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Note to media speech to Open Steel Sand seminar

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, π . ι t o r The Arts, Sport, The Environment and T e r n u s

R o s K elly



Please find'attached Mrs Kelly's speech to the Steel Sand Group Industry Forum given,in Melbourne today.

At this Fonun, Mrs Kelly announced that the Government has asked the Bureau of Industry Economics, in consultation with the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency, to report to the government on impediments to the increased utilisation of slag - such as building and construction standards, industry

structure and so on. The report will also focus on the environmental benefits to be gained through conserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For further information contact:

Mr Garrie Hutchinson - Media Adviser 018 - 624 712 (06) 277 7640

12 August 1992 .


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Waste is not for wimps. ·

In some sections of the community there seems to be a feeling that the issue of waste is a little bit soft, a little bit wimpy - perhaps not quite green enough for true-blue environmentalists.

Well I don't think they would say that to an audience of steel men and women.

Waste, in all its aspects, is a fundamental problem .in the environment - that is the natural environment as well as the urban and industrial environment.

We only have to look at the continuing problems of algal bloom in Australia's inland waterway - at sewage disposal, at toxic and hazardous waste, at depletion of the ozone layer, at the greenhouse effect - at the state of Australian air, land and water.

That's what waste is about.

It's not a soft option in the environment - it is a fundamental problem which for too long we have simply ignored - essentially all we have done is breathe it out, flush it down the drain, throw it away or pile it up. , · · . · ■ ■ ■ ' ' '

But as we know here industrial waste is not just a problem, but an opportunity. For too long we have neglected the old saying that "there's brass in muck." For too long we have regarded waste as simply something we have had to get rid of, rather than something

we can make use of. :

Today's forum is a tremendous example of the change in all our attitudes - industry, particularly the steel and steel sand industry - and government.

The Steel Sand Group has estimated that 1,275,000 tonnes of blast and steel furnace slag out of the total of over 3.1 million tonnes produced per year have simply been sent to landfill.

What you will see today is that much of that so-called waste is a valuable resource. Recycling this slag is probably the single biggest recycling project in Australia today.

Like you the government has only started to get involved in waste and garbage in the past couple of years. But we are in it up to our necks now.

I regard the Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy launched by the Prime Minister in June as a substantial achievement by this government in the environment - one that will be even more substantial when we achieve the aim of reducing waste going to landfill by 50% by 2000, and achieve the recycling rates for paper, glass, plastic and the rest as well.

Australia presently disposes of more than 14 million tonnes of solid domestic, commercial and industrial waste in landfill each year - which is. one of the highest per capita rates in the world.

In addition to discharge of wastewater to sewers - in itself a large problem of waste and litter - more than 200,000 tonnes of liquid and solid industrial wastes are taken to special landfills and treatment facilities around Australia.

Thousands of tonnes of hazardous and toxic waste have until this year either been stored or exported for destruction in foreign high temperature incinerators. I am happy to say that after the report of the Independent Committee on Intractable Waste last month, and

consequent on Australia's signature of the Basel Convention - that except under very exceptional circumstances, for small quantities of exceptional waste, we will be dealing with these hazardous and toxic wastes in Australia- creating new industries to do the job.

They are no longer intractable wastes - they are treatable, once you decide, as we have done, on horses for courses, - on particular treatments for particular wastes.


While the Strategy looks at ways of avoiding the production of waste through cleaner production, through the use of different feedstocks and new processes- it is probably misleading to think of slag in this way.

Slag is a useful by-product of the steel making process, and if we though of it in that way, as a resource not was waste, perhaps we would be further down the track towards its full utilisation.

The Strategy recognises current problems for particular industries and sets out the barriers to reducing waste and to recycling it. .

The Strategy recognises current problems, identifies existing barriers to reducing waste and lists the opportunities and benefits which a national approach to waste minimisation will bring.

While most people these days are aware of the possibilities for recycling paper and glass, for instance, very little attention has until recently been paid to other industries which contribute a substantial amount to the waste problem. One of these is the building and construction industry.

Your area of interest, producing cement for construction from a steel industry waste, is one which links a manufacturing waste with the use by the construction industry of recycled materials.

