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Hazardous Waste Technical Group - 57th meeting

Friday 11 October 2002, 8.30 am - 4.30 pm, Uluru Room, John Gorton Building, King Edward Terrace, PARKES ACT 2600

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Professor Paul Greenfield

Dr Paul Brown
Dr Peter Nadebaum
Dr Peter Di Marco
Dr Peter Scaife
Ms Diane Kovacs
Dr Neill Stacey
Mr Stephen Moore

Dr Peter Brotherton

Mr Andrew Inglis
Dr Geoff Thompson
Ms Panna Patel

Dr Robyn Eckersley
Mr James Johnson
Mr John Hogan
Dr Jenny Stauber

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 56th meeting

1. The meeting made amendments to paragraphs 6, 9, 13, 14, 18 and 30 of the draft Minutes. As amended, the draft Minutes were adopted.

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

(b) Report from Environmental Manager, Issue 406, 10 September 2002

3. The meeting noted the agenda papers.

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Proposed export of spent potlinings

4. Tomago had provided a diagrammatic representation of their on-site storage and had confirmed that they intended to move first cut (carbon) material from shed 5 to shed 1 immediately to prepare space for the crushing plant in shed 5. The crushing equipment was scheduled to start coming on site from the beginning of November and should be ready to commence the primary crushing operation by mid November. The Selca specification called for spent potlinings (SPL) crushed to minus 150mm so only the primary crushing equipment would be required in shed 5 initially. A small secondary crusher was currently located in shed 6 and it would continue to be used for preparation of SPL for the kiln processing.

5. The intention was to crush both first and second cut material housed in shed 5 to enable the installation of the remainder of the crushing equipment. At the same time additional space would be created to allow storage of the SPL processed through the rotary kiln for use as a feed to the cement industry and other operations being investigated. There was a curing time and a mixing operation involved to produce the Hi Cal and ReAl products. Initially the space would be used to house the full crushing circuit and for storage but in the long term, it was proposed to bring the kiln operation into shed 5 as well.

6. While this operation was proceeding additional SPL was being produced. The current rate was 700 to 800 tonnes per month. It was important, from a logistical point of view, that space was created before too much more material was added to the storage areas. Otherwise, the additional space would be inundated before effective use could be made of the area. With the local solution, the objective was to reach a level of operation so that the rate of processing would equal the arisings by March 2003. Tomago considered this could be achieved if the proposed program of an export shipment coupled with a build up of the kiln processing was followed, but the timing would critical to ensure its success.

7. The meeting noted that to export the SPL, it would be necessary to pack it into about 500 shipping containers. Why could it not be stored on or off site in containers until it could be processed in Australia? The Secretariat agreed to put this question to EPA NSW.

8. The current application satisfied all of the criteria agreed in 2001 and concern was expressed that a viable process should not be put at risk. However, members agreed that the applicant should be asked justify the quantity of 10,200 tonnes to be shipped, and why a lesser amount would not be sufficient.

9. Members also noted that the first large scale trial of the use of the material was still in its early stages and there were still technical and commercial risks to be managed, particularly in relation to security of supply.

(b) Possible import of POPs wastes

10. There was no report under this standing item.

(c) Possible import of Flue-gas Desulphurisation Gypsum to rehabilitate land

11. The secretariat had yet to finalise its letter to Professor Rudolph.

(d) Proposed import of industrial waste water treatment sludge
(i). Statement of decision to refuse a permit
(ii). Statutory order from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, No 823 of September 16, 1996
(iii). Letter of 5 September 2002 from Farmoz to the Department of the Environment and Heritage

12. The meeting noted the limited analytical data that indicated that the residues in question contained very low concentrations of pesticides. Members indicated that these data missed the point, which was not whether low concentrations could be measured in some samples, but whether the process that produced them was such that it would invariably produce residues containing low concentrations of pesticides. Members also noted that the bigger issue was what we had been doing to our soils and they instanced the problems we had experienced with red mud.

(e) Proposed export of used lead-acid batteries to New Zealand

13. The meeting noted that Australian Refined Alloys had applied to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of the decision to grant an export permit to Exide Australia Pty Ltd.

