As noted in Chapter 2, approximately 22 megatonnes of waste (excluding
fly ash) were deposited in landfill in 2014–15. Across the three waste streams,
about 49 per cent of municipal solid waste went to landfill; 36 per cent
of commercial and industrial waste (excluding fly ash); and the same amount of
construction and demolition waste were also disposed of in landfill. Landfill
therefore remains significant to waste management in Australia.
This chapter canvasses the evidence received relating to the
accreditation and management of landfills. Issues examined include:
the need for appropriate and effective landfill standards;
infrastructure planning, such as the identification of suitable
sites for waste infrastructure and the implications of urban development for
the operation of existing waste and resource recovery facilities; and
the application of full cost accounting to waste facilities.
Evidence received regarding the extent of illegal landfilling and
dumping is also examined in this chapter.
Accreditation and management of landfills
This section discusses the accreditation and management of landfills.
In particular, several submitters advocated for full cost accounting to be
applied to all landfills, and for the application of risk-based and universally
enforced landfill standards. Submitters also argued for an increase in state
and territory environment protection authority (EPA) oversight of landfills to
ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
Environment agencies and EPAs in state and territory jurisdictions have
established policies and regulatory requirements for the sustainable management
of waste, and landfill performance.
There are significant differences between jurisdictions in the way that
waste is classified and the classes of landfill that are permitted. Waste
classification schemes range from two categories used in Queensland, to seven
categories used in Western Australia. Similarly, landfill classification
schemes vary from a single classification used in South Australia, to five
categories used in Western Australia. Despite the differences in
classification, the main classes of waste and landfill types are: putrescible
waste, non-putrescible waste, inert waste, and hazardous waste.
Several submissions provided the committee with an overview of the ways
in which landfills are regulated in each state and territory. The following
paragraphs outline the regulatory frameworks in Western Australia, Tasmania,
South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
In Western Australia, the Department of Water and Environmental
Regulation (DWER) regulates emissions and discharge from 'prescribed premises',
including landfills, under Part V, Division 3 of the Environmental
Protection Act 1986 (WA).
The Government of Western Australia submitted that DWER is currently
developing legislative reforms relating to waste management, including changes
to landfill regulation. The submission explained that after analysing the
current legislative framework, DWER has identified opportunities to improve the
waste levy framework and the environmental protection regime as it applies to
waste generation, storage and disposal. The Government of Western Australia
stated that 'in developing reform proposals, DWER considered the waste
management approaches of other jurisdictions'.
DWER is also developing amendments to prescribed landfill categories
under Schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection Regulations 1987 (WA). These
amendments would mean that 'clean (raw, natural) fill and uncontaminated fill
that meets environmental and health standards can be used for development,
without the requirement for a licence or attracting a levy'.
The South Australian Government submitted that the South Australian EPA
'is responsible for regulating the receipt, treatment, storage and disposal of
waste in accordance with the Objects of the Environment Protection Act 1993'
In South Australia, all waste and recycling facilities are required to
be licensed under the Environment Protection Act 1993 (SA) (EP Act) and
the potential environmental impacts of licensed facilities are managed by the
SA EPA through site-specific licence conditions. The South Australian
Government stated that the SA EPA uses a risk-based approach to applying
licence conditions relevant to the type of facility, its location, its scale,
and its intensity.
When considering development applications and licence or licence renewal
applications, the SA EPA must take into account:
the Objects of the EP Act;
the State's Waste Strategy;
the waste management objective of the Environment Protection
(Waste to Resources) Policy 2010 (SA); and
the EPA Guidelines for Environmental Management of Landfill
Facilities (Municipal Solid Waste and Commercial and Industrial General Waste)
2007 (SA EPA Landfill Guidelines).
The SA EPA Landfill Guidelines provide guidance and management
requirements for landfill based on the capacity and site conditions (e.g.
proximity to water) of the proposed landfill. The South Australian Government
submitted that since the introduction of the Guidelines in 2007, landfill
management practices around the state have been enhanced, with some waste
management operators choosing to close small, older landfills and instead
utilise well-managed regional facilities to satisfy environmental standards.
The South Australian Government also submitted that the SA EPA is
currently reviewing the SA EPA Landfill Guidelines to ensure that they continue
to promote contemporary landfill management practices.
