Chemical and paint drop-off centres open in SA

The South Australian Government has opened new chemical and paint drop-off centres in Campbelltown, Heathfield, North Plympton and Edinburgh North.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the state government contributed more than $1 million to the centres, with local partners set to operate the facilities.

“Until now, householders could only access a depot at Dry Creek, which only opened on the first Tuesday morning of each month for three hours,” Mr Speirs said.

“The new facilities make it significantly easier for South Australian households to safely dispose of these chemicals, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this free service.”

According to Mr Speirs, many people don’t realise the damage that can be caused when chemicals and paint are handled or disposed of incorrectly.

“Apart from the threat to our waterways and surrounding environments if flushed into our sewerage and drain systems, storing unused hazardous chemicals at home or in the garden shed can be potentially lethal if not handled properly,” Mr Speirs said.

“They can be particularly dangerous to young children who cannot yet read warning labels.”

Mr Speirs said it was important to note that some items and substances would not be accepted, such as ammunition, asbestos, tyres, fertiliser and pharmaceuticals.

“Residents are reminded to keep chemicals in their original containers where possible, and ensure they are clearly labelled and well-sealed,” Mr Speirs said.

“It is also best to place open or leaking containers in a plastic rubbish bin or bucket, and transport them in the boot of the car or a trailer making it safer for the driver and to also assist in worker safety at the depots.”

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NSW EPA releases new C&D guidelines

The NSW EPA has published two new guidance documents to help the construction and demolition industry strengthen their procurement and contract processes around waste disposal.

In NSW, waste owners and transporters may be guilty of an offence if construction and demolition waste is transported to the wrong facility or disposed of illegally.

Individuals can be fined up to $250,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1,000,000. If the offence involves asbestos waste, the fines double.

EPA Executive Director Waste Operations Carmen Dwyer said the documents, Construction and Demolition Waste: A Management Toolkit and Owner’s Guide to Lawful Disposal of Construction and Demolition Waste, will help both private and government organisations strengthen their waste processes.

“We know that most people in this industry are keen to cut out unlawful behaviour, and the toolkit and guide provide steps that businesses can take to ensure their waste material is lawfully disposed of,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The documents provide step-by-step guides to help industry bolster their contracts with waste transporters, and factor in control measures from the beginning of the procurement process through to disposal.”

Guidance includes knowing what waste streams will be generated, questioning waste management quotes that appear too low, checking council development consent and environment protection laws and having clear roles and responsibilities for everyone managing waste on the project.

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$30M Victorian stockpile clean-up begins

The first truck loads of construction and demolition waste are being removed from a waste stockpile in Lara, Geelong, after the Victorian Government took control of site management in May.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator let the recycling waste grow to dangerous levels, resulting in an unacceptable fire risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“There is absolutely no excuse for the reckless behaviour of the people who left this mess for us to deal with, and we will have no hesitation pursuing them to cover the cost of the clean-up.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the site contains an estimated 320,000 cubic metres of predominantly construction and demolition waste, including materials such as timber, concrete, bricks, plaster, glass and ceramics.

“The first stage will be the processing and removal of a 27,000 cubic metre stockpile of timber, weighing an estimated 3500 tonnes,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and government, including managing interim fire risk measures by maintaining 24/7 security, secure fencing and maintenance of firefighting equipment.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the EPA is pursuing previous site occupiers, owners, company directors and any other relevant parties to recover the costs of the fire prevention measures and clean up.

“Since August 2017, the EPA has had additional powers to support Victoria’s fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“These powers will be strengthened further under the new Environment Protection Act which will come into effect on 1 July 2020, to prevent situations like this in the future.”

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Tasmania seeking comment on Environmental Legislation Bill

The Tasmanian Government is seeking public comment on its draft Environmental Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2019, which contains a range of proposed improvements for Tasmania’s environmental legislation.

Proposed changes include refining the definition of clean fill, increasing transparency by publishing environmental monitoring information and introducing penalties for undertaking certain activities without approval, such as developing land without a permit.

The draft bill proposes clarifying the meaning of clean fill and establishing two new definitions.

“The current definition of clean fill is too broad. It allows various types of material to be included in clean fill which should instead be recycled, disposed of at an approved landfill or processed prior to use as clean fill,” the bill reads.