(f) Proposed lead-acid battery stripping operation

14. HydroMet Corporation Limited introduced the proposal. The purpose of the proposed process was to remove substantially all the lead sulphate (PbSO4) and lead dioxide (PbO2) paste from the lead electrode grids, which would then constitute an ideal feed for secondary lead smelters. It was expected that once cleaned of lead sulphate and lead dioxide, the lead grids would realize 70-80% of the refined lead value (only about 20% of the refined lead value is realized for the waste batteries themselves).

15. Lead sulphate is an undesirable feed for smelters because in order to eliminate emissions of sulphur dioxide, it is necessary to add soda ash, iron and carbon to the smelter charge. Soda ash converts the lead in lead sulphate into lead carbonate (PbCO3). The presence of iron suppresses the emission of sulphur dioxide by converting the sulphate into iron sulphide, which reports to the slag. The presence of carbon reduces both lead dioxide and lead carbonate to lead metal. The process generates large quantities of lead contaminated slag, which requires immobilisation before disposal because it has a high lead content and would fail TCLP tests.

16. In the proposed process the lead sulphate would be converted to lead carbonate (PbCO3), which is a good feed for smelters because the CO3 anion is decomposed to CO2 and does not lead to slag production. The lead dioxide originally present in the electrode paste passes through the process unchanged and becomes mixed with the lead carbonate. When introduced into a smelter, lead dioxide also produces no slag.

17. The proposed process would produce no waste. The batteries are sawn in two with a circular saw. The sulphuric acid in the batteries is drained and sent to a separate process, to be used in the recovery of zinc sulphate (Zn SO4) from Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) dust. The sawn batteries are then crushed in a hammer mill and further reduced in size till the pieces pass through a specified size grate. A screw conveyor feeds the hammer mill discharge to a trommel where it is washed with plant process water. The discharge from the trommel is passed over a 30 mm mesh through which the lead sulphate and lead dioxide battery paste falls, while the larger pieces of lead and plastic pass over the mesh to a second trommel.

18. In the second trommel, the lead and plastic are washed with a weak caustic soda solution (NaOH), which removes most of any remaining lead sulphate as sodium plumbate. The mixed lead and plastic (polypropylene) discharged from the second trommel are then introduced to a screw type mechanical classifier where they are washed with process water and where the dense lead metal is separated from the plastic. The lead and plastic are allowed to drain and are then separately stored before being recycled.

19. The lead sulphate and lead dioxide paste discharged from the first trommel is filtered through a plate and frame filter press. The dilute sulphuric acid filtrate is added to the main acid storage tank, while the solid cake is slurried in a stirred tank with concentrated potassium carbonate or ammonium carbonate solution. The sulphate component, originally present in the lead sulphate, is converted to either potassium sulphate (K2SO4) or ammonium sulphate ([NH4]2SO4), both of which are used as constituents of fertilisers. Almost all the lead sulphate is converted to lead carbonate, while the sulphate goes into solution. During this process the lead dioxide remains chemically unchanged.

20. The slurry of lead carbonate and lead dioxide in potassium sulphate or ammonium sulphate solution is filtered through a plate and frame press, and the solid lead carbonate and lead dioxide stored prior to sale, either to a secondary lead smelter, for downstream production of other lead chemicals such as lead nitrate, or use in the gold processing industry as a substitute for lead oxide and lead nitrate during leaching to enhance extraction of gold. The potassium and ammonium sulphate solution is concentrated in a crystalliser, and the crystals are centrifuged to remove supernatant liquor (which is returned to the crystalliser) and then stored prior to sale for use in the fertiliser industry.

21. Members asked about the possibility of antimony (which is present in the battery lead as a deliberate alloying element at < 2% by weight) being leached from the lead during the process and becoming associated with the potassium or ammonium sulphate. Hydromet advised that very little antimony was leached: almost all of it remained associated with the lead.

22. On the prices that a smelter was likely to pay for the clean battery lead and the lead carbonate and lead oxide, Hydromet advised that both materials were expected to realize 70 80% of the refined lead value (based on lead content). Substitution of lead carbonate for lead sulphate would lead to significantly reduced slag production, and a reduction of more than 80 % was indicated.

