, not 8.2 tonnes.

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Proposed export of diethylaluminum chloride/heptane mixture

4. There was nothing to report on this item

(b) Waste/non-waste status of fuel oil component

5. A decision on whether or not this material was a waste could not be reached at the 43rd meeting of the Technical Group, held on 24 November 2000. The company had submitted additional information in reply to the questions listed in the Minutes of the 43rd meeting. A detailed specification, set by the power station, was provided. After export, the fuel oil component was blended with other components that were sourced to meet the quality and volume specifications set by the power station..

6. In response to the question of why decant oil (DCO) is always blended with other fuel oil component prior to use as fuel in power stations, the applicant advised that fuel oil for power stations is not normally produced at refineries as a specific product. Rather, the fuel oils are produced from blending of other low-value products. The nature of the fuel oil market means that fuel oils are blended from what blend stocks are available at the time at competitive prices. Producing specific products for this application is not market competitive. Generally no one feedstock meets the required specifications and so various feed components are blended to obtain a competitive fuel of the required specification. The blending of DCO is typical of this process. Blending of DCO with other fuel oil components is required to correct certain qualities such as aluminium content, silicon content, density and occasionally viscosity.

7. There is no fixed volume of DCO that the applicant must export to its customer overseas. An exported parcel is based on meeting specifications. In the case of the November 2000 export, the parcel of used oil and DCO met the required specifications for fuel oil component. In the past, the company has sourced fuel oil components external to their refinery. This includes buying back fuel oil from customers stored in tanks that are due for inspection or maintenance. There are also several other fuel oil components within the refinery such as atmospheric residue, vacuum residue, extracts and cutter.

8. The dewatered oil could not go to the power station for use as a fuel without blending. It needs to be corrected for ash and water content to meet the power station quality specification.

9. To the question of whether the DCO adds value to the used oil or vice versa, the applicant replied that the used oil is low in viscosity, aluminium and silicon content, but high in ash and water content. In this sense, the two fuel oil components are complementary and the blending process adds value to both of them.

10. The statement, that the use of fuel oil component in the power station burners would produce lower emissions of metals, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other contaminants than if virgin fuel oil was consumed, was based on the virgin fuel oil being DCO. Depending on the quality of DCO available, usually DCO is exported and is blended directly with other blend stocks. In the case of the November 2000 export, the quality of the exported product was improved by pre-blending with used oil. Laboratory test results showed that dewatered oil has lower levels of metals such as aluminium and silicon, and lower levels of sulphur and nitrogen than DCO.

11. The applicant had received verbal and written assurances of the waste oil collector's quality control and waste segregation practices. The collecting company was a registered used oil collector with the Australian Institute of Petroleum, and was fully approved by all the relevant Government authorities.

12. The waste oil collector carries out spot checks for PCB's and other contaminants. It was not felt necessary for the applicant to quality assure the collector's normal operating practice, but only assure the quality that related to the oil being exported. The applicant had carried out extensive sampling to confirm the dewatered oil to be purchased was free of PCB contamination and to assess PCA levels.

13. The applicant was not able to provide information on what the collecting company does with segregated solvents and transformer oils which contain PCB's. The Department of the Environment and Heritage could approach the collecting company directly for this information.

14. The Group noted this information. It was particularly important that the fuel oil component was always produced by blending low-value products to meet a specification, and that the blending was required to correct qualities such as aluminium and silicon content. It was also important that the two feeds were complementary and the blending process added value to both of them. Based on the information provided, the Group concluded that the material was not a waste.