The Tasmanian Government submitted that, under the Environmental
Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (Tas), Tasmanian landfills
receiving more than 100 tonnes of waste (excluding clean fill) per annum are
Level 2 activities. The Tasmanian EPA is responsible for the environmental
assessment and regulation of Level 2 activities.
The Landfill Sustainability Guide 2004 is Tasmanian's current
environmental guideline for landfills, with conditions of operation generally
reflecting the contents of the Guide. The Tasmanian Government noted that
Tasmania has a variety of landfills including older unlined landfills which are
approaching end of life. There are also several landfills which are connected
to sewers for the disposal of excess leachate.
The Tasmanian Government noted that due to the state's highly dispersed
population, a number of small scale landfills remain in operation in remote
areas such as on King Island and Flinders Island. It also submitted that the
state's first secure landfill site is due to open in the near future for the
receipt of waste. The Tasmanian Government stated that this site is 'expected
to reduce reliance on interstate disposal facilities for wastes that exceed the
disposal criteria that apply to putrescible landfills'.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government submitted that
landfills in the ACT require an Environmental Authorisation from the EPA and a
Waste Facility Licence from the Waste Manager (a public servant appointed under
the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Act 2016 (ACT)).
The ACT only has one putrescible landfill facility, which is operated by
a private contractor engaged by the ACT Government. The ACT Government
submitted that ACT's landfill cells are built and operated to best practice
regulatory standards. Further, since 2016 the ACT's putrescible landfill cells
have been built consistent with the Victorian Landfill Best Practice
Environmental Management (BEPM).
Harmonisation of minimum landfill
The National Waste Report noted the view of the Australian Landfill
Owners Association (ALOA) that 'major landfill practices have improved
significantly over the past twenty years and now are at world's best practice'.
ALOA went on to state:
This is evidenced by most sites embracing composite liners,
leachate extraction and disposal capability, landfill gas combustion and
responsible long term rehabilitation and after use. Unfortunately, many smaller
regional landfills are not at this standard and more needs to be done to close
the poorer quality sites and provide local waste transfer facilities.
The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) noted that
individual states and territories manage the approval and accreditation of
waste and resource recovery sites through their respective planning departments
and EPAs. The WMAA submitted that there are gaps in the coordination of
these departments, both within jurisdictions and across the country, which has
resulted in each state having their own unique regulations and guidelines. The WMAA
Although all States have
common objectives, each is on its own journey and this results in inconsistent
timing in implementation of regulatory programs and guidance (often a number of
years out of step). These differences result in different levels of performance
from state to state...
Submitters argued that landfill standards should be best-practice,
risk-based and nationally harmonised. For example, The National Waste and
Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) expressed its support for Victoria's Best
Practice Environment Management (BEPM) for landfills established by the
Victorian EPA. The NWRIC described the BEPM as 'the nation's best standard' and
submitted that 'all landfill standards should be nationally harmonised.
MRA Consulting Group submitted that all large landfills present
environmental risks, and whilst these risks can be mitigated through
management, 'they still cause environmental impacts'. As such, MRA Consulting
Group recommended that 'all landfills should have, as a minimum requirement:
lining, capping, leachate management and gas capture', although it noted that 'smaller
landfills may not generate enough gas to warrant its collection'.
The Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA)
highlighted that there are differing landfill standards between New South Wales
and Queensland. It submitted that 'acceptable landfill practices and approvals
in QLD wouldn't meet regulatory requirements in NSW'.
Mr Tony Khoury, Executive Director, WCRA, submitted that the differences in
standards between New South Wales and Queensland have influenced the movement
of waste from New South Wales to Queensland. Mr Khoury stated:
We drive past our own open-cut mines [in NSW], which our
regulators and our legislators won't allow to be turned into landfill, to go to
the South-East Queensland open-cut mines. The regulators are really out of
whack with their regulations.