23. The meeting examined every aspect of the process that produced lead metal, beginning with the use of a hammer mill to break and reduce the battery scrap. A screw conveyor fed the discharge from the mill to a trommel, where it was washed in process water to remove the surface sulphate (present as sulphuric acid) and separated from the battery paste with a 30mm diameter mesh. The retained fraction was fed to a secondary trommel where a mild caustic solution removed almost all remaining sulphate residue. A mechanical classifier was then used to wash and separate the lead metal, thus ensuring a high quality lead product free of sulphate residue (less than 0.01% dry weight) that could be charged directly to a smelter. The meeting agreed that this process would produce clean, uncontaminated lead scrap in bulk finished form (sheet, plate, beams, rods, etc), as described in entry B1020 in Annex IX of the Basel Convention.

24. The meeting also examined the process that produced lead carbonate. The battery paste is first separated from the metal and the plastic in the primary trommel. It is then dewatered in a filter press, reslurried and fed to a continuously stirred tank reactor where it is mixed with ammonium carbonate or potassium carbonate. The residence time in the reactor is two hours, by which time nearly 100% conversion can be achieved at the optimal pH for minimum product solubility. The process reduces the concentration of lead sulphate to less than 0.1% dry weight. The lead carbonate is passed through a plate and frame filter press and stored prior to sale as a lead carbonate product. The meeting evaluated the lead carbonate against the additional considerations in Section 6 of Information Paper No.2, "Distinguishing wastes from Non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act", and agreed that the answers to all the questions indicated that the lead carbonate was a non-waste. In particular, with respect to question (n): "Will the material actually be used in a production process?", there was a huge demand from smelters for lead carbonate. The meeting also evaluated the lead carbonate against Section 9 of Information Paper No.2, and concluded that a waste recovery process had produced a non-waste.

(g) Proposed import of used lead-acid batteries from New Zealand

25. On 16 September 2002, an application was received from Simsmetal Limited for a permit under the Regulations. The application was to import up to 9,000 tonnes of spent lead acid batteries from New Zealand for recovery. Exide Australia Pty Ltd (Exide) had written to oppose the application, pointing out that if the special import permit were granted to Simsmetal, it was likely that there would be a substantial increase in transboundary movement of hazardous waste on the basis that Simsmetal would be importing into Australia up to 9,000 tonnes of ULABs per annum and Exide would be forced to export up to its special export permit limit of 15,000 tonnes per annum in order to keep their New Zealand facility operating.

26. Simsmetal had replied to Exide's submission, arguing that a direct result of the Minister granting the export permit to Exide has been for Australian Refined Alloys (ARA) to face losing up to one quarter of the entire Australian materials stream. After years of increasing its capacity and investment at the encouragement of State and Federal environmental entities and allowing Australia to become self sufficient in secondary battery processing, ARA and its financial partners (Simsmetal and Pasminco) were now left with a significantly challenged investment and the potential of permanent reduction in domestic capacity. Given the potential of losing one of Australia's two smelters, Simsmetal must take steps to secure the necessary base load from outside Australia in an effort to underpin the viability of its smelting operations. Simsmetal noted that, in the absence of environmental objections to the trade, Simsmetal and Exide would be left to battle it out under normal commercial conditions and this was the logical consequence of the original decision to grant the export permit. It would clearly be inconsistent to apply one logic in the case of Exide and another one to Simsmetal.

27. The meeting considered these submissions and concluded that the permit should be refused because Australia's international obligations include, under Article 4(2)(d) of the Basel Convention, ensuring that the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and other waste is reduced to the minimum consistent with the environmentally sound and efficient management of such waste. The batteries in question are disposed of in New Zealand at present and there is no export of battery scrap from New Zealand to Australia. Granting the permit would lead to an increase in transboundary movement and could see shipments of battery scrap passing each other on their way to the other country.

28. The meeting also reiterated the Group's earlier conclusion that the permit granted to Exide to export battery scrap to New Zealand should have been refused for similar reasons.

(h) Proposed import of precious metal-bearing selenium from USA

29. The meeting considered an inquiry from HydroMet Corporation Limited on whether a selenium-bearing material, proposed to be imported from the United States, was a hazardous waste or not. The material is produced in five process steps.

