New powers to stop polluters for EPA Victoria

New laws have been passed in Victoria which have given the EPA powers to stop pollution and protect the state’s environment.

The Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 has introduced a criminally enforceable General Environment Duty which requires people conducting activities that pose a risk to human health and the environment from pollution to take responsible steps to eliminate or reduce them.

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It aims to move the focus to prevention, rather than responding to pollution after it has occurred.

The Bill substantially increases maximum penalties to better reflect the seriousness of environmental offences.

The reforms have also delivered improved clarity and flexibility, including reforms to EPA licensing and the environmental audit system.

A range of measures have been introduced to assist the EPA’s ability to protect the environment, including strengthening powers of EPA Authorised Officers to enter premises and investigate suspected breaches of the law.

Community members have also been given the ability to seek civil remedies to enforce the Environment Protection Act and regulations.

The new laws will come into effect on 1 July 2020, which will allow time to develop the regulations and guidance required to support the new laws.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the historic reforms were developed carefully over a number of years and will help Victoria’s environment for generations to come.

“We’re making sure Victoria’s EPA is equipped with the people, powers and resources it needs to do its job and protect Victoria’s environment,” she said.

Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards 2018 finalists revealed

The finalists have been announced for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards, which recognise individuals, communities, organisations and businesses that are driving a sustainable future.

Winners will be announced at the Premier’s Sustainability Awards gala dinner at The Forum on Melbourne on 11 October.

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There are ten different categories for the awards with Premier Daniel Andrews selecting two overall winners of the Premier’s Regional Recognition Award and the Premier’s Recognition award.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the finalists in this year’s Premier’s Sustainability Awards are an especially diverse group from every sector in Victoria.

“I congratulate all finalists for their innovative work – using resources wisely and promoting sustainable practices here in Victoria,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

The Finalists for 2018 are:

Built Environment

  • City of Greater Bendigo, Lovell Chen, Nicholson Construction – Bendigo Soldiers’ Memorial Institute Passive House
  • Lendlease, CPB Contractors, WSP, Aurecon, Level Crossing Removal Authority and Metro Trains Melbourne – Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal
  • RMIT University – RMIT Sustainable Urban Precincts Program

Community

  • Enable Social Enterprises – Expansion – Greener Futures Employability Program
  • Kelly Mrocki – The Girl Who Saved the Frogs Incursion
  • Kensington Compost – Kensington Compost

Education

  • Albert Park Preschool Centre – Keeping Our Promise to Bunjil
  • Beeac Primary School – Brolga Pathways
  • Dunkeld Kindergarten – Educating Future World Leaders

Environmental justice

  • Department of Health and Human Services – Elenara House Sustainable Rooming House Upgrade
  • GWMWater (Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation) – Memorandum of Understanding with Dja Dja Wurrung – South West Loddon Pipeline
  • Moreland City Council and Moreland Energy Foundation – Cooling Communities

Environmental protection

  • Extreme Dents – Eso-friendly Automotive RepairPOD
  • Yume Food – Build a Marketplace Exclusively for Surplus Food to Reduce Food Waste
  • Zoos Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks – When Balloons Fly

Government

  • City of Melbourne, City of Port Phillip, City of Yarra, City of Moreland – Melbourne Renewable Energy Project
  • Department of Justice and Regulation – Recycle, Reuse, Donate Woodwork Program
  • Gannawarra Shire Council – Gannawarra Large Scale Solar

Health

  • Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian Branch – Nursing for the Environment
  • Beaconsfield Dental – Beaconsfield Dental Health
  • Western Health – Changing Anaesthetic Gases at Western Health

Innovative products or services

  • BCH – Whole Garment Design
  • PonyUp for Good – PonyUp for Good
  • Yume Food – Build a Marketplace Exclusively for Surplus Food to Reduce Food Waste

Large business

  • IKEA Richmond – IKEA Richmond Refurbishment Project
  • Telstra Corporation – Murra Warra Wind Farm harnessing long-term renewable energy supply

Small and medium enterprises

  • Extreme Dents – Eco-friendly Automotive RepairPOD
  • Revolution Apps – Compost Revolution
  • Yume Food – Build a Marketplace Exclusively for Surplus Food to Reduce Food Waste

More than $1.1M invested in Victoria’s recycling sector

Three recycling companies are set to share more than $1.1 million from the Victorian Government to fast track upgrade projects.