(c) Proposed export of spent potlinings (SPL)

15. The meeting considered the table entitled "Overall view of spent potlining disposal technologies in Australia". The table presented a one-page summary of the information provided in 1996, 1998 and 2001 about development of disposal technologies in Australia. The meeting agreed that the table was succinct and accurate, but emphasised that it needed to be put in context. Apart from the AUSMELT and COMTOR processes, the global industry had spent large amounts of money to little gain. There were still significant issues associated with the use of this material in the steel and cement industries, and it was not clear why Italian industry could use this material but Australian industry would not. Electric Arc Furnaces were in common use around the world and operated in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle. The Group noted that there was no shortage of carbon feed globally but there could be differences in regulatory attitudes to fluoride. 16. The Group reiterated that it was unfortunate that industries were reluctant to accept this waste as a fuel or to cooperate in finding ways to overcome obstacles to local use of SPL. Use of the material in the cement or steel industries remained the most likely options and there could be merit in government trying to force a solution.

(d) Proposed export of aluminium alkyls

17. The Department of the Environment and Heritage would refer the questions the Group had raised at the previous meeting, in relation to storage of the waste, to the relevant State authorities.

(e) Application for transfrontier movement of brass dross

18. This application to export brass dross to the United Kingdom had been refused. It was notable that the applicant had not sought a buying price from the Australian processing facility and was unable to make a case that local processing was not efficient.

(f) Application to export used lead-acid batteries

19. On 27 July 2000, an application was received from Exide Australia Pty Limited for a permit under the OECD Decision Regulations. The application was to export up to 15,000 metric tonnes of waste comprising spent wet automotive and industrial lead sulphuric acid batteries and lead scrap and/or alloy scrap battery componentry to New Zealand for recycling/reclamation of metals and metal compounds. Spent wet automotive and industrial lead sulphuric acid batteries and lead scrap and/or alloy scrap battery componentry are assigned to amber list entry AA170, lead-acid batteries, whole or crushed.

20. At the reclamation facility, the acid is drained, treated and neutralised. The battery is then crushed and the plastic, metals and oxide components are separated. The plastic is washed and granulated into chips for recycling while the lead is melted down in a secondary rotary furnace and processed into lead ingots. The sludge residue from neutralising the acid is disposed of as trade waste in New Zealand. The furnace slag from the smelting process is broken up and mixed with cement then disposed of to landfill.

21. There are two facilities in Australia which can process this waste, namely, the two plants operated by Australian Refined Alloys Pty Ltd (ARA) in Sydney and Melbourne. ARA advised on 3 August 2001 of their expanding capacity, from 41,643 tonnes in 1998, to 43,651 in 1999, to 50,676 in 2000 and to 54,267 in 2001. They claimed a planned capacity for 2002 of 60,000 tonnes, which would enable them to process all the battery arisings in Australia. Any extra lead arisings that could not be smelted on-site would be sent to Pasminco's Cockle Creek Smelter. ARA stated that during the year ended 30 June 2001 they processed all batteries available and still lost 18 working days due to lack of battery feed.

22. Regulation 16(3) states that the Minister may refuse to grant a permit 'if there is another way in which the hazardous waste could appropriately be dealt with', etc and 'having regard to Australia's international obligations, the waste should be handled in that way rather than according to the export proposal'. Australia has two international obligations that are particularly relevant to this matter. Article 4.2(b) of the Basel Convention requires each Party to 'take the appropriate measures to ... ensure the availability of adequate disposal facilities, for the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste and other waste, that shall be located, to the extent possible, within it, whatever the place of disposal'. Article 4.2(d) requires each Party to 'Ensure that the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and other wastes is reduced to the minimum consistent with the environmentally sound and efficient management of such wastes'.

23. With regard to Article 4.2(b), a proposed export would have an effect on the availability of local disposal facilities if a negative impact on their operations could be demonstrated. In this instance, ARA have not demonstrated such an impact. In fact, to process the batteries ARA would need to continue to expand their operations and send any excess arisings off site to Cockle Creek.

24. With regard to Article 4.2(d), Exide Australia submitted additional information in support of their application and representatives from the company attended the meeting to discuss this information in more detail. They argued, first, that the Exide owned and operated lead-acid battery recycling plant in Wellington provided 100% of that country's lead-acid battery recycling capability. The plant processes approximately 24,000 tonnes of scrap batteries each year. The New Zealand total domestic market generates 12,000 tonnes of spent batteries each year, that is, 50% of the Wellington smelter's feedstock. Exide collects these batteries directly from its customer base as well as purchasing from contractors and scrap merchants. This quantity is supplemented with batteries imported from Australia to bring the total up to 24,000 tonnes.

