Calderwood asbestos scandal invites scrutiny of Bingo's record

Waste empire: The Calderwood asbestos scandal is one of several problems Bingo has in relation to compliance with environmental licensing.
Waste empire: The Calderwood asbestos scandal is one of several problems Bingo has in relation to compliance with environmental licensing.

The company blamed for the asbestos scandal at Calderwood is also facing court action over major alleged licence breaches at Minto, and was recently fined $15,000 for unlawful activities at Helensburgh.

And it has emerged that Bingo chairman Michael Coleman also leads environmental charity Planet Ark.

Bingo is being investigated after the Environment Protection Authority said it supplied 7,500 tonnes of aggregate contaminated with asbestos to work sites across the Illawarra. Of this, 3,300 tonnes was supplied to Lend Lease’s Calderwood project.

Work on that site’s Stage 2A has halted while Bingo subsidiary Wollongong Recycling is ordered to clean up the asbestos, with 500 home sites affected by delays.

On Thursday Bingo said it had not been given access to the site. But on Friday it said the clean-up had started and would take 10 days.

“Wollongong Recycling understands it was not the only provider of fill at the Calderwood site and is working with the relevant parties to determine the cause of the issue,” the company said.

“Despite this, the clean-up process has commenced and is being progressed as a matter of priority to ensure minimum disruption to the local residents.”

Meanwhile, the EPA has taken Bingo to the Land and Environment Court alleging it breached its limit of 30,000 tonnes at its Minto recycling plant this year and last.

“The EPA alleges that over 120,000 tonnes of waste has been brought on so far during this reporting year,” the authority said.

Last week Bingo’s Helensburgh Recycling business was fined $15,000 after inspectors saw asphalt unlawfully dumped at the Walker St site in August and September. The operation is licensed to accept organic waste including wood and soil.

In a statement Bingo said it wanted to increase its licence limit for Minto.

“Bingo declines to comment on the EPA court proceedings yet stresses that the Minto recycling facility plays an important role in taking waste from Sydney landfill, and has an application in place to increase tonnage given the demand for recycled waste services,” it said.

The company denied any conflict in relation to Mr Coleman’s chairmanship of Planet Ark and Bingo.

“Planet Ark is a non-for-profit organisation with the mutual goal of helping Bingo reach its goals in relation to sustainability,” Bingo’s spokesman said.

Mr Coleman is also a director of the Macquarie Group, which underwrote Bingo’s float on the stock market earlier this year.

In May this year Bingo bought the Helensburgh and Kembla Grange operations from the Blackwell family.

Bingo had previously admitted it had been trucking some recyclable materials to landfill on Queensland because it was cheaper.