The Recycling Industry Transition Support fund is designed to boost the sector’s capacity to capture and reprocess plastics, paper and cardboard waste to a commercial grade acceptable to local and international markets.

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Australian Paper Recovery at Dandenong South will receive $475,000 as part of the company’s $1.2 million equipment upgrade, which includes new waste paper sorting and compaction equipment.

Polymer Processors, Braeside will receive a $500,000 grant as part of a $3.2 million upgrade, which will allow the company to purchase new plastic washing equipment and accept a wider range of plastics.

The grant will also support an upgrade of waste water treatment and increase processing capacity of plastics by 800 kilograms per hour.

Tambo Waste in Bairnsdale will receive a $130,000 grant to upgrade its equipment and lift its annual production by 800 tonnes and to enable future expansion by another 5000 tonnes a year.

The project will aim to create jobs, reduce contamination in processed plastic, paper and cardboard, and lift material to a commercially acceptable grade for local and international markets.

The funding is part of a $13 million package to help councils and the recycling sector.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the government is helping Victoria’s recycling sector adjust to changes in world recycling markets.

“These grants will help reprocess more than 48,000 tonnes of plastic, paper and cardboard each year and create 19 jobs in Melbourne and Gippsland,” she said.

VWMA 2018 State Conference wrap-up

This year’s Victorian Waste Management Association State Conference addressed all the key issues impacting the state’s waste and resource recovery sector, including changes to the EP Act and the government’s stockpiling taskforce.

This year’s Victorian Waste Management Association State Conference addressed all the key issues impacting the state’s waste and resource recovery sector, including changes to the EP Act and the government’s stockpiling taskforce.

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Vic gov announces $37M recycling package

A $37 million package has been announced for Victoria’s recycling industry to develop new markets.

The Recycling Industry Strategic Plan aims to increase the quality of recycled materials and provide a blueprint for a safe, reliable and resilient recycling system in the medium to long term.

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It will include an $8.3 million expansion to the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund, which is estimated to improve the quality of up to 100,000 tonnes of recycled material.

A further $2 million will go towards the current market development program for recycled materials by identifying new uses, bringing the total to around $4.5 million.

The Victorian Government also aims to drive demand for products containing recycled materials through procurement.

Sustainability Victoria, in consultation with the Department of Treasury and Finance, will assist the government departments and agencies to identify opportunities and develop their own targets to increase procurement of recycled content.

An education program will attempt to improve understanding of what can and can’t be recycled to reduce the contamination level of kerbside recycling, which the state government says has the potential to reduce the amount of recycling sent to landfill by 40,000 tonnes each year.

The Landfill Levy Relief Program will also receive an $800,000 boost to ensure the National Association of Charitable Recyclers can continue focusing their efforts on charity.

It also includes the $13 million temporary relief package announced in February for councils and industry to support the ongoing kerbside collection of household waste following China’s National Sword policy.

The plan will be delivered by consumers and waste producers, the resource recovery industry and manufacturers and all levels of government.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said the government is delivering a new plan for the future of recycling in Victoria, to reduce waste and build a more resilient recycling sector.

“This plan will create a more stable and productive recycling sector, improving the quality of recycled materials and developing new markets for them,” she said.

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the announcement and said that further work is necessary to future proof Victoria’s recycling industry.

It identified four key objectives that needed to be addressed as part of the long term solutions the state government should explore, which include contractural models for waste and resource recover, unlocking the sustainability fund, stimulating local markets through state and local government procurement and community education.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said recycling is one of the easiest things Victorians can do to support the environment and the economy.

“Engagement with the community about how to recycle correctly is important and a shared responsibility. The private sector shares that responsibility but we need consistency and commitment to messaging that we’ve had a part in shaping,” Mr Smith said.

“The Victorian Government’s $37 million investment shows commitment and long-term thinking. However, we must maintain an open and ongoing dialogue on these challenges to ensure public confidence is restored.”

“The waste and recycling sector has suffered a lot of damaging publicity over the last 12 months. Further discussion with the sector will be required to target public engagement to help rebuild public confidence back into this essential service,” he said.

The government has released an overview about recycling and what it is being done to respond to international market changes here.

Half a million dollars awarded to Vic regional composting facility

A proposal to develop a regional Victorian composting facility has received $500,000 in funding from the state government.

Organic waste management company Pinegro are developing a $5 million project to use an enclosed tunnel system for the composting of food and organic green waste from local councils in the Morwell region.

