What’s in your skip?

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On-site skips deal with two kinds of waste:

  • Construction and demolition waste; and

  • General waste (which means everything else)

But what happens to skip waste when bins are removed from a work site? Ardea Waste spoke with skip providers in the Perth metropolitan area and regionally to look at whether skips are the best way to deal with waste and what happens when they leave a work site.

Construction waste – Metro

Dwayne Rapley from Cleanaway says that at least 80 % of construction waste they collect in the metro area is recycled. Cleanaway take construction and demolition waste to third-party material recovery facilities around the city where the waste is sorted, and materials recovered. General waste not readily recycled is sent to landfill. Contamination problems occur primarily from organic materials such as food and green waste as well as hazardous waste streams like asbestos, tyres, and batteries.

In some cases, food and green waste in a skip will mean an additional fee, but that depends on which recovery facility is doing the sorting. Any skip with asbestos contamination will be sent directly to a landfill licensed to accept it, and the landfill levy will be charged for the entire skip. Asbestos contamination in a skip full of heavy materials will be expensive (the landfill levy is charged by the tonne).

A dedicated Asbestos waste skip is unlikely to incur levy charges. Waste asbestos products such as asbestos sheeting, fence panels or lagging are exempt from the landfill levy, but mixed materials are not exempt.

Jake Hickey from Instant Waste Management estimates that between 80 and 90 % of construction waste can be recovered at a range of Instant Waste recovery facilities and depots between Bunbury and the Northwest, and higher than 95% recovery rates are possible in the metro area. Instant Waste Management’s facilities are licensed to receive more than 1.8 million tonnes of construction waste per year and process around one third of all construction waste in Western Australia. Approximately 65% of this waste (by weight) is concrete, bricks, and sand.

Other than choosing the right waste provider, Jake says that better on-site skip placement to avoid windblown waste is another good way to make sure you are doing the right thing with your waste as local governments issue fines for messy waste stockpiles.

General waste – Metro

Some recycling is possible for general waste skips in the metro area depending on where the skip is processed. All waste in the metro area attracts a landfill levy charge of $70 per tonne (before transport and gate fees), so unless your skip provider is separating heavy construction items, you may be paying more for tipping costs than you need to.

Construction waste/general waste – Regions

Skip providers we spoke to in regional areas separate some of the more obvious waste streams like metals and wood; the rest is disposed of in a landfill. The level of service changes between providers; some are expanding their separation services to increase recovery (such as Hastie Waste in Bunbury) while others are taking all skip waste to landfill. Regional businesses using skips will need to ask each provider about their waste recovery practices if you are looking for good waste outcomes.

Get smarter with your general waste:

•    Front-lift general waste bins are a good value option for lightweight general waste on-site but be sure to size them correctly. Every time the bin is emptied, you’ll pay for the size of bin you have, not the amount of waste in the bin. Use the smallest bin and the lowest number of collections you can get away with to make savings.

•    If you’re generating small amounts of general waste and lunch-room waste on site, consider taking your own bins when you set up then take them with you back to your depot for your regular collection. You’ll save on delivery, collection and regular bin collection charges but only if you are making these trips anyway. Be sure to check your obligations concerning controlled waste if you are transporting your own waste between sites.

Should Asbestos Waste be tracked in WA?

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Asbestos waste is hazardous to human health and considered hazardous waste.

Although there are estimates that up to a third of Australian houses contain some form of asbestos, there is an ongoing need to educate workers in the construction and demolition industries about the health impacts of this kind of waste.

In Australia, anyone removing more than 10 square meters of non-friable (or bonded) asbestos must be licensed under Work-Safe legislation. In WA the Department of Mining, Industry Regulation and Safety administer asbestos removal licenses.

While asbestos removal is a licensed activity, the transport of asbestos waste is not licensed in WA. Asbestos waste is listed as a controlled waste in WA but was exempted from the licensing and tracking provisions of the Controlled Waste Regulations in 2004.

Let’s start with a few basic facts about asbestos waste:

  • Any asbestos removed from land or buildings is classed as asbestos waste. There is no legal way to re-use asbestos so anytime it is taken from one place to another, it is transported as waste.

  • Asbestos cannot be re-used, recycled or treated in any way, so it must be taken to a landfill that is lawfully allowed to accept asbestos waste for disposal.

  • Asbestos waste does not attract the landfill levy in Western Australia. Landfill is the only legal disposal option for asbestos waste. Because it cannot be diverted from landfill, it does not attract the landfill levy.

  • Any waste generated in the Perth metropolitan area and disposed of in a landfill must pay the landfill levy of $70 per tonne. Asbestos waste is the exception, and metropolitan landfills can claim a levy rebate for this waste. Landfill operators should pass the rebate onto their customers.

  • However, landfill operators do charge a gate or tipping fee, and asbestos has special handling requirements so although there should not be a levy charge, there is a cost for asbestos disposal.

  • The landfill levy exemption does not apply to waste or soil that is contaminated with asbestos. So, while separated and wrapped asbestos sheeting does not attract the levy, asbestos contaminated material (that is, asbestos mixed with other waste) will. This measure is designed to stop people from deliberately mixing asbestos into other wastes to avoid the levy.

Although asbestos is exempt from the licensing and tracking requirements of the Controlled Waste Regulations, asbestos waste is listed as controlled waste and has special transportation requirements including wrapping and labeling. (Want to know more about transport requirements for asbestos? Find out here)

So, should asbestos be licensed and tracked like other controlled wastes? The WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation thinks it should.

Why? Because asbestos waste transport is tracked in every other Australian state and it’s impossible to know where it’s coming from and how much is going to landfill without tracking data.

The human health risks of poorly managed, transported and dumped asbestos are dangerous enough for this waste to be considered a hazardous waste. Australia has the second highest rate of mesothelioma in the world. More than 600 people died from mesothelioma in 2014 and up to 25,000 people are predicted to die from this disease in the next forty years. New cases of mesothelioma are overwhelmingly due to by workers sawing, sanding, drilling, grinding or handling asbestos-contaminated materials. Specific high-risk jobs include boiler workers, power plant workers, carpenters, railway workers and naval workers.

The impact of making asbestos the same as other controlled wastes is that a whole new group of people will need to be licensed as controlled waste carriers and every load of asbestos over 200 kg will need to be tracked (tracking fees range between $44 for an electronic tracking form and $57 for a paper form).

Like all waste transport and tracking costs, the additional fees are likely to be passed onto the person or business disposing of the asbestos, and this will make renovations, demolitions and rehabilitating contaminated land more expensive.

However, wouldn’t you want to know that asbestos was being disposed of in the safest possible way?

If you want to know more about asbestos waste or your controlled waste obligations, get in touch here.