Waste should ideally be reduced or avoided at the point of generation. Where generation of waste cannot be avoided, opportunities for reuse and recycling should be diligently pursued. Where none of the above are feasible, the final destiny of waste is usually disposal in a landfill.
Waste is currently being disposed of in approximately 20 approved landfills around Tasmania. Landfills that receive 100 tonnes or more of waste per annum are classed as level 2 'waste depots' under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994. The environmental impacts of level 2 waste depots must be assessed and regulated by the EPA Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE). The regulatory authority for smaller landfills is the local Council.
In the past, "tips" as they were then known, were available within a relatively short distance of most homes, and the State had more than 150 disposal sites. In the 1990's the EPA Division and Councils began to rationalise the number of landfills and promote the establishment and operation of larger regional landfills. The idea behind this transformation was to provide economies of scale to support construction and operation of landfills in accordance with best practice environmental management standards. In addition to this, a smaller number of sites allows more efficient regulation by the authorities.
With the increasingly stringent environmental expectations and financial constraints of meeting best practice, many smaller waste depots were unable to fulfil their obligations and have closed.
The challenge for the private operators and local councils who manage landfills is to meet the requirements of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994, the Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Waste Management) Regulations 2000 and the Public Health Act 1997 while offering convenient disposal facilities for households, commerce and industry. These Acts and the Regulations can be accessed via the
Tasmanian Legislation web site: www.thelaw.tas.gov.au (use the search facility on the legislation home page to locate the information required).
Particular challenges at all waste depots include the management of hazardous waste, protection of groundwater resources and the management of off-site effects (including leachate, odour, vermin and visual impacts). There are also the challenges of optimising the use of space within each landfill and rehabilitating landfills after their use as a disposal site has ceased.
New Best Practice Environmental Standards for Landfills
The Department has developed new best practice environmental standards for landfills in Tasmania. These standards are documented in the Landfill Sustainability Guide 2004 which is available for download below.
The Guide was developed over a period of time which included various opportunities for local government (the principal operators of landfills in Tasmania) and other interested bodies to provide input. The Guide draws upon standards developed by the Victorian Environment Protection Authority.
The Guide provides information to industry, local government and the community on acceptable standards for the siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills. In addition to providing acceptable standards, the Guide also offers recommendations on possible means of achieving those standards.
While the Guide itself is not legally binding, it will form the basis for reviews of permit conditions and assessments of new landfill proposals from the time of its release. Subject to negotiation with the regulatory authority, existing landfills may be granted up to five years to come into full compliance with the Landfill Sustainability Guide.
Innovation is encouraged, providing that it has a sound basis in science. Landfill operators therefore have the option to develop a case to justify deviations from the contents of the Guide (subject to approval). Essentially, landfills must be designed and operated so that pollution of the surrounding environment is prevented.
The Landfill Sustainability Guide 2004
The Landfill Sustainability Guide 2004 introduces new best practice environmental management standards for Tasmanian landfills. Information included in the download document includes landfill siting and planning, design, operation, rehabilitation and after-care.