Cleaning up a legacy stockpile

Tyrecycle’s Jim Fairweather explains the strategic planning required to clean up one of Australia’s largest tyre stockpiles in regional Victoria.

One of Australia’s largest tyre stockpiles, located within metres of homes and businesses in Victoria, was this year cleaned up by the Victorian Government.

The government at the end of last year appointed Tyrecycle, one of the country’s most experienced tyre recyclers, for the clean-up operation, with the site now deemed safe.

Over 44 operational days, Tyrecycle removed a 5200 tonne stockpile, equivalent to 500,000 tyres, at Numurkah near Shepparton, which posed an extreme fire, health and safety risk to local residents. The total transformation of the site saw 334 truckloads of tyre waste removed over this period.

The company worked closely with Moira Shire Council along with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which used its powers to enter the site late last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

The EPA introduced tighter controls for waste tyre storage in 2015, prompting a significant reduction in the number of known stockpiles across Victoria, with Numurkah being one of the legacy sites.

The Environment Protection Act 1970 requires scheduled premises to be licensed, with requirements for onsite firefighting resources, limits on the size of the piles and minimum distances between and around them. Stockpiles of more than 40 tonnes or 5000 equivalent passenger car units of waste tyres are scheduled premises under the regulations.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the site was an unacceptable fire, environmental and human health risk.

Tyrecycle began work on cleaning up the site in December 2018 under the control and guidance of the EPA and Moira Shire Council.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle CEO, says that the company was transporting 125 tonnes of end-of-life tyres per day from Numurkah to Tyrecycle’s EPA-licensed processing facility in Melbourne at Somerton, where they were cleaned, sorted and shredded for recycling.

“Tyrecycle ramped up its Melbourne facility to a 24/7 operation for the project and doubled its processing capability to remove the huge amount of waste tyres in the most efficient and time effective way,” Jim says.

“We increased our staffing levels to handle the waste, with most of each delivery being processed within 24 hours.”

According to the CFA and EPA, the consequences of a fire at the Numurkah site would have been catastrophic to the local community with air quality impacted and the contamination of soil, groundwater and surface waters.

“It was a great outcome for the local residents, to help them feel safe again after a decade of uncertainty. It was made possible due to the collaborative efforts between the Victorian Government, authorities and industry – working together,” Jim says.

The EPA conducted site inspections at Tyrecycle’s Somerton facility during the transportation and processing phase of the waste tyres from Numurkah.

Jim says that Tyrecycle is proudly the only EPA-licensed collector and recycler of tyres in Victoria and all environmental regulations were met during the project.

“Our planning procedures are thorough, including specific transportation schedules for the collection and arrival of waste.”

He says that the conditions were extremely challenging and strategic planning is required to begin a clean-up operation especially of this magnitude.

“Firefighting equipment is always onsite. However, when temperatures went to 40 degrees or if there was a total fire ban, all work ceased as the searing weather conditions resulted in an unsafe working environment.

“Fire safety preparation is paramount during a clean-up, as well as heightened security and effective management of any wildlife and vermin on site. With careful planning and protocols, we were pleased to deliver an incident-free project.”

The majority of the shredded and recycled waste tyres were converted into tyre-derived fuel (TDF), helping companies reduce their environmental footprint across South-East Asia.

“TDF is an attractive alternative fuel on an international scale. The extremely high calorific value of the product has significantly lower volumes of greenhouse gases when compared with coal,” Jim says.

The recycled tyre waste from the Numurkah site is also being used for a variety of products across the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, including crumbed rubber for road surfacing, athletics tracks and brake pads.

Tyrecycle also worked with the EPA in Victoria in 2017 to remove another dangerous and large tyre stockpile on the outskirts of Stawell.

During a clean-up operation lasting just over two months, 9500 tonnes of tyres which had been stockpiled for many years were removed, with more than two-thirds of the tyres transported to Tyrecycle’s Melbourne facility for processing and recycling.