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Currently, Pinegro composts using an open windrow method but this process can be affected by weather conditions.

By implementing the new system, the company will be able to compost within a contained, temperature-controlled environment to deliver a better product, faster.

Pinegro’s grant will go toward the construction of a waste receival building, composting tunnels and air and water filtration systems.

It is expected to divert 18,000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill each year.

The funding was part of the second round of the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund, which is supporting 13 projects across regional Victoria.

These projects are expected to divert more than 85,000 tonnes of waste a year from landfills.

Victorian Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said food waste from homes accounts for around 250,000 tonnes a year in Victoria.

“These upgrades to the composting system will increase Pinegro’s capacity to process food waste and absorb more from local councils,” she said.

Applications for the third round of the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund are now open. For more information, click here.

Vic gov set date of bag plastic bag ban for 2019

The Victorian Government has announced it will ban single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags from late 2019 to fight plastic pollution.

The ban will come into effect from late next year and will include all plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness. It also includes shopping bags made from biodegradable and compostable plastic.

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It follows a public consultation which received more than 8000 submissions, with more than 96 per cent supporting a ban.

The Victorian Government said it will use feedback over the next 12 months to develop a plastic pollution plan to reduce other types of plastic contaminants in the environment.

A reference group will also be established to help develop the plan, with representatives from the government, industry, retailers and community environment groups.

The state government also announced it will support an education campaign for both retailers and the community to ensure the ban is effective.

It also said a transition period will be required to help consumers and businesses adapt to the changes alongside co-operation with other states and territories on a national, voluntary phase-out of thick plastic bags.

Victorian Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said banning single-use plastic bags will slash waste, reduce litter and help protect marine life in Victoria’s waters.

“We know Victorians want to do more to reduce pollution in our environment – we’ve received an enormous amount of feedback and they’ve told us loud and clear they want us to deliver this ban,” she said.

“The Government will continue to work closely with Victorian communities and businesses to design the ban – to ensure it works for all Victorians and our environment.”

Landfill levy waived For bushfire victims

The Victorian Government has waived the landfill levy to help Victorians in the south west recover from bushfires.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced that the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (Victoria EPA) will work with local councils and landfill operators in the Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Moyne and Southern Grampians council areas to apply the exemption.

The waiver applies to the levy component of the gate price.

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The Victorian Government has also announced assistance for the local government areas of Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Moyne and Southern Grampians is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

Anyone who has been affected by the bushfires and suffering personal hardship and distress should call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 to find out about the assistance available.

Information on disaster assistance can be found on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website at disasterassist.gov.au and the VicEmergency website at emergency.vic.gov.au/relief

“We’re doing what we can to help those affected by these devastating bushfires,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“We’re helping farmers manage waste from dead livestock and damaged homes, sheds and fencing – so they can focus on getting back on their feet.”

Victorian Government seeks feedback on e-waste ban

The Victorian Government is seeking community and industry input on the details of its proposed ban on e-waste from landfill.

It comes one year before the next election, and is part of the state government’s 2014 election commitment to ban e-waste from landfill.

The government has invested $16.5 million into an education and awareness campaign, to educate Victorians about how and why to recycle their e-waste, along with new e-waste collection points to be installed across the state.

E-waste includes any device that requires a power cord or a battery to operate and that is no longer wanted or useful, including phones, computer and computer accessories, and even kitchen equipment such as toasters.

The government estimates it is growing three times faster than general waste, with research showing that in 2015, some 109,000 tonnes of e-waste got into the Victorian waste system. Projections suggest Victoria will be producing 256,000 tonnes of e-waste by 2035.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the consultation process was important, with action from the community, recyclers and landfill managers required to divert e-waste from landfill.

The government believes responsibly managing e-waste will help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and the negative impacts on our environment, provide safe management of hazardous materials, and allow greater recovery of valuable materials.

The development of the Waste Management Policies to ban e-waste from landfill and ensure appropriate management of e-waste is a joint project between Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Environment Protection Authority.

Victoria’s seven waste and resource recovery groups, who help to deliver waste and resource recovery programs around the state, will join with these other agencies to discuss the ban and the supporting measures with stakeholders.

A policy impact assessment and draft Waste Management Policies that will give effect to the ban have now been released for public comment for three months, with the ban expected to be implemented by July 2018.

The documents are available on the government’s website.