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Hazardous Waste Technical Group — 66th meeting

Friday 21 May 2004
8.30 am - 4.30 pm
Burra Room, First Floor, John Gorton Building
King Edward Terrace, PARKES ACT 2600

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Minutes

Present:

Chair

Professor Paul Greenfield

Members

Dr Peter Di Marco
Mr John Hogan
Ms Diane Kovacs
Dr Neill Stacey
Dr Geoff Syme

Observer

Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith

Secretariat

Mr Bob Angel
Mr Andrew Inglis
Ms Marnie Rowe
Dr Geoff Thompson

Apologies

Dr Robyn Eckersley
Dr Peter Scaife
Mr Stephen Moore
Dr Jenny Stauber
Dr Peter Nadebaum

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 65th meeting

1. The draft Minutes were adopted without amendment.

Agenda Item 2. Matters arising

(a) Current list of members.

2. The current list was updated.

(b) How to make claims for payment, dated 20 May 2004.

3. There had been some recent changes in the arrangements for travel and administration. Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) now provided travel services to the Department and travellers must complete a CWT traveller profile, to be used when making bookings. Qantas frequent flyer points would, in future, be awarded for travel booked by the department but frequent flyer points accrued at the Commonwealth's expense should not be used for private purposes. Members took note that the Department was strictly enforcing the requirement that meal allowances not be provided when meals were provided at no charge to members. Members also expressed concerns about the arrangements for extended periods of travel and the Secretariat undertook to obtain further information about these.

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

(a) Permit report for previous twelve months

4. An application to export lead solder dross to Belgium had been submitted, even though a previous application had been refused on the grounds that the waste could be dealt with in an environmentally sound and efficient manner in Australia. The Department's understanding was that the price of tin had risen very considerably and the local processor was not prepared to take the material at current prices. This suggested that the Belgian processor could achieve efficiencies in materials recovery that were not available in Australia, but no supporting information had been provided.

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Waste/non-waste status of cobalt cadmium cementate

5. Zinifex Limited had asked whether a cobalt/nickel concentrate containing lead and some cadmium was a hazardous waste under the Act. Zinifex propose to export the concentrate to Belgium for metals recovery. Due to the relatively high cobalt content in Broken Hill zinc concentrates, about 250 ppm, the Risdon smelter had produced about 350 tonnes per annum of this concentrate with an approximate composition of: Co; 10%, Cd; 5%, Ni; 0.7%, Pb (as PbSO4), 25%; Zn; 3%, balance not specified. However, production of this cobalt secondary material would shortly cease because Risdon will replace the Broken Hill feed with Century zinc concentrate with a very low cobalt content of about 10 ppm.

6. By far the most valuable component of this material is cobalt and it has been Pasminco/Zinifex practice to stockpile this material until the world cobalt price warrants a bulk sale. At present the cobalt price is very high at about US$ 58,000 per tonne and Zinifex would like to sell their current stockpile of some 1,800 tonnes (6 years' production) in order to realize the cobalt value. Zinifex considered that, because of the contained metals value, the material is not a waste and should therefore not require an export permit. However, the waste/non-waste status of the material was not clear after consideration of Information Paper No. 2, Distinguishing wastes from non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act and Zinifex had sought advice from the Department.

7. During the production of electrolytic zinc metal, zinc concentrates (primarily zinc sulphide) are roasted to produce zinc oxide, which is then leached with sulphuric acid to produce a solution of zinc sulphate. Other minor constituents of the original concentrates such as iron, arsenic, cadmium, copper, cobalt, nickel and lead are also dissolved, and must be removed from the solution before zinc metal can be produced. Some of the impurities are tolerable to the zinc electrowinning process if they are present at low concentrations, but the presence of even a few mg/L of copper, nickel and cobalt is extremely deleterious to the electrolytic deposition of zinc metal, and it is mandatory that these elements be removed from the electrolyte.