Related stories:

EPA Victoria removes ban

EPA Victoria has withdrawn its official notice banning recycler SKM Services from accepting recyclables at its Laverton North facility.

The facility, which processes large amounts of household recyclables collected by local councils, can now resume accepting waste.

The notice requiring SKM to cease accepting new waste was issued on 10 July, after an EPA inspection found the site failed to meet the requirements of the Victorian Waste Management Policy.

Following an Inspection by EPA this week, the notice was revoked. Inspectors from WorkSafe and the Wyndham City Council were also present to follow up on remedial action.

According to an EPA media statement, SKM’s recycling facilities can expect regular monitoring to continue and EPA will not hesitate to take further remedial action.

EPA Victoria orders recycler to stop accepting material

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) is initiating a range of measures to support councils, following a EPA Victoria notice that SKM Services stop accepting recyclable material at its Laverton North site.

EPA issued the recycler with notices on 19 June that required it bring outdoor stockpiles at Maffra Street, Coolaroo and Laverton North into compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy by 3 July 2019.

An EPA media statement said regulatory action followed an inspection that revealed waste on site had increased following an extension of time for compliance.

Additionally, a fire broke out at the Laverton North site 9 July that EPA believes began on a conveyor belt.

“EPA is of the opinion that SKM understood its obligations under the notices, but had not demonstrated a move towards achieving compliance at the Laverton North site,” the statement reads.

“The company will still be able to process waste at its Laverton North site while the notice is in place, but will not be able to receive any new materials until EPA is satisfied that it has achieved compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy.”

MWRRG is seeking confirmation from SKM that it has alternative provisions in place to ensure it can continue to provide service to up to 10 affected local councils.

MWRRG CEO Rob Millard said MWRRG’s focus is on ensuring minimal disruption to residents by working with affected councils, other recycling facilities and landfill operators on immediate and long-term solutions.

“Following China’s decision to limit the importation of recyclables, MWRRG has been developing collaborative procurements for recycling services, working with 11 council clusters comprising more than 60 councils across the state,” Mr Millard said.

“By councils working together, larger contracts will be offered in the industry to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and technology, and to attract new candidates to the Victorian recycling sector.”

Mr Millard said industry would be asked to provide expressions of interest on the collaborative procurements in August, with detailed submissions expected by the end of the year.

Related stories:

Applications open for $13 million NSW EPA grants

A total of $13.3 million in grants is now available to councils, waste companies and not-for-profit organisations to divert food and garden waste from landfill.

NSW EPA Head of Organics Amanda Kane said the Organics Infrastructure grants fall under the EPA’s $802 million Waste Less Recycle More initiative, which aims to establish wider organics recovery infrastructure.

“The grants support the purchase of a broad range of infrastructure and equipment to recycle food and garden waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill,” Ms Kane said.

“Through the grant program, $43 million has already been provided to fund 89 projects that have made a positive impact on local communities.”

Environmental Trust Director Grants Tina Bidese said funding would be delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the NSW Environmental Trust.

“Working together, the Environmental Trust and EPA are offering a major opportunity for matched investment in infrastructure to recover more food and garden waste,” Ms Bidese said.

“In doing so, we’re reducing the environmental impacts of organics waste in landfill and making the most of a valuable resource that can be recycled into compost, where it benefits soils and helps crops grow.”

Applications for five grant streams are available:

— Organics Processing Infrastructure: up to $3 million for new organics facilities or facility upgrades to process more food and garden waste.

— Onsite Business Recycling: up to $500,000 for infrastructure and equipment for on-site processing or pre-processing of source separated food and garden waste.

— Food Donation Infrastructure: up to $500,000 to not-for-profit organisations for equipment to collect, store and redistribute quality surplus food.

— Product Quality: up to $500,000 for equipment to improve recycled organics product quality.

— Transfer Stations: up to $500,000 for infrastructure to establish new or upgrade existing transfer stations to receive food and garden waste

The EPA is hosting two webinars 17 July 2019 to assist potential applicants.

Applications close 29 August 2019.

