claire moffat

EPA stays fixed on regulation despite challenges

The NSW EPA has assured the waste and environment industries that it will continue to fulfil its responsibilities as the state’s primary environmental regulator while maintaining the health and safety of staff, communities, industry and other partners.

In reference to the evolving situation with COVID-19, the agency explained in a statement that this includes working to minimise any disruptions to its regulatory activities, offering the industry guidance if required, and asking for cooperation from industry and partners.

“Please be assured that the EPA will continue to be guided by the latest advice from NSW and Commonwealth health authorities and will consider the impact of that advice in the delivery of our regulatory functions,” the EPA said.

Business continuity plan

The EPA said that it has a business continuity plan in place which is being reviewed regularly in light of the most up-to-date advice, to enable us to meet our regulatory responsibilities. That includes planning to allow staff to work remotely where appropriate so that we maintain our compliance, enforcement and pollution response activities as best we can to prevent environmental and community harm.

That means that compliance with licence conditions and issue clean-up notices and prevention notices where necessary will continue to be required.

However, the EPA may consider requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

“As we continue to closely monitor the situation, we are providing on-going, up-to-date and appropriate communication with our employees, regulatory partners and government,” the statement said.

Expectations from the regulated community

As the country face the current unprecedented situation together, the NSW EPA has strongly recommended the implementation of a business continuity plan, if one is not already in place.

“That plan should take into account the updated advice being provided by NSW and Commonwealth health officials, including any sector-specific advice. Now is also the right time to check you have everything in place to enact your pollution incident response management plan,” it explained.

The EPA has asked all licensees to assist in managing risks during this period notifying it by email to info@epa.nsw.gov.au:

  1. If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your licence or licences under which you operate.
  2. If you need advice on business continuity preparedness for your operations.

The EPA stressed that this is not a legal obligation but, rather a request to assist the EPA and the NSW Government in managing the current situation in the public interest.

It explained that a business continuity plan would help meet responsibilities for any environmental impacts from activities because as licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities remain in place, associated obligations will also remain in place.

These include the priority responsibilities of maintaining and operating pollution control equipment, and storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately. The EPA said that it expected licensees in the waste industry to continue to maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, particularly around any predicted service disruptions. Licensees must continue to notify the NSW EPA of pollution incidents and other regulatory or compliance issues.

WMRR delivers COVID-19 clinical and related waste guidance  

The peak body for the management of clinical and related waste in Australia, the National Biohazard Waste Industry (BWI) committee has developed guidance to help hospitals, aged, and health care providers manage COVID-19 affected materials as well as those managing waste, both within and outside these facilities.

BWI is a division of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

In a statement to members and the media, BWI said they were seeking to offer general guidance to stakeholders. BWI recommends that organisations contact and work with their waste management providers if they have any specific questions or require further information.

Under AS 3816:2018 Management of Clinical and Related Wastes, clinical waste is defined as any waste that has the potential to cause injury, infection, or offence, arising but not limited to medical, dental, podiatry, health care services and so forth.

Current situation

“At this time, we are not aware of any evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of healthcare waste has resulted in the transmission of COVID‐19, nor is COVID‐19 regarded as a Category A infectious disease (World Health Organisation, 2020),” the statement said.

According to BWI, it also understands that the WHO and some Australian health officials have, in fact, declared that clinical waste from infected patients should be treated as normal clinical waste with no additional measures. It noted that this, however, may not be a uniform stance.

“In light of the dynamic and evolving nature of the COVID‐19 situation, along with the growing body of knowledge including the significant range of unknown characteristics, such as survival on surfaces, BWI said it was prudent to suggest the adoption of additional measures.

“As governments evaluate the transmissibility and severity of COVID‐19, these additional measures aim to offer a degree of precaution and assistance to staff who will be responsible for the management of higher than normal, and potentially more hazardous clinical waste volumes generated during this time,” the statement said.

Additional measures  

BWI said that it also hoped that additional measures would afford a greater level of protection to healthcare facility staff and waste handlers, both within and external to the facility, responsible for the management of clinical waste.

It is the recommendation of BWI that these proposed measures should be adopted alongside current PPE and other relevant practices. At a minimum, individuals handling clinical waste should wear appropriate PPE (boots, aprons, long‐sleeved gowns, thick gloves, masks, and goggles) and perform proper hand hygiene after removal of wastes.

