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NSW EPA’s new rules on recovered soil

The EPA is making it easier for the construction industry to reuse good quality excavated soil with new standards to increase the quality and value of up to 350,000 tonnes of soil recovered from construction and demolition works each year.

The new rules will be introduced from next year as part of changes to the Recovered Fines and Soils Orders and Exemptions and will provide regulatory certainty to the construction industry and its customers.

EPA executive director regulatory practice and environmental solutions, David Fowler, said the changes follow a compliance review by the EPA which found overall poor compliance by industry with the current rules and low-quality skip-bin residue waste.

“We recognise that soil is a valuable commodity in the NSW recycling market, and these rules cover how excavated building material and soil can be used once separated and processed,” Fowler said. “The people of NSW expect industry to have the health of the community and environment at the centre of its processes and operations, and so does the EPA. To improve standards, we have developed new rules to make it easier for the construction industry to reuse good quality soil excavated from construction activities and we consulted with industry stakeholders on these changes earlier this year. In the past few years, the EPA has increased penalties, tightened regulatory controls, and made changes across the waste, construction and demolition sectors, to keep the community and environment safe, and this is another step in that process.”

The proposed changes include:

  • revoking the “continuous process” recovered fines order and exemption for processed mixed construction and demolition waste,
  • revoking the current “batch process” recovered fines order and exemption for processed mixed construction and demolition waste,
  • reissuing the “batch process” recovered fines order and exemption to regulate the outputs from mixed construction and demolition waste processing, with tightened conditions to protect human health and the environment such as quality control and quality assurance requirements, and batch sampling and testing for a range of chemicals, including asbestos.
  • issuing a new Recovered Soil Order and Exemption that will detail how processed soil can be used for earthworks and engineering fill.

To assist businesses that cannot meet the new recovered fines rules, a 75 per cent concessional waste levy discount is available to use recovered fines, that comply with EPA specification, as daily cover at landfills. This is instead of using clean soil, which will help to divert higher value resources away from landfills.

The EPA will be releasing a new draft general batch process recovered fines and recovered soil order and exemption for consultation in early 2022, with the aim of implementing the new requirements in the first quarter of 2022.