Similarly, Mr Max Spedding, Chief Executive Officer, NWRIC, told the
committee that the requirements for landfill and material recovery in
Queensland are 'not as sophisticated and enforced' as they are in New South
Wales. Mr Spedding stated:
The landfill standards in New
South Wales are more rigorous than the standards as applied in Queensland. So
landfill prices in Queensland are lower, and they're lower because there's old
open-cut coalmines in the city and Ipswich—45 million cubic metres or 35
million cubic metres; they're very large—and, because the cost of the void is
extremely low, the landfill costs in Queensland are much lower than they are in
Full cost accounting
Full cost accounting in waste management is a systematic approach to
identifying, calculating, and reporting the actual costs associated with waste
management. It takes into account the up-front costs of investment and
implementation of waste management services, daily operating costs, and
back-end costs including end-of-life and aftercare requirements.
MRA Consulting Group submitted that because landfills generate landfill
gas and leachate for decades after closure, the environmental risks associated
with closed landfills remain high. It stated that engineering to protect the
environment degrades over time, and development also often encroaches on former
landfill sites. MRA Consulting Group submitted that:
There have been cases of insufficient money set aside during the operation of landfills to
meet post-closure obligations for capping, monitoring and gas capture.
Similarly, the public is often required to
cover the cost of environmental impacts from
closed and "orphaned"
The NWRIC submitted that 'all landfills should apply full cost
accounting' including 'landfill lining, gas capture, leachate treatment, a
weighbridge, provision for closure and capping, asset replacement and
Submitters noted that 'many local governments do not apply full cost accounting
for landfills, instead push costs onto future generations'.
Similarly, the WMAA submitted that 'it is critical for the receiving
facility to be designed and operated to best practice standards, and that
appropriate attention is given to ensuring the facility does not create
unfunded liabilities in the future'.
SUEZ recommended that all waste facilities, regardless of size and type,
should be licenced and required to apply full cost accounting. Further, all
regulations should be applied uniformly to both public and privately owned
facilities. SUEZ stated that this would 'improve the overall standards of
landfill operations and ensure an even playing field between industry
participants'. SUEZ explained that in some jurisdictions, local government
facilities are not required to provide financial assurance which is generally
used to ensure that the costs associated with rehabilitating waste management
facilities do not fall on local communities.
It was also noted that insufficient provisioning for long-term landfill
management enables some landfills to unfairly compete against resource recovery
infrastructure and other better-provisioned landfills.
The WMAA also raised concern that landfill operators have reported 'unnecessary
regulatory scrutiny of well managed facilities while rogue operators are not
challenged because of a lack of resources to satisfy evidentiary requirements'.
The WMAA stated that these 'rogue operators' undermine the standards followed
by 'diligent and honest operators'. As such, the WMAA argued it is important
for regulators to remove rogue operators from the sector to prevent the
creation of sites where rehabilitation costs are not recoverable from waste
generators and polluters. The WMAA stated that such sites 'create a legacy of
future continuing contamination'.
The committee received evidence arguing that improvements to
infrastructure planning are required to ensure that waste disposal processes
and landfills are managed appropriately. Local Government New South Wales
(LGNSW) argued that while waste services are listed as an essential service
under the Essential Services Act 1988 (NSW), the state's future waste
infrastructure needs are not being adequately planned or funded. It submitted
Following the sale of the NSW Government-owned business known
as WSN Environmental Solutions in 2010, waste infrastructure has been developed
in an open market responding to financial opportunity rather than need. As a result, the state's waste infrastructure is
being delivered in an ad hoc manner.
Similarly, Ms Gayle Sloan, Chief Executive Officer, WMAA, told the
committee that planning documents fail to discuss issues such as the
'generation of waste, waste movement, and truck movements'. Ms Sloan
highlighted that the waste and recycling industry is:
...very determined to be front of mind in planning be that your
infrastructure planning or even just how you approve your DA [Development
Application] and where you put your bin rooms. We know the challenges of people
not being able to manage their waste disposal.
Mr Tony Khoury, WCRA, also highlighted the need for new landfill
facilities and the importance of leadership from the New South Wales Government
on the issue. Mr Khoury noted that with the closure of the Eastern Creek
landfill, New South Wales only has two key putrescible landfill sites at Lucas
Heights and Woodlawn. Mr Khoury commented that the management of urban
planning and waste facilities was 'fairly and squarely a New South Wales
Mr Khoury stated that local councils are:
...not capable of acting in the best interests of the overall
New South Wales waste management industry. They'll always say, "Not in my
backyard" when it comes to a development.