BWI would like to reiterate the importance of all facilities continuing to work and engage with their waste management providers on these recommended additional measures:

  • Implementation of double bagging of waste from patients confirmed as infected with COVID‐19. This can most easily be achieved by first lining all clinical waste Mobile Garbage Bins (MGBs) with clinical waste bin liners. By placing infected waste into a primary clinical waste bag and tying this bag up prior to disposal in the lined MGB – the bag lining the MGB must also be tied up ‐ a significant increase in protection can be achieved
  • Bins or containers that have been used in isolation rooms or in close proximity to patients confirmed as infected with COVID‐19, the exterior surface should be wiped clean in accordance with WHO guidelines prior to collection
  • Discreet notification and identification of any bins carrying infected waste in a discreet manner, as clearly agreed upon with your waste management provider

BWI stated that there could be an understandable reluctance to overtly label bins containing COVID‐19 waste. Therefore, this could be as simple as the addition of a simple mark or sticker as clearly agreed and documented between the facility and your waste management provider.

Additional waste types and best practice

For soiled linen, towels and incontinence aids BWI stated that it is critical to conduct hand hygiene when there is suspected or direct contact with faeces (if hands are soiled, soap and water are preferred to alcohol‐based hand rub).

In all healthcare settings, including those with suspected or confirmed COVID‐19 cases, faeces must be treated as a biohazard and handled in accordance with the current Australian Standards.

Nappies and incontinence aids, if used, should be disposed of, as they would in all situations, as infectious waste. The WHO provides guidance on the minimum requirements for soiled linen and towels that these are to be disinfected for reprocessing. Single‐use materials should be treated as infectious waste.

Implementation of measures

BWI said that these needed to be implemented as soon as practicably possible. It said that the WHO guiding document Guidance laid out in this statement was adapted from the March 3, 2020 WHO guiding document, Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID‐19.

It also advised that the contents of the technical brief from the WHO is based on the information currently available for SARS‐CoV‐2 and the persistence of other viruses in the coronavirus family. It reflected input and advice from microbiologists and virologists, infection control experts, and those with practical knowledge about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and infection prevention and control (IPC) in emergencies and disease outbreaks.

WA community CDS grants close this week

Western Australian not-for-profit organisations, schools and community groups have until Friday, March 27 to apply for a grant of up to $2,000 to help them establish a donation or refund point for beverage containers.

The state government opened up the offering of a total of $200,000 in community grants on February 28. The aim is to support the introduction of Western Australia’s upcoming container deposit scheme, Containers for Change.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is administering the grants and specified that the funding can be used for infrastructure such as bins, cages, skips, security stands, fences, tippers, sorting equipment and trailers.

Priority will be given to applicants providing employment outcomes for people with disability, long-term unemployed people, and under-served remote and regional areas.

More information about the container deposit scheme community grants can be found at http://www.dwer.wa.gov.au/cds

WA environment minister Stephen Dawson said that the financial assistance would help communities, charities and not-for-profit organisations deliver donation or refund points, and assist in filling gaps in the refund point network in regional and remote areas.

“Containers for Change is all about giving people an incentive to recycle their drink containers, so they don’t end up littering our streets, communities and waterways.

“We know from other States where container deposit schemes have been introduced that the 10-cent refund for eligible containers creates great opportunities for the whole community – from jobs, to local fundraising, to environmental benefits,” he said.

Federal Government releases $100billion to save business

Minutes after the Reserve Bank lowered the cash rate by 0.25%, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this afternoon, said they were accessing up to $100billion to “get Australian’s across a bridge” during the COVID-19 crisis. The details of the spend are sketchy however, both leaders and then the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe then outlined the financial mechanics to sustain the economy.

This followed an initial stimulus package announced by the Federal government last week. The state governments have also released a series of stimulus packages in the last few days aimed at putting a financial floor under businesses to enable them to survive the impact of Covid-19. The Federal government released a significant package for business and organisations late last week and another is expected shortly.

These are the details of the first package:

Incentive for purchases more than $150K

  • Instant asset write-off for any machinery purchase made up to $150k
  • Asset can be new or used
  • No limit on number of assets
  • Only available until June 30, 2020

Incentive for purchases less than $150K

  • Accelerated depreciation deduction incentive
  • 50% immediate deduction followed by normal depreciation rules applied to the balance
  • Asset must be new
  • Also available for assets <$150k but purchased after June 30, 2020
  • Available until June 30, 2021

NSW to waive payroll tax

The NSW government has allocated $450million to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months. The should deliver immediate relief as these businesses would not have to pay the tax for the rest of this financial year.

