Upton criticises NSW EPA over farm fertiliser scandal
The Daily Telegraph yesterday released a story revealing that successive NSW governments have spent the past 18 years spreading waste from household red bins across NSW farms, in a bid to reduce landfill and rejuvenate soil.
As part of the scheme, about 100,000 tonnes of waste a year collected in household bins — including dirty nappies, plastic, food scraps and glass — were sold by councils to independent waste businesses, who then sold it on to farmers.
But a recently released report from the NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA) found that the practice had the opposite effect to that intended, eroding soil quality and potentially exposing both livestock and humans to chemicals that are linked to cancer and infertility.
Published in April following seven years of research, the report was apparently in the EPA’s possession for six months before eventually being passed on to the NSW Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton on 24 September. As a result of the revelations, the government suspended the practice of using treated household waste as farm fertiliser just over a week ago.
Following up on the news today, The Daily Telegraph claimed that NSW Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton had asked the EPA to explain why she didn’t been briefed about the problem earlier. Their alleged response? “I thought you were too busy with estimates, Minister.”
“It is regrettable that the EPA delayed informing me, and the Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy has apologised for this oversight,” Upton told The Daily Telegraph. “It so happens the position is currently being advertised.”
Various waste industry associations have since expressed their disappointment with Upton’s response, as outlined in a joint media release issued today by the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA), the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA).
While acknowledging that the situation is far from ideal, the associations say industry is working constructively with the EPA on this matter and would like to see Upton also focus on getting on with the job of working with the EPA to ensure the long-term viability of the sector, rather than publicly blaming Levy when she had been in the role of CEO for less than six months.
The associations refer to a letter sent to Upton on 1 November, in which they express their concern over the revocation of the fertiliser scheme and propose various alternatives to ensure NSW has viable resource recovery options.
“Industry wants to see the Minister providing leadership and direction for, as well as working with our sector, rather than pointing fingers at her staff,” the statement concluded.
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