8. The first stage in solution purification is the controlled precipitation of dissolved iron as paragoethite (a form of ferric oxide) through control of pH, redox potential and temperature. This step also removes most of the dissolved arsenic and antimony, as well as some copper and lead. After filtration, the solution contains mainly zinc sulphate, but still contains dissolved copper, cadmium, lead, cobalt and nickel, all of which must be removed prior to introducing the solution into the zinc electrowinning cells.

9. These metals all lie below zinc in the electrochemical series, and are simply removed by the deliberate addition of zinc dust to the solution, which induces precipitation of the unwanted metals through “cementation” reactions such as - Cu2+ + Zn(s) → Cu(s) + Zn2+

10. In fact this cementation procedure is performed twice, with the first step designed to precipitate only copper, which is achieved by adding a near stoichiometric equivalent of zinc dust to react with the dissolved copper. Obviously this requires continued monitoring of the process streams to ascertain the concentration of copper and other metals. The crude copper precipitate is then subjected to a controlled oxidation by air agitation in sulphuric acid, which re-dissolves the copper as copper sulphate that is then sold as a commodity.

11. The second stage cementation is designed to remove cobalt, nickel, lead and cadmium and is performed through addition of a stoichiometric excess of zinc dust to produce a cementate with the approximate composition - Co; 1.5-2%, Cd; 35%, Ni; <0.1%, Pb ;3%, Zn; 35%.

12. At Risdon the excess zinc in this product is recovered and returned to the major process stream by leaching with sulphuric acid under careful process control, leaving a "cementate" enriched in cadmium, lead, cobalt and nickel, that has the approximate composition- Co; 3-4%, Cd; 60%, Ni; <0.1%, Pb ;10%, Zn; 5%.

13. The final step in the processing at Risdon is to leach out most of the cadmium - again with sulphuric acid. The resulting cadmium sulphate solution is then filtered from the remaining solids and subjected to electrolysis for recovery of high purity metallic cadmium. The foregoing selective leaching steps result in a final “cementate” product significantly enriched in cobalt and lead content, although it still contains some cadmium and zinc.

14. Over the years, in order to maximize the return on cobalt and reduce smelter penalties for other elements, the process control of the cementation and selective leaching operations have undergone continuous development in order to produce a final product with higher cobalt and lower cadmium content. At present the final cobalt concentrate, which is intended for sale, has the approximate composition of: Co; 10%, Cd; 5%, Ni; 0.7%, Pb (as PbSO4), 25%; Zn, 3%.

15. The prospective exporter, Zinifex, does not consider the material proposed for export to be a hazardous waste. It has a high economic value of about AUD 1,500 per tonne and it is produced to a specification laid down by the purchaser. Zinifex produced a copy of a contract with a prospective purchaser in Belgium, indicating heavy penalties for excessive cadmium content and low cobalt content in the concentrate.

16. The meeting reviewed the material, proposed for export, against the questions set out in Information Paper No. 2, Distinguishing wastes from non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act. Important considerations were that the material was produced intentionally, was made in response to market demand and had a positive economic value. Its production was subject to quality control to meet well-developed standards. These standards included environmental considerations in the form of penalties for selenium. The meeting concluded that in producing the cobalt/nickel concentrate, a waste recovery process had produced a non-waste.

(b) Draft assessment of ESM at Fuji-Xerox EcoManufacturing (FXEM)

17. The meeting agreed that it was not possible, in this instance and under Basel, to rely on local regulatory controls to ensure ESM. Members then discussed the implications of sending very small quantities of waste, of the order of a kilogram, to a facility where environmental soundness might be in doubt. On the one hand, the additional kilogram of Australian waste might make no significant difference to the overall impact on human health and the environment. On the other hand, the additional kilogram might put impacts over a threshold and in any event, permitting export amounted to an Australian Government endorsement of the facility. It was important to be able to picture the facility as it operated without Australian waste.

18. It was important that the Technical Group be able to state its requirements clearly in relation to environmentally sound management, but this was not easy when dealing with uncertainty and in circumstances where the level of confidence in a facility was related to the quantities of material that were sent to it. A further issue was when did waste, produced in the recovery of Australian waste, cease to be an Australian responsibility. The use of the verb “to protect” implies a high level of responsibility for action.