LGNSW also submitted that Sydney's waste infrastructure is placed under
pressure with waste facilities being located further away from waste sources
due to high land prices and the lack of availability of suitable sites. It highlighted
that 'a significant portion of residential waste is currently being
disposed of/processed in Woodlawn, approximately 300km for its source'. LGNSW
This is becoming an increasing
problem as Sydney's population density increases and property prices
rise. In most cases, it is no longer viable for the waste industry to provide
infrastructure where it is most needed.
Another issue is the need for buffer zones that prevent development in
close proximity to existing infrastructure. Ms Sloan stated that the WMAA
advocates 'very strongly' for such buffer zones to ensure that new
residential properties are not built too close to existing waste management facilities.
For example, Ms Sloan noted that development has occurred near where established
facilities in Western Sydney are located—accordingly 'it is very
challenging to operate a facility' in those areas because residents who move in
will be concerned about issues such as smell and noise.
The WMAA submitted that:
Existing landfills are in fact strategic essential
infrastructure, and given the challenges in gaining approval for landfill
construction, it is important that these facilities are protected from
encroachment, as well as planning for the co-location and siting of new
Similarly, Mr Tony Khoury, WCRA, stated that 'encroachment', or
residential development on the boundaries of existing facilities, has led to
facilities closing. To demonstrate, Mr Khoury highlighted the closure
of Onesteel's site in Chipping Norton:
Onesteel was a major metal recycler in Chipping Norton and
they had a massive buffer zone around them. Liverpool council then allowed
residential developments to virtually come right up to the boundary and, within
a matter of months, Onesteel were forced to close down their Chipping Norton
operation and relocated, at very considerable cost, to the Newcastle area.
Ms Sloan also highlighted the dangers associated with landfill and the
need for buffer zones to protect residents. Ms Sloan stated:
People put the wrong products in bins. I saw a phenomenal
amount of barbecue bottles and soda stream canisters, all of which are
combustible, put in the back of a vehicle. You move the blade and boom. That is
what happens. So we need buffer zones.
Ms Sloan told the committee that the WMAA has drafted a state
environmental planning policy specifically for waste, for discussion with the
New South Wales Government. Ms Sloan stated that New South Wales needs
'precincts which are clearly identified for waste facilities', which would
provide 'real certainty when...planning new transport infrastructure'. Ms Sloan
also noted the need for the 'further intensification of existing waste processes'
and the prevention of the repurposing of closed waste facilities. Ms Sloan
So it is about having waste precincts and being able to have
further intensification of existing waste processes. For example, with the
closure of Belrose in the northern beaches, we should be looking at repurposing
that not for mountain bike climbing or other things but for existing waste
facilities, because there is a knowledge, it's known, that that is what that
precinct is. So we do absolutely need state government to work with us and
identify the need for appropriate waste and resource recovery facilities within
the metropolitan area.
Mr John Carse, Regional Waste Management Coordinator, Northern Sydney
Regional Organisation of Councils (NSROC), also told the committee that the
NSROC has been advocating for waste to be considered as a planning issue at the
state level. Mr Carse stated that NSROC is of the view that the New South
Wales Department of Planning and Environment, and the New South Wales EPA
should be examining what waste facilities are required, particularly as
industrial areas are being redeveloped into residential precincts.
Mr Carse noted that this type of redevelopment results in industry being
moved 'elsewhere' but there is nowhere else for waste facilities to go. Mr
What appears to be happening is that a proposal will come in
to say, 'Let's make it medium density. We need more population, so let's
convert areas. Let's make Green Square into a nice green environment,' without
allowing for the fact that industrial areas are being stopped. Industry is
being moved elsewhere and there's not, really, anywhere 'elsewhere' to put it.
We would certainly like to see more work by, presumably, the Department of
Planning and Environment, as well as the EPA, looking at what waste facilities
are needed. It may be landfills but it may also be AWTs [Alternative Waste
Technologies] or processing plants. They may not be able to be effectively
placed on high-quality Sydney land, but they need to serve that district. You
need to create the sort of buffer zones that we have talked about earlier, as
did earlier witnesses.
