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Hazardous Waste Technical Group - 59th meeting

Friday 16 May 2003
Uluru Room, Level 4, John Gorton Building
King Edward Terrace, PARKES ACT 2600

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Minutes


Present:

Chair

Professor Paul Greenfield

Members

Dr Paul Brown
Mr Stephen Moore
Dr Peter Di Marco
Dr Peter Nadebaum
Dr Robyn Eckersley
Dr Peter Scaife
Mr John Hogan
Dr Jenny Stauber

Observer

Dr Peter Brotherton

In attendance

Mr Brett Gray
Ms Rita Jay

Secretariat

Mr Robert Angel
Dr Greg Rippon
Ms Panna Patel
Dr Geoff Thompson

Apologies

Mr Shaun Barker
Dr Neill Stacey
Ms Diane Kovacs

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 58th meeting

1. The meeting adopted the draft Minutes of the 58th meeting.

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) Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) (Imports from East Timor) Regulations 2003

(c) Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Amendment Regulations 2003

3. The meeting noted the agenda papers

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Possible import of POPs wastes

4. There was no discussion of this item.

(b) Proposed export of aluminium alkyls and non-halogenated solvents to Belgium for incineration

5. Members agreed that the aluminium alkyls, which Qenos Pty Ltd proposes to export to Belgium for incineration, are the same type of waste that Basell Australia Pty Ltd exported to the Netherlands for incineration. The issues are unchanged and a permit may be granted for the same reasons.

(c) Proposed export of waste oil to Singapore

6. The application had been received on 15 May 2003 and raised issues about environmentally sound management and the reasons why the applicant did not propose to dispose of the waste oil in Australia. The Secretariat would draft a request for further information under section 15 of the Act and seek comments on the draft at the next meeting. Members commented that Australia already had the necessary facilities to recycle waste oil and it would be sensible if the applicant produced a satisfactory explanation of why these were not to be used, before undertaking much work on the question of environmentally sound management overseas.

(d) Trade in used lead-acid batteries between Australia and New Zealand

(i). Application for special export permit AUH023046D: Statement of decision to grant a permit.

(ii). Annex A: Transboundary movement of hazardous waste: spent lead acid batteries: letter from the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development.

(iii). Annex B: Statement of advice by the Hazardous Waste Technical Group

(iv). Annex C: Comments on the statement of advice by the Hazardous Waste Technical Group by Commonwealth departments

(v). Hazardous Waste Technical Group: Minutes of the 57th meeting, Friday 11 October 2002

(vi). Application for special import permit AUH021323M: Statement of decision to grant a permit

(vii). Administrative Appeals Tribunal: Decision and Reasons for Decision (2003) AATA 247

(viii). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Australian Refined Alloys Pty Ltd

(ix). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Sims Group

(x). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Exide Technologies

(xi). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Dominion Trading Co Ltd

(xii). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Rear Wheel Plus

(xiii). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Resource Recycling Technologies

(xiv). Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Hydromet Corporation Limited

(xv). Letter dated 30 April 2003 from Exide Technologies

(xvi). Australian Business Register (ABR) public search results for ARA, Sims and Exide

7. Members noted that under item vi, Technical Group had recommended at its 57th meeting that a permit be refused for the import of 9,000 tonnes of ULABs from New Zealand. The Group had 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 were being disposed of in New Zealand and there was 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.

8. The Minister had noted the Group's advice, but had also considered the particular circumstances of the trade in ULABs between Australia and New Zealand. There were three suitable smelters, two in Australia and one in New Zealand, with a combined smelting capacity of 89,000 tonnes. The three smelters competed for a limited quantity of feedstock, estimated at 77,000 tonnes. Because the only authorised transboundary movement was from Australia to Exide's smelter in New Zealand, at least one smelter would be short of feedstock and suffer economic loss as a result. Since overall smelter capacity was continuing to grow, this situation would grow worse in future. The Minister considered that in these particular circumstances, competition for feedstock under normal commercial conditions was more likely to lead to a result that was consistent with the "efficient" management of the waste than having Governments allocate resources to one country or the other. He therefore decided to grant the permit.

9. Members expressed concern that the Minister had used the term "efficient management" in isolation from the remainder of the term "environmentally sound and efficient". They advised that the term should always be used in full.

10. Greg Rippon provided an overview of item vii, the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) that affirmed the Minister's decision to grant an export permit to Exide Australia Pty Ltd. He had attended the hearing, and pointed out specific paragraphs that had influenced the Tribunal's decision.

