Footprint interviews Mike Ritchie on waste bureaucrat’s scapegoating

Republished from Footprint

Waste bureaucrat scapegoated, says consultant

Mike RitchieA Four Corners waste industry exposé highlighted legitimate and serious problems, but was grossly unfair to NSW senior bureaucrat Steve Beaman, according to a leading environmental consultant.

Director of MRA Consulting, Mike Ritchie, said the Four Corners investigation had identified an “appalling failure of public policy” in Queensland, where the former Newman government removed the $35/t waste levy.

The Newman government’s move led to an immediate 17% drop in the recycling rate from which the rate has never recovered and led to large amounts of NSW waste going to Queensland’s levy-free landfills, Ritchie told Footprint.

The Four Corners investigation had also underlined the need for greatly improved enforcement throughout Australia to tackle illegal dumping and rogue operators, he said.

Ritchie added that the NSW EPA was correct to refer to ICAC allegations in the program of corruption in the waste industry and alleged inaction by the regulator.

Beaman a reformist policy manager

But he said the ABC’s treatment of the NSW agency’s top waste official, executive director for waste and resource recovery Steve Beaman, was extremely unfair.”I think the way the ABC has dealt with Steve Beaman is appalling,” he said.

“He is one of, if not the most, reformist and proactive waste policy managers and directors in the country,” Ritchie said.

“The NSW EPA and the Department of Environment in NSW have been by far the most proactive in terms of driving recycling reform in Australia,” he said.

Ritchie noted that Beaman had personally developed the NSW proximity rule, which was designed to ensure waste was sent for disposal near the point of generation, partly to limit the transport of waste to levy-free Queensland landfills (see background here).

Furthermore, it was the NSW government, not Beaman, that decided not to proceed with court proceedings in which a Bingo Industries subsidiary had challenged the application of the proximity rule.

“So it is very unfair that Steve Beaman was in any way accused of having gone weak on the enforcement of the proximity rule,” Ritchie said.

Glass fines stockpiles a market development problem

Ritchie added that the Four Corners investigation had also given the wrong impression about glass fines stockpiling.

Very little glass was landfilled, as the stockpiles demonstrate, he said.

Ritchie said the best way to resolve the stockpiling problem was for governments to do much more to encourage the use of glass fines as a substitute for river sand in road base, asphalt and concrete.

The ABC and Four Corners did not respond to requests for comment.


This article was originally published by Footprint

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