The City of Gold Coast submitted that the Australian, state and
territory governments should provide assistance to protect waste facilities from
encroachment through the introduction of planning controls.
Illegal landfilling and dumping
This section discusses the evidence received on the extent of illegal
landfilling and illegal dumping (other than the evidence relating to the
avoidance of landfill levies, which is discussed in Chapter 4).
Overview of illegal landfill and
In general terms, illegal dumping is the unauthorised discharge or
abandonment of waste. Such actions are an offence under state and territory
The Australian Sustainable Business Group (ASBG) submitted that there
are three different kinds of illegal landfilling and dumping types. These are
Illegal dumping on publicly accessible land, such as parks and
Illegal dumping on private land (both government and privately
held) where access is limited—this includes industrial land, residential land
and land owned and managed by government but with restricted non-public access.
Illegal landfilling at waste facilities or sites—this includes waste
being dumped which does not meet the acceptance criteria imposed by either
regulation or the site owner/operator's conditions.
The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) described illegal
dumping as a 'function of laziness and ignorance, economic (aversion to paying
the landfill fees) and availability of open space to deposit material'. It
explained that illegal dumping is an 'opportunistic activity that may involve
residential households or small construction businesses'. The VWMA submitted that
where illegal landfilling is 'systemic and deliberate', for example by opening
an illegal tip or sorting facility, it is more likely to attract the attention
of state authorities. The VWMA noted that it can be difficult to identify the
perpetrators of illegal landfilling, or to prove ownership of waste. The VWMA
also highlighted that 'people don't like paying for the true costs of disposal
and/or not be totally across the fate of their waste when they pay for it to be
Submissions from state and local governments provided an overview of the
regulatory arrangements in place to investigate and address illegal dumping.
For example, the South Australian Government advised that the SA EPA leads
investigations into commercial-level and hazardous illegal dumping, including
the operation of illegal waste depots,
whereas local councils have responsibility for smaller scale, non-hazardous
illegal dumping under both the Local Government Act 1999 (SA)
and the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 (SA) (LNLC Act).
Where sufficient evidence is available, the SA EPA is able to manage
incidents through environment protection orders, clean-up orders, expiations
and prosecution. In 2016, a new legal precedent was set with a jail sentence
being imposed on an offender. The SA EPA also provides councils with support to
manage illegal dumping through the sharing of expertise, the provision of
training and the use of SA EPA's surveillance cameras.
Evidence of illegal landfilling in individual
The committee was advised that there is uncertainty about the overall
extent of illegal dumping. The ASBG explained that illegal landfilling is
'poorly measured across Australia', with figures available tending to focus on
the costs accrued by local councils in conducting clean-up and enforcement
activities associated with illegal dumping. It also submitted that reports
on illegal dumping produced in New South Wales only considered illegal dumping
on public land despite there being evidence of considerable dumping occurring
on private land.
Nevertheless, the evidence provided regarding illegal landfilling in a
variety of jurisdictions, including South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern
Territory and local councils in New South Wales and Victoria, provides some
insight into the extent of the problem.
GCS Consulting submitted that a 2015 research report on illegal dumping
released by the NSW EPA calculated that a conservative estimate of illegal
dumping expenditure by local government would be in the order of $20–30 million
per year. In addition, in 2013 $58 million over five years was
announced as part of a NSW EPA program for illegal dumping initiatives.
The Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils submitted that nine local
councils and the NSW EPA joined together in establishing the Hunter-Central
Coast Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) Squad in 2014. Since then, the RID Squad
has investigated 147 reports of illegal landfilling on private land. Of these
incidents, 70 per cent involved construction and demolition waste, and 20
per cent involved household waste, including skip bin waste.
The Hobsons Bay City Council told the committee that it collects
approximately 1000 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish per year, mostly in
industrial locations. It explained that the collection of construction and
demolition waste from skip bin companies is poorly controlled in Victoria. The
Council explained that 'companies tend to establish a site, collect and accept
the wastes abandon the site, leaving the waste behind to become the landholder's or a council issue'.
