What legislation governs waste management?

Waste management activities by councils are generally controlled by three main pieces of legislation:

The Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA) deals with pollution issues and under Section 20(a) requires councils to prevent or control pollution. Under Section 44 it allows councils to issue Environmental Protection Notices and to ensure new businesses or activities do not cause environmental harm.

Environmental harm is defined as 'any adverse effect on the environment.' EMPCA defines three levels of environmental harm:

  • environmental nuisance which carries a penalty up to $30,000
  • material environmental harm which carries a penalty up to $250,000 and 2 years prison
  • serious environmental harm which carries a penalty up to $1,000,000 and 4 years prison.

EMPCA also governs most of the State Government's activities in relation to waste management. The Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE) looks after waste and recycling and their web site has some very good information. {Govt Act}

The Local Government Act 1993 is the main piece of legislation that controls how councils operate and what functions and roles they must perform.

  • Section 20 details the functions and powers of councils.
  • Section 93(1)(d) allows councils to set a service rate for garbage removal, Sections 145 to 174 allow councils to make by-laws and set out the procedures for doing so.
  • Sections 199 to 204 allow councils to take action against a person that may be causing a 'nuisance'. This is defined as anything that is likely to cause danger or harm to the health, safety or welfare of anyone, or unreasonable or excessive levels of noise or pollution.

TheLitter Act 1973 authorises council officers to take action against persons found to be littering and describes actions that can be taken and penalties that may apply.

Detailed but easy to read information about environmental laws can be found in 'The Environmental Law Handbook - Your Practical Guide to Tasmania's Environmental Protection and Planning Laws' 2nd edition, produced by the Environmental Defenders Office (Tas) Inc. (EDO). It is available from most major bookstores or contact the EDO directly on Ph: 6223 2770, email: edotas@trump.net.au.