25. Exide argued that the smelter cannot operate economically with less feedstock. The lifecycle of the furnace bricks is optimised if the furnace is kept at a relatively constant temperature. Constant cooling and reheating causes bricks to crack. It is therefore most efficient to run the furnace 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to preserve the furnace lining.

26. Exide also advised that unless they could locate an alterative source of spent batteries which could be economically imported into New Zealand, the cessation of Australian imports would result in the closure of Exide's New Zealand smelter. This would result in the loss of all on-shore recycling capacity in New Zealand and a need to export the 12,000 tonnes of local spent battery arisings for recycling, either in Australia or elsewhere. That is, refusing this export permit would not achieve any reduction in transboundary movements of hazardous waste, consistent with Article 4.2(d).

27. Exide Australia explained that they and Exide New Zealand have adopted a vertically integrated strategy of recycling scrap batteries and re-use of recycled lead and polypropylene in new products (a closed loop strategy). This meant that there would be a substantial negative impact on the collection of lead-acid batteries in Australia if they were refused an export permit. Exide usually collect 18,000 to 20,000 tonnes of batteries per year through about 10,000 outlets within Australia. They estimate that this gives them about 30% of the market. Of these batteries, they send as many to New Zealand as are required to meet the needs of the Wellington smelter. The remainder are sent to ARA for local processing through a tolling arrangement.

28. Exide argued that there would be an elimination of competition from the markets where Exide currently source batteries for export, WA, SA and QLD. This would in turn undermine the open market mechanisms which underpins the current efficient collection of spent batteries in those states and the very high collection rates being achieved. Assuming that the current tonnage from those states was redirected from New Zealand to the ARA smelters there would be a consequential increase in the movement of hazardous waste on Australia's major highways and across state borders.

29. The meeting concluded that ARA had not established their vulnerability to negative impacts arising from grant of the export permit. It appeared that refusing the permit would not result in any reduction in the transboundary movement of hazardous waste. Members noted that the New Zealand facility operated according to sound environmental management practices, partly because the previous owner, GNB Technologies, had implemented a policy of "beyond compliance" under which the best global practices were implemented in all countries in which the company operated.

30. The meeting was also concerned that refusing the permit would lead to closure of the New Zealand facility and this would almost certainly decrease the efficiency of the current systems in place to collect waste batteries for recovery in Australia and New Zealand. At worst, the whole collection infrastructure in New Zealand could fall apart.

(g) Export of zinc ash

31. The agenda paper described how an Australian company had exported a shipment of zinc ash without an export permit under the Act. The company was aware that zinc ash was possibly hazardous waste under the Act and that its export without a permit could be in breach of the Act as their analyses showed the material to contain lead below 1% w/w but above 0.002% w/w. If the levels were above 1% w/w the material would clearly be hazardous waste, but a toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) was required to determine whether the material was hazardous for levels below 1% and above 0.002% w/w. In addition, the company diluted the material with sand to ensure that the concentrations of hazardous materials were below specified cut-off levels. It was not certain whether the analyses were conducted on the diluted or undiluted material.

32. The Department of the Environment and Heritage presumed the waste to be hazardous as the TCLP was not used to refute the assumption of hazard, and referred this suspected breach of the Act for investigation. The investigation found that it would be difficult to prove whether the exported material was hazardous as a sample of the material, prior to export, was required for chemical analysis. This could not be obtained as the suspected breach was detected after the material had already been exported.

33. In due course a legal opinion was obtained which advised that:

34. The agenda paper canvassed one way to clarify this matter in future, which would be to issue an Evidentiary Certificate declaring that all zinc ash from galvanisers hot dip processes was hazardous waste. An exporter could rebut this presumption by undertaking testing procedures, in accordance with the Department of the Environment and Heritage requirements, to prove that the material was not hazardous under the Act. The Group agreed that Evidentiary Certificates could be a useful way of clarifying whether a specific material was hazardous waste.