Related stories:

Victorians transition to digital PIW certificates

The Victorian Waste Management Association has raised concerns about the waste industry’s preparedness for compulsory electronic prescribed industrial waste transport certificates by 1 July, 2019.

EPA Victoria (EPA) currently uses a mix of electronic and paper waste transport certificates for prescribed industrial waste (PIW).

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said that the EPA will not accept the traditional carbon copy certificates after 1 July 2019. She said that waste operators experiencing difficulty accessing the electronic system should contact EPA as soon as practicable.

The new system aims to enable the EPA to monitor the movement of waste more quickly and accurately, compared to the paper certificates, which can be time consuming and difficult to process.

Under the new system, all holders will be required to submit electronic waste transport certificates. Waste producers, transporters and receivers will need to register a Portal Account with EPA to use the system, via the EPA website.

The EPA currently uses a mix of electronic and paper waste transport certificates – with up to 100,000 paper certificates received each year.

The EPA will invest $5.5 million to switch to a fully GPS electronic tracking system to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial waste.

The transition forms part of a suite of measures to crack down on the illegal storage of hazardous waste.

The centrepiece is a new integrated waste tracking tool, with improved data analytics and reporting. This will deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity.

EPA’s tracking system will be finalised by March 2020, so that industry has three months to transition before the new Environment Protection Act legislation comes into effect on 1 July 2020.

The new legislation aims to introduce modern surveillance devices, tougher penalties and a greater focus on industry responsibility and proactively managing risks to human health and environment.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said that 10-week notice period to transition from paper to electronics hasn’t provided many opportunities for discussions with business on the impacts of this change. He noted that in particular, this would affect people who act as agents or third parties for a generator or receiver.

Mr Smith pointed out that the discovery of illegally stored chemical stockpiles in Melbourne earlier this year shone a light on the management of PIW across Victoria and the EPA’s role in preventing harm to the environment and public health.

“The Bradbury fire highlighted deficiencies in the current administration of the PIW system and the Victorian Government had to act,” Mr Smith said.

He said that the VWMA supports this action. However, he pointed out that government needs to ensure the implementation of this change doesn’t result in unintended consequences from rogue operators that will actively look for ways around the system while at the same time burden compliant businesses further.

“I don’t think anyone is doubting the government’s intent with these changes. The recent events are unacceptable and action needs to be taken,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s just really important, like with any change, business is provided an opportunity to engage in discussion on how these changes will be felt and tackle any loopholes together.

To support businesses with the transition, EPA is supporting the VWMA to hold a series of face-to-face sessions this week that will provide businesses an opportunity to walk through the online system.

The sessions will hear about how the changes will come together and receive further updates from the VWMA on what they are doing to support their members through this transition.

The sessions will also provide an opportunity for business to engage in discussion around potential or perceived impacts of the change.

Mr Smith said the information sessions would not be possible without the support of the EPA.

“It’s great to see EPA keen to assist businesses with one-on-one assistance if needed. I understand that EPA have put more staff on to help with the transition.

“I’d encourage anyone who may be impacted to attend in person or join remotely via the webinar service we will offer. People can also phone in to listen if they don’t have internet access.”

Dr Wilkinson said that the EPA had conducted an extensive engagement program with the waste industry to facilitate this transition.

“Businesses that are concerned that they cannot use the electronic tracking system have been asked to contact EPA to outline the circumstances preventing them from accessing the system,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“EPA will work with each duty holder to identify a solution to enable them to continue to comply with their obligations under the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009.”

She said that facilities that receive waste have all registered to use electronic certificates.

“Waste producers, accredited agents, transporters and receivers are required to ensure they are compliant with the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009.”

She said that waste receivers should notify EPA if a waste transporter presents waste that does not have an electronic waste transport certificate.

“Receivers should also inform the transporter of the requirement to use electronic certificates and direct them to contact EPA on 1300 EPA VIC if they are not yet registered to use electronic certificates so that EPA can facilitate their immediate transition to the electronic system.”

