The HazWaste Fund (‘the Fund’) has come to an end. Launched in 2008, as a Victorian government initiative to limit pollution and waste, this scheme was designed to help reduce hazardous waste to landfill, or reclaim contaminated soil. Funding was provided by landfill levies collected from the disposal of hazardous waste and reinvested to provide positive net outcomes. Over the ten-year period of the Fund, $18 million was invested in private sector projects.
What is hazardous waste?
‘Prescribed industrial waste’ or ‘PIW’, hazardous waste involves anything dangerous to human health or the environment created as a by-product of manufacturing:
- waste oils/water, hydrocarbons/water mixtures, emulsions
- wastes from the production, formulation and use of resins, latex, plasticizers, glues/adhesives
- wastes resulting from surface treatment of metals and plastics
- residues arising from industrial waste disposal operations
- wastes which contain certain compounds such as copper, zinc, cadmium, mercury, lead and asbestos
contaminated soil; and
- clinical waste.
The rationale behind the HazWaste Fund
Since it poses a risk to human health and the environment PIW is something that all governments seek to control. In Victoria, this is largely achieved through enforcement of the Environment Protection Act 1970, along with the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009.
The bulk of these regulations relate to the management of PIW. They provide a framework for the transport, storage and disposal of hazardous waste, but provide no incentive – financial or otherwise – to minimise its production.
According to research both in Australia and overseas, reducing PIW is rarely a priority for businesses because:
- the health and environmental costs of reducing PIW are not priced in the market
- more effective practices are costly or likely to involve major change
- there is a lack of information about effective PIW-reduction strategies.
How the HazWaste Fund worked
The Fund was chiefly designed to attract and change the behavior of organisations that:
- generated PIW and disposed of it to landfill
- treated, recycled or reused PIW
- owned or were developing contaminated land.
The progress made by the HazWaste Fund projects
Many of the goals sought by the projects were designed to be effective on a long-term basis; and some of the others had no set end-point. The 98 projects funded fell into three basic categories:
Infrastructure & implementation (or ‘I&I’) 35 projects.
Research, development and demonstration (or ‘RDD’: 27 projects).
Knowledge and capacity-building (or ‘KCB’: 36 projects).
In terms of short-term PIW reductions, the Fund ultimately saw some 900,000 tonnes of hazardous waste get diverted from landfill over ten years – or at least get treated in ways that made them less hazardous.
Financially speaking, the major benefits enjoyed by Fund recipients were reductions in operating costs and the avoided cost of storage and landfill. Where the financial benefit of reduced operating costs was insufficient to offset the costs of implementing the projects, the benefit of avoiding landfill was approximately enough to offset it.
A cost-benefit analysis of the projects that have already reduced PIW suggests a reasonable chance that they delivered a small net economic benefit. Or in other words, a reasonable chance that the overall (market and non-market) benefits of the projects either equaled or slightly outweighed their costs.
Of all the applicants surveyed, the ones who completed their projects were asked to list any additional benefits they may have enjoyed as a result of them. Their answers included:
- enhanced organisational reputation
- developed more efficient processes and operations
- developed innovative technology
- improved organisational knowledge
- enhanced sales or new markets
- improved staff satisfaction.
The key statistics
As part of an evaluation of the Fund, a survey was conducted with Fund recipients. The full evaluation report is available on request. Please email email@example.com.
According to the survey, 71% of the projects would not have been undertaken at all were it not for the Fund. And while the remaining 29% all said that their projects would have gone ahead at some stage, the financial support of the Fund ensured they could proceed with a more effective focus on results.
These environmental outcomes would not have otherwise come about without the use of funds acquired through landfill levies. The Fund was an investment not just in Victoria’s present but in its future.