“The Director of the EPA will be able to specify maximum levels of chemical contaminants or maximum proportions of other inert materials such as wood, plastics and metals.”

The bill additionally proposes strengthening the EPA’s power to make environmental monitoring information provided by a regulated party available to third parties or the public, without the permission of the regulated party.

Environment Minister Peter Gutwein said members of the public are invited to make a submission on the bill to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

“The government will also be engaging with stakeholders about proposed changes,” Mr Gutwein said.

“Submissions received during the consultation period will be considered in the final framing of the bill, which is scheduled be introduced to parliament later this year.”

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Comment sought for VIC EPA regulations and standards

The Victorian EPA is calling for public consultation on their revised environmental regulations and standards, which apply from July 2020.

According to EPA Executive Director Tim Eaton, the new regulations and standards are part of the Victorian Government’s modernisation of the EPA, through the recently passed Environment Protection Act.

“The new act and regulations will give the EPA more power to prevent pollution and hold polluters to account,” Mr Eaton said.

“Where the new act lays out the increased powers and responsibilities, the regulations and standards fill in the details and create certainty for duty holders to meet their obligations.”

Mr Eaton said the draft regulations outline obligations in relation to environment protection, pollution incidents, contaminated land and waste.

“As an example, the new act allows the EPA to require duty holders to be licensed, permitted or registered,” Mr Eaton said.

“The regulations then provide the detail of what activities will require a licence, permit or registration.”

The EPA and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will review all public submissions, before releasing a public report that includes submission responses and final regulations and standards.

“We want to hear from community groups, industry, small business operators, anyone with an existing EPA licence, environmental lobby groups or any other member of the public or industry with an interest in the environment protection laws,” Mr Eaton said.

“Have your say on proposed regulations and standards that relate to waste, permissions and licences, water, noise, air and contaminated land.”

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NSW EPA: let’s chat compost

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has developed an engaging conversational learning program to support professional development in the organics sector.

Simulated conversational experiences, or chatbots, have been gaining traction across numerous industries.

Conversational learning is a unique concept that delivers knowledge in focused, micro-learning chunks, requiring only three to five minutes of a learner’s time.

It aims to put learners in control, use conversation and story-telling to stimulate engagement, build knowledge and allow for active discovery and decision making.

With an increase in chatbot messenger apps offering instantaneous customer service, news and other relevant notifications, chatbot experiences are even making inroads in the waste sector.

To support the compost industry, e-learning provider IMC has been working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) via its organics program.

IMC and the EPA have developed four-five minute chatbot modules dubbed “Let’s Chat Compost” on the topics of assessing odour, pasteurisation, composting and managing contamination.

The learning sessions aim to simulate ordinary conversations, akin to those you’d have with a friend or colleague – personal, fun and to the point.

They embed personality into the learning content and create a dynamic interaction like one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive e-learning “in dialogue” possible.

The Let’s Chat Compost modules allow users to continue or refresh their learning through the EPA’s existing Compost Facility Management eLearning program, released at the end of last year.

Presented in social media messenger style, the app uses conversation and memes to engage learners to expand on their composting knowledge.

The Compost Facility Management course comprises seven modules and has been designed for regulators and people in all roles working in organics facilities.

It uses interactive content, animation and video to engage learners, with the aim of embedding high-level skills and knowledge for best practice facility management.   

IMC has leveraged its expertise from working with clients such as National Rugby League, the Department of Health and Human Services, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi to craft unique and conversational learning experiences.

Amanda Kane, Organics Manager at the NSW EPA, says Let’s Chat Compost aims to draw attention to the key processes most relevant to processors, regulators, local government, consultants and waste collection operators.

“Let’s Chat Compost will be a tool to reinforce learning and act as a reminder for what’s happening inside a compost pile that might be causing an odour, or why it’s important to manage contamination and the importance of pasteurisation,” Amanda says.

“IMC’s concept was developed in Germany and designed to look as much like a phone chat as possible. It was in recognition of the platforms we use in everyday life.”

She says that developing smartphone nuggets is an exercise in communicating the most important content in an engaging way.

“The main goal of the nuggets is to get people to take up the course, but also as a reminder for those that have completed the course,” Amanda says.

