EXCLUSIVE

A tyre collection business on Heath street in Blakehurst.

Too close: A tyre business next door to Mater Dei primary school. Photo: Kate Geraghty

The O'Farrell government is to slash the number of used tyres waste handlers can store and unleash a blitz against retailers in a two-pronged crackdown on the tyre industry.

Environment Minister Robyn Parker will tell an industry summit in Sydney on Wednesday that recyclers would be permitted to hold the equivalent of 500 passenger-car tyres, just one-tenth of the present limit requiring a licence.

The illegal and criminal nature of much of the tyre transport and storage sector has been a growing and serious problem for some time 

Jeff Angel

About 250 tyre retailers in the Sydney, Illawarra and Hunter regions will be inspected by the end of the year to ensure used tyres only go to legitimate operators.

Robyn Parker.

"Stockpiled waste tyres pose a fire risk and tyre fires emit toxic fumes harmful to our health and the environment": Environment Minister Robyn Parker. Photo: Ryan Osland

"Stockpiled waste tyres pose a fire risk and tyre fires emit toxic fumes harmful to our health and the environment," Ms Parker said. The lower threshold will force operators to "understand their responsibilities to manage their sites lawfully", she said.

The move follows serious fires at tyre dumps in NSW and other states that have caused dangerous smoke plumes and oil slicks.

NSW and Victoria have acted to curb the build-up of illegal tyre dumps. The focus is now shifting to the retail end of the market.

Retailers typically pay collectors to dispose of used tyres but only some of the large firms - such as Bridgestone and Bob Jane - keep track of where the waste ends up.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority is now demanding proof that retailers have sent their tyres to legitimate operators, the EPA's director of waste and resource recovery, Steve Beaman, said.

Offenders face hefty fines and imprisonment under new penalties approved in October.

"[Retailers] need to have documentation showing who they give [old tyres] to, when they give them, and how many," Mr Beaman said, adding that the third party was also checked ''to make sure those tyres have actually arrived".

The threshold reduction is also expected to address long-standing public concerns about exposure to waste tyres.

The Mater Dei Primary School in Blakehurst has for decades fought to have neighbouring Miranda Tyres relocated.

While Kogarah City Council records show that over the years Miranda Tyres has been forced to make modest changes - such as covering the tyres - the 5000-tyre limit has allowed them to continue operating.

"This is an opportunity for us to rectify some of these old sites," Mr Beaman said. Miranda would be given "a transition period" before coming directly under the EPA licensing system.

The government is required to hold public consultations about the changes. But Mr Beaman expects the lower tyre limit to be in place "by mid to late next year".

Jeff Angel, the director of the Total Environment Centre and convener of the Boomerang Alliance, which has led the campaign against illegal tyre dumps, welcomed the planned changes.

"The illegal and criminal nature of much of the tyre transport and storage sector has been a growing and serious problem for some time," Mr Angel said. "NSW is leading the way to a sustainable solution. We'd encourage other states to move as fast as possible to follow suit.''