19. The meeting then discussed the agenda paper in detail. Under question 1, the list of materials was incomplete. All materials should be included and accounted for in percentage terms. Under question 2, the status of the 990 tonnes of used supplies and consumables should be clarified. How much of this would be defined as hazardous waste? Under question 3, members were concerned about the quantity of material that would be used as a fuel or other means to generate energy. To what extent was this really incineration, and to what extent was it environmentally desirable to reduce landfill by using energy recovery or incineration? Under question 4, members asked to see a flowsheet. The language should be amended to make it clear that this was the proposal as described by the applicant.

20. After considering questions 5 to 8, members asked that the paper be revised so that it described the operation at FXEM in detail and identified all the significant environmental issues that were associated with the downstream processing of materials. A second paper should then address these significant environmental issues separately.

(c) Draft assessment of ESM at Uni-Copper Trade Limited

21. The meeting considered the tabled paper and asked that relevant issues be considered in the second paper, as described above.

(d) Information from www.siamcement.com

22. The amount of material from supplied from the Fuji Xerox plant was likely to be a very small proportion of Siam Cement's overall input. However, no information was available on whether halogenated plastic was supplied to Siam Cement from other sources. Siam Cement's role was particularly important in the context of the export proposal because the greater part of any reduction in landfill appeared to depend on the burning of plastic wastes, whether for energy recovery or incineration.

23. The meeting agreed that the material available from the website did not provide sufficient information to draw any conclusions about ESM, but it would be useful to obtain a complete copy of the sustainability report.

(e) Information from www.tpipolene.com

24. This website did not contain information at the level of detail required, but the meeting did note that the concrete batching plant had been awarded ISO 14001 certification.

(f) Letter dated 18 May requesting outstanding information

25. The Group noted the agenda paper.

(g) Application to export ULABs to New Zealand

26. The application had been received on 4 May 2004. Details had been published in the Gazette, as required by the Regulations, and ARA had advised that they would make a submission. The application had been made under the amended OECD Decision Regulations and was for a three-year permit.

27. The meeting agreed that both Exide and ARA should be invited to make presentations at TG 67. Members emphasised, however, that any presentations should focus only on new information, and not re-work material already reviewed in previous years. A general discussion could then be held with all present, followed by a concluding session for the Group alone.

28. Members noted that all State and Territory authorities had been asked for their views on the possible implications of granting or refusing an export permit within their jurisdictions. Members suggested that the attention of HydroMet Corporation should also be drawn to the application.

(h) Outcome of consultations on electronic scrap

29. The Technical Group had noted a copy of the draft criteria at its 65th meeting. A number of submissions had been received by the due date of 7 May 2004 and a compilation was being prepared.

(i) Hazardous waste status of used oil

30. The meeting noted the agenda paper. The South Australia Environment Protection Authority had received no new information on this matter and the position remained unchanged.

(j) What happens to your recycled used oil

31. The meeting noted the agenda paper.

(k) Progress of consultations on salt slag

32. As agreed at the previous meeting, the draft proposal had been circulated to stakeholders and posted on the Department's website and comments were due by 4 June 2004.

Agenda Item 5. Reports of international meetings

(a) Report on the outcomes of the third session of the Open Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention, 26-30 April 2004

(b) Decisions on persistent organic pollutants

33. A report on these items would be given at the joint meeting with the Policy Group, to be held on 18 July 2004.

(c) Draft paper on the hazardous characteristic H11 - Toxic (Delayed or chronic)

34. The agenda paper had been prepared by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and presented to the third session of the Open Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention. The third session had recognised that Parties had been given very little time to review the draft, and agreed that comments should be sent to the Secretariat of the Basel Convention by 30 June 2004. After that the paper would go to the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 7) in October 2004, where it was likely to be adopted unless the Parties raised significant concerns in their comments.

35. The Department had sought advice from the Office of Regulation Review, who had advised that adoption of this paper could result in substantial change in the scope of Australia's hazardous waste legislation. A Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) should therefore be prepared and debated before Australia could agree to adoption of the draft paper in its present form.