Dr Wilkinson said that some waste receivers are adopting the position of refusing to accept any waste that is tracked using the traditional carbon copy certificates after 1 July 2019.

“EPA supports businesses who communicate this position to companies that they are expecting to receive waste from. EPA will refund unused carbon copy certificates that are returned to EPA by 31 July 2019, having extended this date from 30 June 2019.

“Development of the EPA’s tracking system continues and EPA is satisfied with the progress in developing the new tracking system ready for March 2020.”

For information on the VWMA sessions and how you participate please contact the VWMA/VTA on 03 9646 8590 or visit. The sessions will be held at the VWMA office in Port Melbourne on the following dates:

  • Session 1: 8:30am (Thursday 27 June) maximum capacity 40 people.
  • Session 2: 12:30pm (Thursday 27 June) maximum capacity 40 people.
  • Special Session 3: 3:30pm (Thursday 27 June) – Intended for major projects, earth movers and contaminated soils. Maximum capacity 40 people.
  • Session 4: 8:30am (Friday 28 June) maximum capacity 40 people.
  • Session 5: 12:30pm (Friday 28 June) maximum capacity 40 people.

The VWMA is also offering remote access for people unable to attend in person. Attendees can join via a virtual meeting and view the session online.

Related stories:

Applications open for Victorian EPA OPLE project

The Victorian Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) program has received a further $3.4 million in state government funding.

The expanded funding will enable the recruitment of 4-6 extra OPLEs for 4-10 partner councils.

The program gives councils on-the-spot access to EPA capabilities and aims to build upon the EPA’s relationships with local governments to enable faster identification and resolution of smaller-scale waste issues.

EPA has opened an expression of interest period and is encouraging all local councils to apply.

OPLEs are authorised officers who have powers under the Environment Protection Act to issue pollution abatement and clean up notices.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said in their first 14 months, OPLEs completed 857 inspections of 605 sites and served 81 notices.

“Local community issues, such as water pollution and management, noise and illegal dumping and odour were common areas the officers dealt with,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“The new OPLEs and council areas will also help EPA combat illegal industrial and chemical waste stockpiling.”

Dr Wilkinson said current participating councils had reported improved response times to pollution reports and increased collaboration, information sharing and expertise since the OPLEs began work in February 2018.

“OPLEs respond to issues relating to noise, dust and odour and waste management issues arising from small to medium size businesses,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“OPLEs also provide local industry, business and community members with the knowledge and skills they need to help prevent, identify and resolve environmental issues.”

All Victorian councils are eligible to apply and must submit applications by 10 July.

Related stories:

NSW EPA opens $7 million recycling grants

Business, councils and not-for profits can access more than $7 million in grants to boost NSW recycling rates and encourage innovation in the waste industry, the NSW EPA has announced.

EPA Executive Director Waste Operations Carmen Dwyer said Product Improvement Program and Circulate grant programs are both open for applications.

“These grants can help reshape our waste and recycling industry in NSW, which is undergoing significant change,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Previous grant recipients have already diverted thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill, and are continuing to take major strides forward in reshaping the way we deal with waste.”

A total of $6.3 million is available under the Product Improvement Program, through grants up to $1 million each, to fund innovative projects and provide new recycling solutions via infrastructure or research and development.

In 2018, Unilever received $500,000 under the Product Improvement Program to install new infrastructure at its North Rocks Factory and include a minimum of 25 per cent recycled material in its personal and home care range.

Circulate grants are awarded to projects that prolong or give second life to resources and material via reuse in industrial or construction processes. $1.2 million is available under this program until 2021, with individual grants of up to $150,000.

Under the Circulate program, Cross Connections Consulting received $150,000 to reprocess soft-plastic waste from local businesses into park benches, garden beds, and fencing.

“These grants help to ensure NSW can continue to achieve strong results when it comes to reducing waste, reusing materials and recycling,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Investing in recycling is a no-brainer – it will stimulate local remanufacturing capacity and generate new industries and jobs.”

Both programs are funded through the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, run by the NSW EPA.

