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Asbestos waste levy to be eased to discourage illegal dumping

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Those delivering separated, bonded and wrapped asbestos waste of as much as 250 kilograms (a quarter of a tonne) to approved waste facilities won’t have to pay the landfill levy as part of a new asbestos strategy. There is no limit on the number of such visits.

Current levies amount to $143.60 a tonne for Sydney metropolitan sites and $82.70 for regional ones, the Environment Protection Authority said. No timetable has been set for the change.

The levy removal is part of a broader Asbestos Waste Strategy released on Monday. Some of the plan had been released a year ago, such as a doubling of penalties to $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals caught dumping illegally.

The strategy is aimed in part at disrupting unlawful business models by increasing the risk for bad operators that they will get caught, the EPA said.

Methods to be investigated include monitoring waste vehicles with GPS trackers and cancelling vehicle registration of those caught dumping illegally.

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Brian Robson, president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, welcomed the planned partial waiver of asbestos levies, adding that his group had been calling for the change for years.

“It won’t stop the illegal dumping but it will reduce the amount,” Mr Robson said. “It was cheaper to take it to Queensland to dump.”

To avoid the levy, people renovating homes would often break the asbestos panels and dump the material in wheelie bins to the “risk of themselves, their neighbours, the council workers and the tip operators”, he said.

Asbestos “is still killing about 700 Australians a year and that’s just from mesothelioma”, Mr Robson said, citing one of the four main diseases related to the material. The average period of diagnosis to death for mesothelioma is just 155 days, with no cure.

Jeff Angel, executive director of the Total Environment Centre, said “no one knows” if the illegal dumping of asbestos is getting worse. Still, the government was moving in the right direction.

“They appear to be throwing everything they can think of at it,” Mr Angel said. “So it will be crucial there are significant resources immediately devoted to implementation.”

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