The app can send notifications to those who have completed the course, encouraging them to share the modules with their colleagues or revisit aspects of their learning.

Amanda adds that companies could adapt the program to suit their organisational tone and include additional relevant occupational health and safety and company information.

“The result is not only contributing to the production of a quality product, but upskilling the industry and minimising the environmental impact of one’s operations.

“It’s critical that processors are operating within the conditions of their license, and that if any issues do arise, they know how to respond and communicate with the EPA and advise us what’s happening.”

She says that the smartphone nuggets are aimed to be accessible on multiple devices and link back to course content.

The modules also include expert tips from industry leaders such as SOILCO and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL).

“We wanted to have industry voices to communicate those messages. All of the course content was filmed at sites around NSW using various technologies,” Amanda says.

“These include ANL’s open windrow or the in-tunnel systems that JR Richards & Sons have up at Grafton and then using team members at all levels to communicate the message, including EPA regulatory staff as well.

“We have had 300 people sign up, and the overall feedback is that people are finding it to be a rewarding learning experience.”

EVA Environmental Director Geraldine Busby, who also worked on the initial training course, oversaw the development of smartphone nuggets.

Carmen Locke, Instructional Designer, IMC AG, says conversational learning allows learners to make decisions while being actively immersed in a one-on-one learning scenario. This increases their ability to retain content, understand concepts and develop new skills and behaviours.

To use Let’s Chat Compost click here.

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EOI’s to open following SKM shut down

Victoria’s Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has announced that expression of interest for recycling services will open this month, following the temporary closure of SKM Recycling facilities.

SKM, which has contracts with 33 Victorian councils, announced it would not accept material from 26 July, following EPA regulation and compliance issues.

According to a media statement, MWRRG has been in daily contact with affected councils, state government, the Municipal Association of Victoria and other recycling service providers to assess their capacity to take extra recyclables.

MWRRG is now progressing plans for new collaborative procurements for recycling services, working with 11 council clusters comprising more than 60 councils across the state.

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

“Industry will be asked to provide an expression of interest on the collaborative procurements in August, with detailed submissions expected by the end of the year. Contracts are expected to be in place by June 2020.”

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$22 million in grants now available

EPA grants worth $22.3 million are now available to NSW councils, private industry and not-for-profit organisations to support the construction of new large scale recycling infrastructure.

Environment Department Acting Resource Recovery Director Amanda Kane said the Major Resource Recovery Infrastructure grants are part of the NSW EPA’s $802 million Waste Less Recycle More initiative.

“The funding is aimed at accelerating and stimulating investment in waste and recycling infrastructure, to help NSW reach its target of 75 per cent diversion of all waste from landfill by 2021,” Ms Kane said.

“The capital costs of major infrastructure can be a significant barrier to the construction of new recycling facilities. This grant seeks to attract investment in major resource recovery infrastructure by reducing the pay-back period on new facilities.”

Ms Kane said earlier program rounds had already provided $51 million to projects to receive and recycle a range of resources including timber, plastics, aggregates, rubber, glass and metals.

“This includes $5 million to ResourceCo for a new facility at Wetherill Park, to recover metals and timber to produce refuse-derived fuel for use in energy generation,” Ms Kane said.

“Boral Cement successfully secured a $4 million grant from the EPA to upgrade its plant at Berrima, and replace up to 20 per cent of the coal it uses to generate energy with refuse-derived fuel, including from ResourceCo, reducing coal use and emissions.”

According to Ms Kane, five facilities supported through the program are already increasing the state’s processing capacity by 340,000 tonnes a year.

“More than 500,000 tonnes of additional processing capacity is expected to come on line over the next two years as further projects are completed,” Ms Kane said.

Environmental Trust Director Grants Tina Bidese said the grants are funded by the Environmental Trust and delivered through a partnership between the trust and the NSW EPA.

“Working together, the trust and the EPA are offering a major opportunity for co-funded investment in infrastructure to recover more household and business waste,” Ms Bidese said.

“In doing so, we’re reducing the environmental impacts of waste in landfill, making the most of valuable resources and creating new jobs for the people of NSW.”

The EPA is hosting an information session in August 2019 to assist potential applicants.

Applications close 27 August 2019.

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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.

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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.