Related stories:

Calls for Queensland EPA

An independent survey of 67 Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland members has recommended an inquiry into the performance of the Department of Environment and Science.

Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions (QEAS), an independent market research firm, was commissioned to electronically survey members of Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) on the performance of the waste industry regulator – the Department of Environment & Science (DES).

Responses throughout November and December 2018 were received from 67 members representing 70 per cent of the membership employing 4556 Queenslanders. The resulting QEAS Queensland Environmental Regulator Survey 2018 was produced.

The crucial repercussions of the document highlighted concerns towards the effectiveness of the Environmental Services and Regulation (ESR) Division and its ongoing relationship with the sector.

The WRIQ roadmap for ESR improvement highlights a need to improve consultation, education, set clear goals, targets and expectations and improve expertise and ESR resourcing. Other key recommendations are to offer consistent advice and improved response times and that ESR be independent of politics.

WRIQ members overwhelmingly believe Queensland’s DES and ESR responsibilities to be important. But 42 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that the ESR was reviewing legislation and policy and compliance frameworks well. Almost 70 per cent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that ESR were taking a proportionate and consistent compliance and enforcement program and working collaboratively with government, industry and community groups.

Rick Ralph, WRIQ Chief Executive Officer, says that it’s unprecedented that 70 per cent of the industry with 45,000 employees were so universal in their scathing criticism of the regulator.

Rick says that there is a fundamental disconnect between regulators focused heavily on penalising operators.

“The regulator makes the rules and that’s their policy – it’s all about enforcement. They don’t offer any solutions. When something gets too hard, they are fundamentally ineffective in understanding the economic impacts of an unregulated environment,” Rick says.

In terms of where the regulator is performing well, select WRIQ members had positive feedback on their dealings with individual officers, but singled out the systematic flaws in the regulatory strategy.

Across the board, survey respondents rated the performance of ESR as poor to average, with an 85 per cent negative rating for problem solving, 86 per cent negative for stopping illegal dumping and 77 per cent criticising the decisions as being unsound, not evidence-based, and illogical.

The wide range of feedback segments covered consistency and confidence, drivers of actions, the Odour Busters program, resourcing and expertise, rogue operators and accountability and compliance versus education.

The Queensland Government’s Odour Busters taskforce was established to deal with nuisance odours in the Swanbank area.

The Odour Abatement Taskforce, also known as Odour Busters, was intended to operate from a local base at Redbank Plains to crack down on offensive odours and other environmental concerns in the area for 12 months in 2018.

One respondent asked why no findings had been published, with vague information on social media.

Rick says that industry and ESR need to actually commission a training program with industry so that officers understand what best practice looks like. Where complexities happen in regulation, there is a process of review to sort out the problem.

Criticism was also drawn at the ability of the regulator to conduct site audits and promote better compliance, and that inspections were part of a structured audit and compliance program rather than reactions to community sentiment.

One of the key recommendations of the report was a complete overhaul of the system for the government to act swiftly and produce an independent investigation into the current system. The goal would be to install an independent EPA, with four in five respondents indicating their support for such an agency.

According to Rick, an EPA should have an independent board.

“That authority then has clarity, purpose and a relationship with the industry and it actually works with the industry to find solutions, not just penalise,” Rick says.

“Universally where there’s been an EPA, it’s shown to be the model that actually works.”

He adds that the Victorian EPA’s modernisation showed how important it was to reinvigorate old structures with contemporary models, while stopping short of making recommendations on a Queensland structure and leaving it to an independent review.

WRIQ put a 10-point plan to the minister and is now waiting for a formal response from the director general. The 10-point plan is focused on building a commercial level playing field on how the industry is managed and non-adversarial. The plan includes that ESR establish an internal reference panel with an independent chair. It also advocates for a third-party review into ESR management and the independent review into environmental regulation.

“The environment minister has agreed to establish a working group and we have provided every Queensland minister with a copy of our report calling upon them to support the environment minister in overhauling the performance of the state’s regulator.

