A Periodic Newsletter from the National Advisory Body and the Scheduled Wastes Management Group
We have had over two years now of operating under new conditions - less frequent meetings, no management plan under development, but instead an emphasis on monitoring the implementation of the management plans we developed for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). On all three fronts there are encouraging developments, which are reported in this newsletter. I am especially pleased to note two developments flowing from the OCP management plan; the first being the national collection of rural chemicals (ChemCollect) to which all Australian governments have now committed themselves, and the subsequent ChemClear scheme which will enable holders of unused, unwanted agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals to return them free of charge.
ChemClear is a joint initiative involving Avcare, the Veterinary Manufacturers and Distributors Association (VMDA), and the National Farmers Federation (NFF), for the regular collection of deregistered chemicals which are otherwise unreturnable. The related drum return program, drumMUSTER, is providing a means of disposing of unwanted non-returnable chemical containers. drumMUSTER is the product of an agreement between Avcare, VMDA, NFF and Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).
As part of the work on the OCPs, we have commissioned a report on the occurrence of these substances in the Australian environment. The full report, and an abridged version, will be soon available on Environment Australia's website or from the Scheduled Wastes Secretariat (see page 12 for contact details).
The national protocol under which we operate provides for distribution to the NAB of information about proposals to treat Scheduled Wastes, and ensures that NAB members' views are received by regulatory authorities. Thus we learned about the ADI proposal to treat wastes which had been recovered from the Sydney Olympics site, and about new treatment technologies for diluted PCB solutions held by electricity generators and suppliers. The Community Participation and Review Committee for the HCB Waste Management Plan meets to discuss progress being made by Orica towards the destruction of the HCB wastes stored at Botany, and keeps us informed of developments there. Trial quantities have been treated by two technologies (Ecologic hydrogenation and Geomelt vitrification) and it is expected that Orica will shortly be in a position to select a treatment technology as they are obliged to do under the HCB management plan.
The development of management plans for specific categories of hazardous wastes, and the monitoring of the implementation of these plans, was a task we undertook for the national council for of environment ministers (ANZECC), beginning in 1994. The evident success of this process has attracted the attention of the Victorian Government's Hazardous Waste Consultative Committee, whose main tasks are to provide advice on reduction of the quantities of hazardous waste simply going to landfill and on siting of landfills. As a member of the Victorian committee I have, of course, had something to do with this, but we have always felt that the Scheduled Wastes process had wider applicability. It was notable that the 1998 review of Commonwealth expenditure on the program judged it to be highly effective and 'a model for dealing with difficult public issues where the solutions are more social or political than technical or scientific'.
Over the past year I have made several presentations at meetings and workshops organised under the United Nations Environment Programme on Australia's approach to managing hazardous chemical waste materials such as PCBs and unused pesticides. By not building a high temperature incinerator and by not exporting these wastes for destruction elsewhere we have fostered the growth of alternative technologies. Both the consultative methods of policy development and the operations of the alternative technologies have attracted international interest. As negotiations draw to a conclusion over the formation of an international treaty aimed at elimination of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), this work on Scheduled Wastes - most of which are POPs in the proposed Convention (see page TBA) - will stand Australia in good stead.
In the year ahead we will continue to monitor PCB and HCB destruction, will contribute to reviews of those two Management Plans, and watch with interest the national implementation of ChemCollect. Although the Management Group and Advisory Body meet infrequently, we have an active electronic bulletin board and many of our members are involved in other national and state programs related to the Scheduled Wastes work of which they keep us informed.
Congratulations are in order for Peter Brotherton on the completion and publication of the booklet On schedule eventually: A case study of problem solving through effective community consultation. I'm sure many people will benefit from reading this history of community consultation on the treatment of scheduled waste. An article on the booklet has been included in this issue.
Professor Ian Rae
In Australia, very few marine mammals have been analysed for residues of persistent organic pollutants, chemicals which are of concern because of their potential to persist in the environment. Learning that the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (Tas P&WS) was holding blubber samples taken from eleven marine mammals, Environment Australia commissioned the Tas P&WS to arrange for analysis of the samples. All were tested for contamination by a variety of persistent pollutants including OCPs, dioxins, PCBs and brominated diphenyls. The samples were taken from deceased marine mammals recovered by the Tas P&WS. Each of the dolphins, whales and seals tested had either been stranded on the shore, or drowned in commercial fish farm nets.
Due to a process known as biomagnification, animals high in the food chain, such as dolphins, whales and seals, can be exposed to high concentrations of organochlorines. These chemicals move up through the food chain, increasing their concentrations each time contaminated prey is eaten. Once the contamination reaches the top of the food chain the level of toxins can be many times greater than that in the surrounding environment. These toxins are lipophilic, and thus accumulate in the fatty tissue of marine mammals. In marine mammals, for example, PCB levels can be ten times higher in blubber than in the muscle or other tissues. Marine mammals also have a limited capacity to metabolise chemicals such as organochlorines in comparison to terrestrial mammals. Testing for these chemicals in marine mammal blubber therefore provides some indication of the presence of these chemicals exist in the marine environment.
The samples were obtained from the following mammals:
The fin whale is found throughout the deep waters of the Southern Hemisphere to about 60°S in summer, and further north in winter. The long finned pilot whale is distributed in both hemispheres, occurring in colder waters in the Southern Hemisphere as far as 67°S. It is generally found in deep oceanic waters. The species of bottlenose dolphin used in this study is commonly found in pelagic waters to about 55°S. It is unclear where the Andrew's beaked whale resides, but stranding records indicate that the species probably inhabits the deep waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Gray's beaked whale is found in circumpolar waters in the Southern Hemisphere, south of 25°S. The leopard seal resides on and around the pack ice in the Southern Ocean, regularly venturing as far north as southeastern Australia and New Zealand. It is a regular visitor to the waters off Tasmania.
Continued testing of marine mammals for POPs should continue. The information gained through this process is crucial to understanding the persistence, behaviour and effects of these chemicals as well as the relationship between contaminant concentrations and the biological effects in marine mammals.
Initial results for OCPs and PCBs indicate that organic contaminant levels in marine ecosystems appear to be stabilising, and in some instances decreasing in comparison to similar tests carried out on marine mammals in the 1970s -1980s. These results are also slightly lower compared to tests on marine mammals in other parts of the world. However, there was a slight increase in the presence of Dieldrin, which warrants further investigation.
Organochlorines are well characterised as having immunotoxic effects on laboratory animals; however proof that these chemicals have an adverse effect on marine mammals is limited. In recent years the occurrence of large-scale die-offs in marine mammals due to disease has caused a great deal of concern. Post mortem testing of these mammals has revealed high levels of organochlorine contaminants in their blubber and organ tissues. The effects of organochlorines on the reproduction of marine mammals have been recorded through experiments with captive mammals in breeding colonies. High levels of organochlorines or mixtures of organochlorines in mammals such as seals can lead to preimplantation disorders, spontaneous abortions, or premature pupping. There is substantial information regarding the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals during gestation, lactation and adulthood in some wildlife, domestic animals and laboratory animals. The full effects on marine mammals have not yet been established; however, it can be assumed that contamination by these chemicals will result in similar consequences.
Due to the extensive contamination of some organochlorines (for example PCBs, OCPs) in the Northern Hemisphere, some agencies (for example the Food and Environmental Agency, Faroe Islands) have recommended that consumption of cetacean blubber be avoided completely by women until they are past child bearing age; also, that consumption of meat be kept to a minimum; and that Pilot Whale liver and kidneys should not be eaten at all.
Haynes, D, J Muller and M McLachlan. (1998) Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins and Dibenzofurans in Great Barrier Reef (Australia) dugongs (Dugong dugon). (Chemosphere, Vol: 38, Issue: 2, pp. 255-262) Jan 1999
The Organochlorine Pesticides Waste Management Plan is now available through the Environment Australia website at www.environment.gov.au/industry/chemicals/swm/ocps/safe.html or from the Scheduled Wastes Secretariat. The development of this plan began in July 1996 with a national call for submissions through mailing lists and advertising. Between November 1996 and March 1997 thirty forums were held across Australia where a draft management plan became the basis for public consultation. These consultations combined with input from the National Advisory Body (NAB) and the Scheduled Wastes Management Group (SWMG) led to the development of a draft final management plan which was then discussed at ten mainly rural workshops during July and August 1997. These workshops encouraged participants to consider proposals for a National Collection, Storage and Destruction Scheme, which had wider objectives than those of the OCP Waste Management Plan. With the help of the OCP Consultation Panel, NAB and SWMG the final plan was then developed.
Although this plan was approved by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) in 1997, it was not released until a means for implementation was developed. ChemCollect, also reported on in this issue, provides that means.
Like the HCB and PCB Plans, the OCP Waste Management Plan is based on a risk assessment of environmental and human health effects as well as social and economic impacts. It offers information regarding specific threshold concentrations, threshold quantities and notifiable quantities of chemicals. The plan indicates the date of 2003 for the complete implementation of the plan, which includes the objective for cessation of the generation, and use of the of articles containing, scheduled waste, and for the disposal of scheduled waste. Consideration is also given of the principles defined in the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE).
Progress reports on the OCP Waste Management Plan will be provided to the public each year and posted to everyone on our mailing list. An independent review of the plan's adequacy, scope, monitoring programs, cost/benefit and effectiveness is due to be carried out in 2003. All results and reports will be available to the public. The report on the public involvement program for the development of the plan was published and distributed to those on the OCP mailing list in 1998.
In July 1999 ANZECC approved a revision to section 9.17 of the PCB Management Plan. The revised section 9.17 now reads "Non-porous solid items may be reused or recycled if the surface PCB residue is less than 1 milligram per square metre of surface area." The earlier version of the Plan had a standard of 10mg/m² for surface contamination.
The revised version of the PCB Management Plan is available through the Environment Australia website at www.environment.gov.au/industry/chemicals/swm/pcbs/biphenyls.html or from the Scheduled Wastes Secretariat.
Funds have been allocated to carry out a review of the PCB Plan by March 2001. At the NAB meeting held on 12 July 2000 it was agreed to form a steering committee which will develop a proposal to be put to ANZECC by October 2000.
Orica's (formerly ICI Australia) 1999 annual report was tabled at the Community Communication and Review Committee (CPRC) meeting held on 17 August 1999. The CPRC was established in accordance with the Hexachloronbenzene Waste Management Plan and requirements of this plan include an annual report from Orica on progress made in the management and destruction of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) waste.
The report describes Orica's progress towards the destruction of scheduled HCB waste from 1 June 1998 to 11 July 1999. It also describes how the requirements of the site licence for the management of stored wastes have been met. Progress towards destruction of the waste is close to the timeline specified in the HCB Waste Management Plan.
There are two main types of HCB waste stored at Orica's Botany site - crystalline HCB concentrate and contaminated sand and coal ash. These two types of material require different treatments and the report deals with them separately. The major section of the report deals with Orica's evaluation of the technologies available for the destruction of stored waste and the treatability tests program.
Orica's requirement is to find and implement a technology that can satisfy the requirements of the Waste Management Plan. Technologies need to be assessed in terms of meeting the WMP requirements, including the timelines.
It is stated in the report that it is not an attempt at adopting a universal approach to assessing all possible technologies for treating various types of scheduled waste; rather Orica is looking to select the appropriate technical solution for each type of HCB waste stored at the site.
Two technologies have been trialed by Orica in the past few months: Eco Logic's hydrogenation and Geomelt's vitrification. Orica believes that these are the two most promising treatments and are analysing results of the trials prior to selecting their preferred technology. Until the preferred technology is selected, the NAB has agreed to defer a review of the HCB plan.
The proposed National Collection, Storage and Destruction Scheme (NCSDS), otherwise known as ChemCollect, was agreed to by the ANZECC on 2 July 1999. ChemCollect is a one-off government scheme for the collection and disposal of unwanted organochlorine pesticides. These chemicals, if left on farms, would pose a risk to human health and the environment. ChemCollect will ensure that these excisting unwanted agricultural and veterinary chemicals are collected from rural areas and destroyed. While OCPs are the focus of the program, governments accept that a wider range of unwanted agricultural and veterinary chemicals will be collected.
ChemCollect is a nationally co ordinated program that will be implemented separately by each state and the Northern Territory to meet regional needs. The ACT has already carried out its own collection scheme for OCPs. The scheme will begin in most jurisdictions by mid 2000 and will be completed by late 2002.
ChemCollect is a free service to primary producers, who are being encouraged to take full advantage of this one-off collection and disposal scheme.
Total funding for the program will be approximately $27 million, with the Commonwealth matching the contribution of each jurisdiction on a dollar for dollar basis.
Further information on ChemCollect can be found through Environment Australia's website at www.environment.gov.au/industry/chemicals/swm/index.html, freecall 1800 657 945, fax (02) 6250 7554 or E-mail: email@example.com
To ensure that stocks do not build up again after the cessation of ChemCollect, the agriculture industry has agreed to institute ChemClear - an ongoing program for regular collections of farm chemicals which are otherwise non-returnable. ChemClear is a joint initiative involving Avcare (the National Association for Crop Protection and Animal Health), the Veterinary Manufacturers and Distributors Association (VMDA) and the National Farmers' Federation (NFF). The program is an example of industry's increasing recognition of its 'cradle to grave' stewardship of its products.
ChemCollect and ChemClear are complemented by the agricultural and veterinary chemical Industry Waste Reduction Scheme (IWRS), which has two objectives:
The drumMUSTER program is a national program for the collection and recycling of empty, cleaned crop protection and animal health chemical containers. It has been developed through consultations between local governments and industry as part of the Industry Waste Reduction Scheme to address the safe disposal of cleaned chemical containers. It is a joint environmental program being undertaken by Avcare, the NFF, the VMDA, and the Australian Local Government Association.
DrumMUSTER operates through funding from a levy on chemicals sold in non-returnable containers. These containers are specifically targeted by drumMUSTER, ensuring a defined route for their disposal that is socially, economically and environmentally acceptable. The non-returnable containers are identified by a label or sticker (see Figure 1), and drumMUSTER collection centres are set up to operate on specific collection days.
The first drumMUSTER collection took place in Gunnedah during May 1999 with around 9 tonnes of drums collected - 2/3 plastic and 1/3 metal. Of the 5700 drums collected only 110 were rejected, as they had not been adequately rinsed. Only empty containers that have been flushed, pressure, or triple rinsed can be returned to the collection centre.
By August 2000, 159 councils out of 296 priority councils targeted for the collections (or 54%), had signed agreements to operate drumMUSTER in their area. It is hoped further agreements will be established. In the first twelve months of the program, an estimated 427,000 containers have been returned.
The aim of the Industry Waste Reduction Scheme is to reduce the weight of chemical container packaging by 32%, and the weight of chemical container waste going to landfill by 68%. To achieve this, the scheme has set targets to recover 66% of non-returnable containers, and to replace 50% of the non-returnable containers with recyclable or returnable materials.
For more information please contact drumMUSTER on (02) 6230 6712 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: www.drummuster.com.au
On schedule eventually: A case study of problem solving through effective community consultation is a handbook describing the history of public involvement in scheduled waste management in Australia. It outlines the successes, failures, and lessons learned from almost twenty years of public consultation on scheduled waste issues. The handbook has been written with future projects and community consultation programs in mind.
This booklet illustrates a 'common sense' approach to achieving community consultation success.
On Schedule Eventually takes the scheduled waste issue and uses the experience to inform anyone interested in community consultation of the pitfalls and implications of such a program. It takes the reader through initial steps such as the importance of seeking advice from the stakeholders on the perceived importance of the key issues. It is suggested that `those involved look back on past experiences - some public consultation issues can be highly controversial and it is of great benefit to see what has gone on before in order to build on those experiences. Structure is a key issue - rules and protocols need to be clearly laid and accepted by all parties. Correct budgeting and allocation of funds are also critical to success. The scheduled waste program spent a large portion of funding on analysis of technical issues which was useful for scientific reference, yet meant very little to the general public.
The booklet also contains the National Protocol for Community Consultation on Scheduled Wastes, produced by the NAB and the SWMG. The protocol lists the aims and principles and also outlines the sharing of responsibilities by the NAB and SWMG in the community consultation and participation process.
This is not a lengthy advice manual on how to run public involvement programs and community consultations. It is a booklet containing key features and lessons; other organisations may find it very useful should they embark on such a program.
The consultation handbook is available in hard copy from the Scheduled Wastes Secretariat and will soon be available on the Environment Australia website.
This brochure, which has been produced by the SWMG, is primarily about the storage, transport and disposal of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). The main focus is placed on OCPs but much of the advice given can apply to other rural chemicals.
Most of the persistent OCPs are no longer registered for use and must not be discarded into the environment. This booklet explains correct handling procedures in order to prevent exposure to both the handler and the environment. Information is provided on protective clothing, first aid, storage, labels, transport, collection and disposal of pesticides. Copies can be obtained from the Scheduled Wastes Secretariat or from Environment Australia's website at www.environment.gov.au/industry/chemicals/swm/ocps/safe.pdf
In 1998, UNEP commenced negotiations for an international convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The decision to take this action was based on international concerns regarding the ability of POPs to persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food chain and be transported long distances from their point of origin.
Four negotiating sessions have now taken place and the fifth and final set of negotiations will be held in South Africa in early December 2000. Agreement must be reached at that meeting on measures to eliminate or reduce twelve POPs (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, PCBs, toxaphene, dioxins and furans) as well as on the science-based criteria and procedures for identifying future candidate POPs. Once the text has been finalised, a Diplomatic Conference will be held (probably in May 2001) to conclude the negotiations formally and provide the first opportunity for governments to sign the Convention.
The fourth negotiating session made progress but there are still some contentious issues to be settled, including the mechanisms for financial assistance to developing countries for capacity building, the control measures to reduce or eliminate by-product releases and whether the treaty will include general exemptions or not. It is hoped that intersessional discussions will bring countries closer to consensus in the lead up to the fifth negotiating session.
The Environment Australia POPs related consultancy report on dioxin emissions from incinerators in Australia has been completed and published. The companion report on dioxins emissions from metals production and processing is currently being prepared. It will report on relevant technologies but has only been able to identify limited data holdings in Australia (soon to be available on the Environment Australia website).Key Scheduled Waste Publications
Printed copies of the above documents can be obtained by calling the Scheduled Waste Secretariat on FREECALL 1800 657 945.
Professor Ian Rae
03 9397 3794
Dr Harry Schaap
Electricity Supply Association of Australia
03 9670 1014
Environment Management Industry Association of Australia
08 9388 6180
Waste Management Association of Australia
02 9976 5411
Avcare (National Association for Crop Protection and Animal Health)
02 6230 6399
Dr Peter Brotherton
Australian Conservation Foundation
03 9528 1957
Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association
03 9282 1000
Minerals Council of Australia and Business Council of Australia
03 9609 2655
Dr Yossi Berger
Australian Council of Trade Unions
03 9329 8733
Australian Local Government Association
02 6281 1211
Nature Conservation Council of NSW
02 6288 5881
03 9347 5728
02 9263 0346
National Farmers Federation
02 6029 5243
ACT: David Power
02 6207 5311
Commonwealth: Peter Burnett
02 62500 270
NSW: Mark Gorta
Environment Protection Authority
02 9995 5800
NT: Brett Struck
Department of Lands, Planning and Environment
08 8924 4137
Queensland: Faiz Khan
Department of Environment and Heritage
07 3227 7349
SA: Geoff Sclare
Environment Protection Authority
08 8204 2033
Tasmania: Patrick Deprez
Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
03 6233 6313
Victoria: Bruce Dawson
Environment Protection Authority
03 9695 2555
WA: Jim Malcolm
Department of Environmental Protection
08 9476 7402
Current staffing in the Secretariat is as follows:
c/- Environment Australia
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: 1800 657 945
FAX: 02 6250 7554
email : email@example.com
Published by: Environment Australia, Department of Environment and Heritage.
The views expressed in this document are not necessarily those of Environment Australia