The government has also bought forward the next round of payroll tax cuts effectively raising the threshold limit to $1million for the next financial year.

“The Government stands ready to do whatever it takes to keep people safe and ensure our economy withstands this storm,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

The Treasurer added that he will drawing on the state infrastructure as part of his plan to stimulate the economy, with more than $750 million will be spent on capital works and maintenance of public assets.

WA grants for business

In WA small to medium enterprises (SME’s)  with a payroll of between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. It’s anticipated that this will bolster 7,400 businesses in and cost the Government $114 million.

Changes to the payroll tax exemption threshold are also being brought forward, in an effort to support 11,000 businesses.

The threshold was previously lifted from $850,000 to $950,000, with an increase to $1 million scheduled for January 2021 but this will now happen earlier on July 1, 2020.

SME’s which pay less than $7.5 million in taxable wages each year can apply to defer their payroll tax payment to July 21, 2020.

The ACT government is prioritising support for small business owners, contractors and “gig” economy workers in the first tranche of a multi-stage stimulus package to help the territory weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said smaller infrastructure projects would also be fast-tracked in a bid to keep the economy moving amid the rapidly escalating global emergency.

Victorian business hotline

The Andrews Labor Government today launched a hotline for businesses dealing with the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses across the state can now access information on dealing with COVID-19 by calling the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15.

Operators calling the hotline will be able to get information about support services, including those available through Business Victoria, which offers mentoring to help operators develop business continuity and recovery plans.

The hotline will provide the latest information on the response to COVID-19 and how this affects businesses, including how to access financial support available through the national stimulus package.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is hurting Victorian businesses and an important way that we can help is by giving them access to the information they need to make key decisions. This dedicated hotline will help businesses of all sizes get the facts and connect them with support services so they can best weather this storm,” Andrews said.

Letter from Prime Creative Media CEO

As Australia’s largest B2B publisher we have been looking at how we can best support our many industries through the changing COVID-19 situation.

We are committed to keeping our industries connected and supporting our clients and readers through this challenging time.

We recognise that meeting in person will be limited in the months ahead. Major conferences and events have been postponed for the next six months, including some of our own. Many companies are discouraging face-to-face meetings, and organising for team members to work from home.

With the potential for companies and individuals to become isolated we recognise communication within the industry has never been more important. Fortunately, through our media brands we are in a position to facilitate the necessary lines of communication that must be kept open between staff, suppliers, and clients.

We are in a strong position to support our industries through our media platforms: magazines, e-newsletters and websites. To that end, using print and digital platforms to communicate with the market has never been more important.

Prime Creative Media is committed to continuing our frequent communications. Our regular newsletters, web sites, and printed magazines will continue to be produced on schedule, with our entire team prepared to work remotely as needed. With so many other businesses moving to remote workplaces, we are now offering complimentary home address delivery of our publications to ensure continuity of service to our existing subscribers. Additionally we will offer three-month complimentary subscriptions to anyone else in the industry who would like a subscription to stay informed.

The economic challenges we face with COVID-19 are significant, but temporary. At Prime Creative Media we are taking a long-term view to our business, marketing, and investments, and it has been encouraging to hear this week from many clients who share our mindset.

We look forward to supporting our industries through our communication platforms in the coming months, so that our economy can push through this challenging time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Warm regards,

John Murphy
CEO
Prime Creative Media

john.murphy@primecreative.com.au

NSW waste facility receives $66,496 grant for weighbridge

A weighbridge at the Waste 360 waste transfer station on Cosgrove Road, Strathfield will now be installed after the organisation received a grant of $66,496.

The grant has been awarded under the Weighbridge Fund, part of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative and will enable Waste 360 to collect valuable data that helps to provide more accurate information on the volumes of waste and recyclables generated in NSW and supports improved environmental performance across the state.

However, this grant has exhausted the Weighbridge Fund and the program is now closed, according to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

“This is the final round of funding under the Weighbridge Fund grants program which is part of the $48 million Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Fund, targeting household, business and industry waste,” EPA Executive Director Circular Economy and Resource Management Sanjay Sridher said.

More than 35 waste and recycling facilities have received over $2 million in grants under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative to support the installation of weighbridges.

Sridher said that this program has played an important role to support the modernisation of the waste sector in NSW.

According to Sridher, the program has enabled better data collection through the use of weighbridges at licensed facilities and improves understanding of the volumes of waste and recyclables and facilitates the collection and payment of the waste and environment levy.