What the government is already doing
The Victorian Government is committed to reducing the risk of fires at waste and resource recovery facilities, including those accepting recyclable materials from kerbside collections, waste tyres and construction and demolition waste.
The Resource Recovery Facility Audit Taskforce, chaired by Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), has inspected many of the highest risk sites in Victoria. It will continue to visit and regulate waste and resource recovery facilities to lift safety standards and ultimately protect the Victorian community and environment.
Using its powers under the Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials), which took effect on 28 August 2018, the Taskforce focuses on safe onsite storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials and ensuring that appropriate emergency management planning arrangements are in place.
EPA’s Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials—guideline supports compliance with the policy.
What else has the government committed to?
Recent changes to international recycling markets have created challenges for Victoria’s recycling industry. The government is taking action to support Victoria’s recycling industry to build a safer and more resilient recycling industry and to ensure the security of municipal recycling.
The actions being undertaken are outlined in Managing fire risk at resource recovery facilities – Action Plan. They include reviewing the regulatory framework governing fire risk, encouraging industry leadership, considering opportunities in land use planning, and better sharing of information.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will work with EPA, Sustainability Victoria, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery groups, and fire service agencies to deliver these actions.
More broadly, the Victorian Government's waste and resource recovery program addresses some of the underlying supply and demand issues that lead to poor and unsafe management of recyclable and waste materials. Key components of the program include:
- The Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan, which provides a framework to maximise the diversion of materials from landfills for viable recovery.
- The Victorian Market Development Strategy for Recovered Resources, which aims to build the quality, reputation and demand for products made from recycled content.
- Collaboration with the Commonwealth Government on a range of national initiatives, including product stewardship schemes.
The Environment Protection Authority issued notices to SKM Recycling on 14 February 2019, due to fire risks from stockpiled material at their Coolaroo and Laverton North facilities. This means SKM cannot accept recyclable materials at those facilities, and that if alternative facilities are not available, recycling from some councils may be sent to landfill in the short-term. While this is unfortunate, the EPA is acting now to protect Victorians and our environment.
In addition, the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 provides for a new approach to environmental issues, focusing on preventing waste and pollution impacts rather than managing impacts after they have occurred. Find out more here.
Frequently asked questions
Combustible recyclable and waste materials are recyclable and waste materials that could create a fire hazard. Examples include paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, rubber, tyres, tyre-derived waste, textile, organic material, refuse-derived fuel, specified electronic waste, metal and other materials with combustible contaminants.
Stockpiling of waste and/or recyclable materials is the accumulation of one or more materials by a waste producer or a waste and resource recovery business. The main reasons stockpiling happens include:
- Temporary storage until enough material is accumulated to treat or dispose of it efficiently.
- Temporary storage while commodity prices are low, until the value of the recovered materials rises.
- Inappropriate and permanent waste disposal
To prevent dangerous stockpiles of waste from occurring, the EPA can:
- impose material storage limits though works approvals and licence conditions for sites managing prescribed industrial waste (hazardous waste)
- require financial assurance for storage of certain materials, to ensure the site can be cleaned-up if required
To address dangerous stockpiling, EPA can require the removal or better management of a dangerous waste stockpile through pollution abatement notices and clean up notices.
Other measures, such as fire prevention notices from the Country Fire Authority, Metropolitan Fire Brigade or local governments, require landholders to take steps to protect life and property from the threat of fire.
Sites in Victoria that store more than 40 tonnes or 5000 equivalent passenger units of whole tyres at any time:
- require works approvals from EPA before they are built or modified
- require a licence from the EPA to operate
- must take specific measures to reduce fire risk.
Waste tyre premises below the licensing threshold must comply with the Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials).
Page last updated: 18/02/19