Operation Tensile targets scrap metal operations

Issued: 3 Mar 2023

Operation Tensile involved DES, OFT and Queensland Police.

Operation Tensile involved DES, OFT and Queensland Police.

Twelve PINs were issued to operators who did not store scrap metal properly.

Twelve PINs were issued to operators who did not store scrap metal properly.

A two-day compliance operation targeting 32 metal recyclers across southeast Queensland will result in enforcement action being taken at over 21 unlicensed sites.

The multi-agency Operation Tensile involved compliance officers from the Department of Environment and Science (DES), the Office of Fair Trading and the Queensland Police Service.

Executive Director Compliance Brad Wirth said DES makes no apology for its compliance work, which creates an even playing field in the metal recycling industry and improves environmental outcomes through the responsible storage and disposal of scrap metal.

“Unlicensed scrap metal operations have the potential to undermine and undercut licenced operators who have obtained the correct authorities to operate,” Mr Wirth said.

“A business that has more than six tonnes of scrap metal for sorting and storage at any one time is required to have an Environmental Authority issued by DES.

“An Environmental Authority provides businesses with conditions they must comply with to manage environmental risks associated with their operations.

“Unlicensed scrap metal operators can potentially cause significant environmental harm and community nuisance through the release of contaminated water, increased fire risk and dust and noise nuisance impacts.

“Operation Tensile was a multi-phase, intelligence-led operation aimed at identifying and disrupting any unlawful behaviour that may pose a risk to the environment or the community.

“Through work across multiple agencies, we have also disrupted potential criminal activity in the scrap metal industry. I would like to thank the Office of Fair Trading and the Queensland Police Service for their assistance.”

DES Operation Tensile compliance action included:

  • 32 inspections
  • 21 Direction Notices
  • 12 Penalty Infringement Notices to be issued ranging from $2,875 for individuals to $14,275 for companies
  • Several sites still under investigation
  • OFT conducted 19 inspections, with nine businesses referred for further investigation
  • OFT will issue three compliance warnings

Commissioner for Fair Trading Victoria Thomson said the compliance operation formed a key part of the OFT’s role as regulator of the second-hand industry and helped ensure community expectations were met around the use of scrap metal.

"This is an important reminder that businesses operating within the scrap metal industry must be licensed as a second-hand dealer and aware of the legal obligations involved with dealing with these goods,” Ms Thomson said.

"The OFT will continue to educate and take appropriate enforcement action against unlicensed operators, and work with industry stakeholders who for the most part are doing the right thing."

Mr Wirth said DES has a dedicated team responsible for tackling unlicensed waste activities, and they are highly effective in delivering enforcement action and ensuring businesses obtain an environmental authority to operate lawfully and minimise risks to the environment.

“Queensland’s licensed scrap metal industry asked DES to investigate potential unlicensed operators in the southeast,” he said.

“Following at least four fires in scrap metal yards, and in response to the concerns of industry and the community, DES implemented Operation Tensile which is part of a methodical, six-month compliance blitz targeting licensed and unlicensed operators.

“As the environmental regulator, DES will take strong enforcement action to deter future offences, including formal warnings, PINs, court prosecutions and directing an operation to cease.”

Any member of the community or industry that is concerned about a poor performing or unlicensed waste facility is encouraged to contact the Department of Environment and Science Pollution Hotline on 1300 130 372 or by sending an email to pollutionhotline@des.qld.gov.au.

Find more information about second-hand dealing regulations in Queensland.

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