11. The Secretariat advised the meeting that after the AAT's decision, New Zealand had refused to grant a permit to Simsmetal to export 9,000 tonnes of ULABs to Australia. Members were concerned whether this decision was consistent with the advice provided by the Government of New Zealand in relation to the grant of an export permit to Exide. They asked the Secretariat to write to the competent authority of New Zealand, the Ministry of Economic Development, to request a copy of the reasons for their decision to refuse the export permit.

12. Members analysed the information in the agenda papers and drafted some questions and diagrams to be discussed with industry at the next meeting. They considered the extent to which the outcomes of the analysis of the trade in ULABs would be influenced by new information that was not available to them in 2002. For example, in 2002, Exide had agreed with ARA that total ULAB arisings in Australia were about 65,000 tonnes per annum of ULABs, and had not questioned ARA's estimate that ARA's capacity was 64,800 tonnes. On 17 March 2003, however, the AAT had concluded that, on the evidence before it, total ULAB arisings in Australia were at least 69,000 tonnes per annum and ARA's capacity was 63,100 tonnes.

13. A further issue was Pasminco's recent announcement that the Cockle Creek smelter would close in September 2003. This would reduce Australia's capacity to recover other forms of lead scrap. Members noted that other issues to be covered in the analysis included minimisation of transboundary movements, environmentally sound and efficient management of ULABs, national capacity to process ULABs and lead scrap, impacts on the collection of ULABs, likelihood of smelters closing down, the impact of new technologies such as the carbonate process, who are the other significant collectors in Australia (such as Metalcorp) and New Zealand, and what prices are being offered and paid.

14. Members discussed the results of the survey on trade in ULABs. They noted gaps in the data and confusion over figures, and requested the Secretariat to write to Exide and ARA to request that they fill in the missing data as far as possible, and also express the data on the basis tonnes of contained lead as well as of whole ULABs.

15. Brett Gray, of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, advised that this was a difficult issue. In 2002 the key issue was what would happen if exports to the New Zealand smelter were terminated abruptly. Fairness and equity demanded that the trade should continue at that time, but that was not a precedent and a different decision could be made in 2003. In general, departments took the view that market forces should operate. However, the refusal by New Zealand to grant a permit to Simsmetal to export ULABs to Australia could be regarded as a market failure. Granting some permits but refusing others did not appear to be consistent.

16. Rita Jay, of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, advised that decisions should be consistent with the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA). Refusing an export permit would breach Article 8 of ANZCERTA unless one or more of the exceptions in Article 18 could be invoked. For example, refusing a permit might be necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health. New Zealand's refusal to grant an export permit was a matter of concern and changed the perspective from that in 2002.

Agenda Item 5. Reports of international meetings

(a) Open-ended Working Group of the Basel Convention, First session, Geneva, 28 April to 2 May 2003. Hazard Status of Ozone Depleting Substances: Submission by Australia

17. The meeting noted that Australia's submission on the hazard status of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) had been accepted at the meeting. ODS were not ecotoxic under the Basel definition of ecotoxic, although they were ecotoxic under the definition in the relevant European Community regulations. The meeting had decided not to initiate any work on ODS.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group

18. There was no discussion on this item.

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

(a) Hazard status of zinc and copper ash, dross and residues under the Hazardous Waste Act. Guidance Paper, April 2001

(b) The Department of the Environment and Heritage Fact Sheet: zinc ash

(c) Recommendation on zinc scrap

(d) Recommendation on zinc ash

19. Technical Group approved an evidentiary certificate on zinc ash, to complement the certificate on zinc scrap that was approved at the 58th meeting. This was seen as a sensible way to put the onus on industry to prove that a particular zinc ash was not hazardous, rather than obliging the Government to prove that wastes listed as hazardous in the Basel Convention were also hazardous wastes in reality.

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

20. There was no discussion of these items.

Agenda Item 12. Other business

21. Fuji Xerox Australia Pty. Limited had invited Technical Group to visit its Eco Manufacturing Centre located at Zetland, ten Minutes from Sydney Airport. This would be an opportunity to discuss the management of hazardous materials in the industry, and the company's efforts to decrease landfill/waste through remanufacturing, environmental product design and recycling.

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) Friday 13 June 2003, Canberra

(b) Friday 11 July 2003, Canberra

(c) Friday 15 August 2003, Sydney