30. The first step is the formation of anode slimes in the electrolytic refining of copper. Copper anodes of more than 99% copper are placed in a liquid electrolyte and the copper ions migrate to be electroplated onto steel cathodes. Gold, silver and other precious materials do not dissolve in the electrolyte. Along with lead, antimony, selenium, arsenic and tellurium, these elements form anode slimes that accumulate in the cells and are removed at intervals. This process increases the concentration of gold, silver, platinum and palladium as well as selenium. The anode slime contains about 1,000 times more precious metal than the original concentrate.

31. In the second step, the anode slimes are removed from the cells and treated with sulphuric acid and oxygen to further leach copper into solution. This treatment further concentrates precious metals and selenium. The solution is filtered and the copper contained in the liquor is sent back to the copper refinery.

32. In the third step the solids from the filtration are leached with hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide to dissolve the gold, selenium and other impurities leaving substantial amounts of silver in the solid phase.

33. In the fourth step, the solution from the third step is contacted in a solvent extraction stage to recover gold from solution.

34. In the fifth step the raffinate, that is, the liquid purified by solvent extraction in the fourth step, containing selenium and the remaining precious metals, is reacted with sodium bisulphite to reduce selenium back to its grey/black elemental state. The addition of the sodium bisulphate reduces not only selenium, but also the remaining precious metals, back to their solid state. This resulting material is filtered to 5% moisture and packed into drums for transfer to another facility.

35. It is proposed to import this material into Australia, where it would be subjected to leaching with a sodium sulphite solution to dissolve selenium. Pure selenium is recovered from the solution by atmospheric boiling followed by a crystallisation process. After the separation of the selenium, the precious metals are on-sold for processing at a refinery to recover the separate precious metals.

36. The prospective importer, HydroMet, does not consider the material proposed for import to be a hazardous waste, for the reasons set out below.

37. First, the material has high economic value. One tonne is valued at about AUD69,300 comprising gold AUD42,000, palladium AUD17,000, selenium AUD8,000, platinum AUD1,800 and silver AUD500. This market value is typically 20-30 times greater than the unit value of the refined copper metal produced by the company. 38. Second, the material is produced intentionally so that recovery of all metals is optimised. The gold, which frequently occurs with copper in mineral deposits, is important economically so earnings from both copper and gold need to be maximised.

39. Third, the material is made in response to market demand. Strong markets currently exist for both the selenium product and the precious metals. There is competition among selenium producers to recover the selenium. The production of the material is therefore subject to quality control at all parts of the process culminating in sampling of the drummed material to analyse selenium, gold, silver, palladium, platinum and moisture.

40. Fourth, the material meets specifications as laid down by the processor. These specify concentrations of 11 metallic elements plus moisture content. There are relevant commercial considerations for payments terms as penalty items for arsenic, iron, cadmium, mercury, lead and copper.

41. The meeting noted, in the first place, that the anode slimes are produced by almost exactly the same process as the anode slimes described in Example 8 in information Paper No.2, "Distinguishing wastes from non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous waste Act". They were not wastes.

42. The meeting then agreed that in each of the second, third, fourth and fifth steps, the material produced in the stream leading to the selenium-bearing material, proposed for import, was not a waste.

43. The meeting noted that the world production of selenium was about 2,000 tonnes per year and it was used in applications such as photocopiers, rectifiers and animal feed. HydroMet supplied about 10% of the world market.

44. HydroMet currently imported a selenium-bearing waste from Norway under permit, but this was produced by scrubbing gases and fell into category Q9 in Table C, "Residues from pollution abatement processes (eg scrubber sludges, baghouse dusts, spent filters, etc)".

45. The copper refiner sold selenium to take advantage of its value. If the copper price was low, sale of the selenium was important to the viability of the business. If the copper price was high, sale of the selenium was the "icing on the cake".

46. Anode slime contains a variety of materials and the process was designed to extract the maximum value from them. The materials did not lose value or leave the commercial chain of utility. At one time copper plants had selenium processing facilities within their boundaries. In the present example, the copper producer preferred to send this material to a specialist processor overseas.

47. The meeting then reviewed the material, proposed for import, against the questions set out in Information Paper No. 2. Important considerations were that the material was produced intentionally, was made in response to market demand, had a positive economic value and was part of the normal commercial cycle or chain of utility. Its production was subject to quality control to meet well developed recognised standards. These standards included environmental considerations such as penalties for arsenic and mercury. Further processing was not required before it could be used directly in a manufacturing operation.

48. Based on all these considerations, the meeting concluded that the selenium-bearing material, proposed to be imported from the United States, was not a waste.

(i) How to distinguish zinc scrap in metallic, non-dispersible form from waste zinc residues in the form of dust or powder

49. The meeting was concerned at the small size of some of the particles, which were in the respirable and micrometre ranges. The material was a residue and the fact that it contained some metallic lumps did not make it a non-residue.

(j) Red water sample export determination

50. There was no discussion of this item.

Agenda item 5. Reports of international meetings

51. There was no discussion of this item.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group

(a) Management of hazardous wastes in Australia

(b) Draft Strategic Plan for the Implementation of the Basel Convention

52. Paul Bainton, Director of the Environmental Stewardship Section, Industry Partnership Branch, the Department of the Environment and Heritage, provided an overview of their work on product stewardship. He described the action plans that were being developed for computer waste and how industry associations were putting together a package on life cycle analysis of this waste. The products would be dismantled to identify the barriers to recycling and the costs associated with these barriers. In case of computers, the export of used computers needed to be taken into account, including export for continued use in countries such as East Timor. Twelve priority waste streams, including end-of-life vehicles and plastic bags, were being assessed at a national level. One of the major issues was that secondary markets needed to be developed for recycled waste products and governments were interested in accelerating that process.

53. Paul Dworjanyn, Director of the Automotive Waste Resources Section, Industry Partnership Branch, the Department of the Environment and Heritage, presented a brief summary of the current issues in the management of waste oil and other automotive wastes. An environmental levy on imported and domestically produced waste oil was applied and the levy funds were distributed to oil recyclers for waste oil recycled in Australia. A waste oil transitional system was spread over five years for research and development, communication and actions that could help collection and reuse of waste oil. The system had been in place for about two and half years and the main focus was on regional centres. About seventy percent of waste oil was being collected and there were 16 recyclers in the country. The recycled product was comparable to the new product and the recyclers were required to provide results of their analytical tests for the first time and every six months after that. However, the main barrier in selling the recycled product was identified as a public perception that the product as not as good as the new product. A $3 million national communication strategy to promote the recycled product was being planned and Australia was leading the world in the field of oil recycling.

54. David Vernon, Director of the Eco-efficiency Unit, Industry Partnership Branch, the Department of the Environment and Heritage, presented an overview of their work on cleaner production and eco-efficiency agreements with industry. Eco-efficiency Agreements were three-year agreements with industry associations, under which the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) and the associations committed resources to promote and encourage the uptake of eco-efficiency by member companies, and to measure this through an annual survey on their input (consumption)/output (generation of waste) i.e. efficiency of their production. Currently twenty five agreements were in place. EA's eco-efficiency and cleaner production web site currently included 150 case studies. The main target audience was Australian companies who were considering whether to adopt eco-efficiency and/or cleaner production measures. David mentioned that although cleaner production had been around for nearly ten years, we did not have broad industry data. Currently, only one year of data was available as most industry agreements had been in place for one year. However, we would get more data in the next two or three years. The main slogan that promoted to industry was that if you measure it, you manage it.

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

(a) Guidance on whether wastes containing metals or metal compounds are controlled under the Hazardous Waste Act

55. The meeting noted the agenda paper.

(b) Hazard assessment of Y22 copper compounds

(c) Hazard assessment of Y23 zinc compounds

(d) Hazard status of PVC

56. There was no discussion of these items.

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

Agenda Item 9. Defining environmentally sound management

Agenda Item 10. Regional Centres

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

(a) Scoping study for the National Environment Protection Council National Management of Clinical and Related Wastes

Agenda Item 12. Other Business

57. There was no discussion of these items.

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) Friday 22 November 2002, Cockle Creek

(b) Friday 7 February 2003, Port Kembla

(c) Friday 7 March 2003