“Regrettably, not a single minister has acknowledged that correspondence and in terms of government engagement with its stakeholders, this lack of support is challenging for our members,” Rick says.

He says the review into ESR at DES should be conducted this year in order to prevent its politicisation in the 2020 election.

A DES spokesperson said it takes its role as Queensland’s environment regulator seriously and works closely with all industry stakeholders.

The spokesperson said that the department will take prompt enforcement action on industry members not compliant with their obligations.

“The Odour Abatement Taskforce is a twelve-month program, being undertaken to address odour and other environmental nuisance issues within the Swanbank Industrial Area.”

It said DES is undertaking a comprehensive education program to help improve compliance.

Queensland Government Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the DES recently underwent a restructure following machinery of government changes in 2018.

This has seen the creation of a new waste branch within the department specific to waste and resource recovery. She said the feedback from WRIQ will be considered by the department and help the government improve its stakeholder engagement.

This article was published in the May edition of Waste Management Review.

Related stories:

2018 NSW State of the Environment report released

The NSW EPA has released its 2018 State of the Environment report – available for the first time on a purpose built interactive website with the capacity for regular data updates.

EPA CEO Mark Gifford said the report will be used to inform decision makers and the wider community about essential elements of the environment.

“There have been a number of key environmental improvements across NSW in the 25 years since the first State of the Environment report was handed down in 1993,” Mr Gifford said.

“The report highlights areas where government, community and industry efforts are leading to benefits, with less household and industry waste going to landfill, a significant decrease in litter, good air quality, and renewable energy generation rising rapidly.”

The report lists two indicator status’ as moderate, total waste generation and per person waste generation.

Total and per person solid waste disposal, total and per person solid waste recycled and litter items per 1000 meters squared are listed as good.

Mr Gifford said the report also shows how the NSW economy has shifted to become less resource intensive and more services based, resulting in positive environmental outcomes.

“This shows that economic growth and a better environment can be mutual goals,” Mr Gifford said.

“Electricity generation has seen a strong increase in the use of renewable, low emissions sources, from 11 per cent in 2014 to 16 per cent in 2017. Over the three years to June 2016, total NSW and ACT energy consumption declined by almost six per cent.”

According to Mr Gifford, the report shows population growth continues to be a key driver of changes to the environment.

“By 2036 the population of NSW is expected to grow to 9.9 million people with the majority of this growth expected to be in Sydney, which brings challenges for our environment and resource use,” Mr Gifford said.

“Climate change continues to pose a significant threat, counteracting these effects requires collaborative action at a state, national and global level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build the resilience of the environment for the future.”

The report will be used by government and the community to monitor environmental indicators and track progress.

“Having the report released every three years means all agencies can continue to work together on environmental improvements now and into the future,” Mr Gifford said.

Related stories:

Applications open for NSW FOGO funding

Applications are open for round seven of the NSW EPA organics collections grant program.

$2.6 million is available for local councils and businesses wanting to introduce, or further develop, food and garden waste collection services, with funding provided by the NSW Environmental Trust.

EPA Organics Manager Amanda Kane said the grants would provide funding for household collection services, trials for food waste collections in unit blocks and new food waste collection services for businesses looking to improve their waste practice.

“Councils that have previously received these grants have been able to divert thousands of tonnes of waste by introducing regular organic collections services,” Ms Kane said.

“Councils like Bega, Byron and Shellharbour combined funding with great education programs to teach people how to use the service, while councils like Sydney and Randwick are trialling food-only collections to transform waste into electricity.”

Ms Kane said funding would help recipients make a real difference in the reduction of organic waste sent to landfill.

“Previous projects have supported new or improved green lid bins for 600,000 homes in NSW, diverting an extra 160,000 tonnes of food and garden waste from landfill, turning it into high quality compost,” Ms Kane said.

“With funding support, residents in 42 council areas across NSW are now able to recycle their food and garden waste at the kerbside each week.”

Grants will be delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the NSW Environmental Trust.

Applications close 27 June 2019.

Related stories: