Hazardous waste test 'inadequate'

Monday, 28 November, 2005

The standard classification test and techniques used to dispose of solid waste are inadequate for Australian conditions, a researcher from the University of New South Wales has claimed.

Dr Jason Scott of UNSW's Centre for Functional Nanomaterials in the School of Chemical and Industrial Engineering has been funded by the NSW Environmental Trust to examine the standard Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) used to classify wastes containing heavy metals.

TCLP was developed in the US in the early 1990s and is designed to mimic conditions found in municipal landfills in which putrescible and non-putrescible materials are disposed together.

Household waste contains a substantial amount of organics that can leach out harmful metals so the test is somewhat strict in determining how certain solid waste needs to be treated before it can be dumped.

But the practice in Australia is not to co-dispose. Applying a standard test in a situation where conditions differ can result in disposal measures being too severe in some cases - and not tough enough in others.

Dr Scott says the research team set out to find a test to replace the TCLP. But it found that a more diverse strategy is needed. "The results confirm the concern of the Environmental Trust that more study is needed on overall solid waste management," he said.

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