The South Australian Government advised that, in 2016–17:
the SA EPA received 346 reports of illegal dumping; and
the SA EPA issued environment protection orders redirecting in
excess of 40,000 tonnes of illegally deposited waste into the legitimate waste
The Northern Territory Government submitted that it is difficult to
quantify the volumes of material disposed of through illegal operations,
however, it noted that anecdotal evidence from clean-up campaigns indicates
there are high volumes of waste illegally dumped in the Territory. The Northern
Territory Government highlighted that derelict abandoned cars are a major
problem, largely due to market pricing and the cost of disposal to consumers. It
also submitted that Central Australian councils experienced an increase in the
illegal dumping of building and demolition materials following the
implementation of charges on contractors for the disposal of material and waste
facilities. The Northern Territory Government advised that 'education and
communication strategies with contractors and government agencies funding such
house programs have seen these practices reduced'.
The Tasmanian Government submitted that 'there is little quantitative
data on the extent of illegal landfilling in Tasmania, and only a handful of
isolated cases of illegal activity are reported to EPA Tasmania each year'.
Nevertheless, the Government expressed concern regarding reports of the illegal
burial of hazardous waste including industrial and farm chemicals, and
Views on the need to increase
efforts to address illegal dumping
Overall, submitters presented divergent views on whether illegal
landfilling and illegal dumping are significant problems—some governments advised
that these actions are not a major problem in their jurisdictions, while other
submitters indicated that they are ongoing challenges for councils and have
high associated clean up and enforcement costs.
Submissions from several state, territory and local governments advised
that they consider that illegal landfilling and illegal dumping are not a
significant issues in their jurisdictions. For example:
The South Australian Government is of the view that, in its
jurisdiction, 'there may be less concerning levels of inappropriate landfilling
than is alleged in some other states', which it attributed to the requirement
for the licensing of all landfills within the state.
The ACT Government advised that it 'is not aware of any illegal
landfilling occurring within the Territory'.
The Brisbane City Council submitted that it 'is not aware of any
significant illegal landfilling in the Brisbane local government area'.
As noted above, the Tasmanian Government advised that few reports
of illegal dumping are received by the EPA each year. Overall, with the
exception of incidents of hazardous waste illegally dumped, the Tasmanian
Government advised that illegal dumping is 'largely seen as an issue for local
The Local Government Association of Queensland stated that it 'has not
been advised of any significant systemic incidences of illegal landfilling' and
that it would be expected that such an issue would 'be escalated to the state
government for investigation and appropriate action'.
Other submitters, however, highlighted the challenges that illegal
landfilling and dumping presents. MRA Consulting submitted that illegal
landfilling is an ongoing issue 'ranging from isolated dumped loads of waste
through to entire fill operations run without approval'. It also highlighted
that 'illegal dumping undermines the integrity of the waste system in general'.
Councillor Linda Scott, President of the LGNSW, told the committee that
'councils continue to be the frontline for dumping' and that the LGNSW has been
particularly vocal regarding the illegal dumping of asbestos and other
dangerous materials. Councillor Scott advised that the illegal dumping of
asbestos is a 'very problematic issue for councils' and results in significant
clean-up costs. Councillor Scott stated:
Most local government areas are dealing with up to 100
instances of illegal dumping of asbestos per year and 11 per cent of councils
are spending more than $500,000 of public money a year on prevention,
monitoring and enforcement of asbestos dumping.
Local governments called for state governments to take further actions
to address the pressures local governments face in addressing illegal dumping. The Hunter
Joint Organisation of Councils submitted that continued support for the RID
Squad (see paragraph 3.53) would enable member councils to address the issue of
illegal landfill for the next four years. It added that a long-term commitment
from the New South Wales Government and the Australian Government would ensure
operation of the RID Squad program beyond 2021.
The Hobsons Bay City Council submitted that 'the availability of
sufficient staff to address illegal landfilling is a critical barrier for
Hobsons Bay'. Further, it noted that Council's power of entry is poor and the
Council must apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for
enforcement orders. The Hobsons Bay City Council suggested that a council's
power of entry provisions should be changed to match those of Victoria's EPA.
Several submitters also expressed support for funding for education,
enforcement and clean-up activities to be provided to local governments through
the hypothecation of waste levies.
Others made suggestions such as encouraging the use of drones by EPAs to
identify 'hot spots for illegal dumping'.
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