As part of the input to development of the Strategy, I held a number of round tables with specific industry sectors (and invited also conservation groups and some State and Territory representatives) to discuss the major environmental problems „ . facing the industry and what could be done about them. ,

The building and construction sector was one of these, looking particularly at building and demolition wastes, and the use of recycled materials by the construction industry.

There have been a number of interesting and potentially very useful breakthroughs in technology in Australia of using general waste as well as building and demolition waste, in the construction industry. Unfortunately, there have been a number of impediments

also to the use of these technologies. ·


The Strategy outlines two specific activities to be undertaken by the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency to encourage the minimisation of building and demolition waste:

- introducing into existing reviews of building regulations and standards the need to incorporate the criteria for the use of recycled materials where functionally suitable and to adopt waste minimisation and recycling criteria in construction and demolition projects, i.e. to generate less waste and more recyclable materials;

- ensure procedures for environmental impact processes cover the source of construction materials and methods for disposal, recycling or re-use.

The Commonwealth Government recognises that there have been impediments to the commercialisation of new Australian "Technologies, and is taking steps to address these. Some of the steps include:

- development of national environment quality standards and measures, through the ΝΕΡΑ;

- setting up bilateral environment agreements with countries, e.g. Singapore, Indonesia, Germany, etc;

- Commonwealth Government currently looking into the problems of commercialising new technologies in the waste management industry;

- looking at setting up an international clearing house on cleaner production technologies in Australia;

- taking a number of industry trade missions to countries - especially in the Asia Pacific region - of export potential to Australia.

There has been a gradual, but now noticeable change in the attitude of industry to the environment as it has come to appreciate that the environment is not simply about trees and World Heritage and scientific disputation about climate change.

/ . ■ . · 5 ' . ■

The environment is also about business opportunities - as everyone in this room appreciates. That is why we are here. The environment is not a problem - it is an opportunity.

It is not about totting up the points scored or lost in negotiation s over the UNCED Climate Change and Biodiversity conventions. It is about looking at how business and jobs can be created by being environmentally responsible, by looking at regulations, standards and targets as opportunities for new business, for more efficiency- for saving and making money.

There are environmental benefits for the whole community-, as a by product of taking a positive view of the environment.

Take the greenhouse effect. I have been saying for years now, that we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by a significant amount simply by being more efficient in the use of energy and resources. .

One example you probably all know is this: for every tonne of recycled granulated slag used instead of producing cement, you could reduce carbon dioxide emission by half a tonne.

In the slag - or should I say the steel sand - business there are many other environmental benefits.

I have already mentioned the saving arising from not sending more than a million tonnes to landfill. It can replace other natural materials such as river bed gravels, limestone and hard rock quarry products.

There is another significant energy saving by recycling slag into its other uses - which I must say that the more I learn about what you can do with slag, the more enthusiastic I become about it.

Until recently steel sand - a much nicer name than slag - hasn't been high on my list of favourite substances. But it is now.

I now know it has terrific potential as a soil conditioner, in making asphalt, in road sealing, as a road pavement base, in making glass, and in making cement and concrete.

l am told slag produces cement with greater durability and strength, especially for marine environments where its resists chloride and sulphate attack.

It is all round better cement.

Four years ago the potential range of uses were highlighted by the Bureau of Industry Economics in its report on the Structure and Performance of the Australian Cement Industry. .

That report highlighted the underutilisation of slag as a resource in Australia when compared with other countries such as Japan and the United States.

I understand that we will hear from the Commission for the Future later today what little progress has been made.

Accordingly the Government has asked the Bureau of Industry Economics, in consultation with the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency, to report to the Government on impediments to the increased utilisation of slag - such as building and construction

standards, industry structure and so on. The report will also focus on the environmental benefits to be gained through conserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse emissions.

In conclusion.

We - industry, government and the community - are not going to get anywhere in terms of ecologically sustainable development unless we take advantage of environmental and business opportunities that are staring us in the face.

I know I don't need to tell this audience that your industry has such an opportunity. As I have said we will try and find out whether there is anything the Government can do to remove impediments to your success - that is one important aspect of the government's ongoing involvement in E S D .

We want the environmental benefits for Australia that an . increased use of steel sand instead of cement might bring - but in the end it is up to industry to make it happen. I am sure you will.