Compliance blitz, court case result in almost $500K in fines for illegal waste stockpiling

The operator illegally stockpiled more than 25,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste

About $300,000 in fines were issued to unlicensed operators as a result of Operation Sideo

The Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, as Queensland’s environmental regulator, is putting Queensland waste operators on notice after a prosecution of an unlicensed operator, and a compliance blitz on metal recyclers resulted in more than $400,000 worth of fines for carrying out unlawful activities that risk the safety of the community and the environment.

The department is continuing to crack down on unlawful waste operations across Queensland to tackle stockpile fires, land contamination, impacts on nearby waterways and nuisance due to dust and excessive noise.

Following an investigation and prosecution led by the environmental regulator, a Chinchilla-based waste operator has received a penalty of more than $133,000 for illegally stockpiling more than 25,000 tonnes of waste at a former quarry site.

Between May and September 2021, the operator received about 25,500 tonnes of construction and demolition waste including bricks, timber, metal sheeting and plastic. This is equivalent to more than 4000 skip bins of waste.

At no point during this time did the operator hold the necessary environmental authority (EA), which is an approval that allows the department to manage environmentally relevant activities, including waste disposal, to ensure the ongoing protection of the environment.

In August 2021, the department received a report that multiple trucks were dumping waste at an unlicensed site, which was confirmed during the execution of a search warrant at the site, carried out by compliance officers and investigators from the environmental regulator, along with officers from the Queensland Police Service (QPS).

As a result of these investigations, the environmental regulator charged the operator with one count of carrying out an environmentally relevant activity, not being the holder of, or acting under, an EA for the activity.

On 7 March 2024, the operator pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court and was fined $100,000 and ordered to pay $8,800.25 in investigation costs as well as $1,500 in legal costs.

The Court also ordered the operator to pay $26,376.40 for annual fees avoided during the offending period, by way of a monetary benefit order.

This result follows the highly successful joint compliance blitz Operation Sidero, which resulted in about $300,000 in fines for recyclers caught illegally stockpiling large amounts of scrap metal.

Between 27 and 28 February, compliance officers from the environmental regulator, the Office of Fair Trading, local government and the QPS investigated illegal scrap metal dismantling and stockpiling across southern and southeast Queensland.

As a result of the two-day operation, 25 fines were issued at the end of February ranging from $3,096 for individuals and $15,480 for companies. These included:

  • 13 fines for operators in Brisbane
  • 5 fines for operators in Moreton Bay
  • 2 fines for operators on the Gold Coast
  • 1 fine each for operators in Toowoomba, Ipswich and Gympie.

A total of 26 direction notices were issued to operators to cease all unlawful activity and apply for an EA. Several sites are still under investigation.

Southeast Compliance Executive Director, Brad Wirth, said unlicensed waste stockpiling posed a serious risk to the safety of the community and the environment.

“Without the appropriate licenses, we the regulators have no way of knowing how these operations are run on a day-to-day basis and if important steps are being taken to protect the environment and the community,” he said.

“We hope that these recent enforcement outcomes through both the court proceedings and Operation Sidero send a strong message to operators that if they don’t do the right thing, they can expect a significant penalty.”

/Public Release. View in full here.