36. Members considered that the draft paper was of major concern because it put forward an approach based on information that was no longer used by the US EPA. It used a very conservative approach that was quite inconsistent with Australia's approach to the protection of human health, which relied on the work of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC). These organisations relied, in turn, on the World Health Organisation, the EU occupational health and safety system, and other sources. To protect the environment, Australian agencies relied mainly on leachate tests because these made allowance for the availability of contaminants as well as their absolute concentration.

37. Members were concerned that adoption of the draft paper would pre-empt the international approach that was in place to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Concerns were also expressed about the values proposed for dioxins and furans because adoption of this paper could pre-empt the decision on low POPs content that was also to be taken at COP 7.

38. The meeting agreed that Peter Di Marco should prepare two documents for consideration at the next meeting. One would be a first draft of an Australian submission to the Secretariat of the Basel Convention. The other would be a detailed critique of the approach proposed by the US EPA, which could be used as a supporting document in the preparation of a RIS. This work should be considered as an unusual period of preparation that should be remunerated as business of the authority.

(d) A review of the Reference Dose and Reference Concentration process

(e) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Antimony

(f) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Arsenic, inorganic

(g) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Beryllium and Compounds

(h) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Cadmium

(i) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Lead and compounds (inorganic)

(j) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Mercury, elemental

(k) US Environmental Protection Agency: Integrated Risk Information System: Selenium and Compounds

(l) Approved criteria for classifying hazardous substances [NOHSC: 1008 (1999)]

39. The meeting noted the agenda papers.

(m) India's application for placement of new entries regarding plastic coated cables scrap on Annex VIII and Annex IX

40. The third session of the Open Ended Working Group had adopted an amended version of India's application and agreed to forward it to COP 7 for adoption. The meeting noted that the application used the word “dangerous” where “hazardous” would be more appropriate. Members also asked that copies of the CSIRO report on PVC be provided for consideration at the next meeting.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group

41. Paul Greenfield reviewed the history of the Group's work. Issues arose largely as a result of industry asking questions or proposing to export or import particular wastes, and for reason the Group's work had always been very reactive. This process had, for example, underlain the order in which the group had generated and revised the guidance documents. At present, increasingly complex issues such as the export of ULABs, SPL and e-waste had come to dominate the Group's agenda. The Group should revise the ESM guidance paper, particularly now that more real-life examples were becoming available. The Group should find time, perhaps later in 2004, to review all of its work and outputs.

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

(a) Draft Regulation Impact Statement on revisions to Information Paper No 5: Guidance on Whether Wastes Containing Metals or Metal Compounds are Regulated Under the Hazardous Waste Act

42. The meeting, in view of the conclusions reached under item 5(c), recommended that the order of the draft RIS be reversed. That is, it should deal first of all with the proposal to regulate tellurium in the same way as selenium. Then it should consider the proposal to base leachate cut-off levels for cadmium, lead and mercury on ecotoxicity-based environmental criteria instead of drinking-water criteria. Finally it should deal with issues arising from the US EPA proposal on H11.

43. Members expressed reservations about basing values for tellurium on those for selenium. Chemicals could be very similar and close to each other in the Periodic Table, but could produce quite different toxicological effects. They also noted the importance of considering the proposal to reduce leachate cut-off levels in the context of its implications for industry. Sometimes a complete change in technology was necessary to achieve a lower level. It was also important to achieve national consistency.

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

Agenda Item 12. Other business

44. Geoff Thompson advised that the Secretariat was busy drafting the EPR and Basel paper for the joint TG and PRG meeting in June. The paper had moved away from the notion that there was a fundamental contradiction between the two concepts, and was looking at the factors that might be evaluated to determine whether an export, proposed as part of an EPR scheme, was consistent with obligations under Basel.

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) Thursday 17 June 2004
(b) Friday 18 June 2004 (joint meeting with the Policy Group)
(c) Friday 9 July 2004 (Melbourne) (if needed)
(d) Friday 30 July 2004