Agenda Item 5. Reports of international meetings

(a) Basel Convention Technical Working Group, 18th session, 18-20 June 2001 , Geneva

(i). Annotated provisional agenda

(ii). Review of adjustment of the lists of wastes contained in Annex VIII or IX: additional information on bituminous materials and waste edible fats and oils

(iii). Review of adjustment of the lists of wastes contained in Annex VIII or IX: application by India on PVC coated cable scrap

(iv). Information paper on the purpose of Annex IX

(v). Consideration of the development of the work on hazard characteristic H6.2 (Infectious Substances)

(vi). Development of the ecotoxicological criteria for the characterisation of hazardous wastes

(b) Basel Convention Legal Working Group, 3rd session, 21-22 June 2001 , Geneva

(i) Annotated provisional agenda

35. Geoff Thompson reported on his attendance at these meetings and drew particular attention to Australia's undertaking to prepare draft technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of Annex 1 waste stream Y17, wastes resulting from surface treatment of metals and plastics. The Department of the Environment and Heritage proposed to let a consultancy, similar to that used to prepare the draft technical guidelines on recycling/reclamation of metals and metal compounds.

(c) Workshop on environmentally sound management in the Basel Convention ("Dakar II"), Dakar

36. There was no discussion on this item.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group

(a) History of the Technical Group

(b) Future work program

37. Members proposed to discuss their work program at the next meeting. In particular, there was the question of whether the Group should be more pro-active. They asked the Department of the Environment and Heritage to provide issues papers for this item.

Agenda Item 7. Criteria for separating hazardous from non-hazardous wastes

38. Group members discussed the latest draft version of Information Paper No 5: Second Edition. Jenny Stauber noted that the guidance paper was becoming quite complex with a lack of well-developed scenarios. To help navigate the document, she had prepared a decision tree for inclusion at the front of the document. This clarified the process by classifying materials as hazardous if they exceeded the threshold concentration, unless a leachate test was used to demonstrate that the hazardous constituents were present in an immobile form. The meeting agreed that the proposed decision tree was helpful and clarified, but did not change, the current position. The Department of the Environment and Heritage will include the suggested changes in a new draft.

39. The meeting also noted that there were inconsistencies between Table 3, which contained 95% protection levels, and Table 6, where 99% protection levels were sometimes used. The paper should be made tighter and more focussed by putting less relevant information into appendices and cutting out excisting appendices.

Agenda Item 8. Criteria for separating wastes from non-wastes

(a) Information Paper No.2, Fourth edition, third draft

40. The Fourth Edition of Information Paper No 2 had been published and copies were sent to Group members in the mail.

Agenda Item 9. Defining environmentally sound management

(a) Assessment of Environmentally Sound Management: An Example

41. Group members agreed that another example should be used in the document, such as an unspecified residue, instead of used lead-acid batteries. They also suggested that boxes containing Technical Group comments should not be included where satisfactory information had been submitted. In general, they were pleased with the revised format and structure of the document.

Agenda Item 10. Regional Centres

42. There was no discussion on this item.

Agenda Item 11. Avoidance, minimisation and treatment of hazardous wastes

(a) Scoping study for National Environmental protection Council National Management of Clinical and Related Waste

(b) Official Hansard, House of Representatives, Clinical Waste Management

43. The meeting noted the agenda papers.

Agenda Item 12. Other Business

44. Geoff Thompson informed the Group that Ray Evans had resigned from his position with Western Mining Corporation and also from his role as the industry observer at Group meetings.

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) Friday 21 September 2001, Brisbane (site visit to BCD Technologies, Brisbane)

(b) Friday 21 October 2001

(c) Friday 23 November 2001, Canberra (joint meeting with Policy Reference Group) (NB Paul Greenfield not available on 22 November)