$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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$10M loan for SKM clean-up

KordaMentha has secured a $10 million loan from the Victorian Government to help clean-up SKM sites and resume waste processing.

KordaMentha were appointed SKM Recycling’s receiver and manager earlier in August, following reports the company owed $100 million to multiple stakeholders.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the loan would help clear waste stockpiles and fund the essential maintenance work required to get SKM’s plants back up and running, while meeting strict environmental and safety standards.

“The Laverton site will be the first to return to operation, with stockpile clearing to begin within the week, and some processing expected to start within five weeks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“This loan is the fastest way of getting recyclable materials sent to processing sites instead of landfill.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the state government is also in the process of overhauling kerbside recycling.

“The state government is working in partnership with local government and industry on a major overhaul of kerbside collection, which will seek innovative and cost-effective designs that could include additional household bins to reduce waste contamination,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Negotiating new kerbside collection services across councils will send a strong signal to industry, trigger a change to community behaviour and reduce waste and contamination.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said following consultation, an EOI will be released to design the new kerbside collection service, expected to start in 2021.

The announcement comes on top of a $6.6 million financial relief package to councils directly affected by the closure of SKM, which includes a rebate to cover the cost of the landfill levy.

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VWMA State Conference returns

This year’s Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) State Conference will be returning to the Yarra Valley Lodge 30-31 July.

The VWMA State Conference is the only Victorian specific event and will bring together a mix of organisations and presenters from across local government, state government and the private sector.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the two day program had been developed to address key challenges for the sector including EPA updates, legal insights into regulatory changes, labour laws and overseas workers, procurement and landfill discussions as well as technology updates.

“We’ve had another challenging year and things aren’t slowing down for business, but I want our members and the sector to know we’re working hard to ensure their voice, their issues and their concerns are being addressed,” Mr Smith said.

“We’ve crafted a program that will deliver everything businesses need to be aware of for the next 12 months in one place. We’ve secured the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, who will open the conference, deliver a speech on the Victorian Government priorities and activities to support a strong, sustainable sector.”

Mr Smith said VWMA create these events and opportunities so members can engage and participate in important conversations, and shape and influence how VWMA can support them.

“We received such positive feedback to our conference last year that related to the tangible benefits our conference offered their business, either by engaging with government officials, networking and connecting with people to provide solutions to their challenges,” Mr Smith said.

The conference will also feature an assessment of Victoria’s infrastructure needs and one month check ins of prescribed industrial waste tickets and the e-waste ban.

“We take a different approach with our events. The topics aren’t abstract or high level, only dealing with future opportunities,” Mr Smith said.

“We ground everything we are doing back into what it means for business today, tomorrow and next week. We also bring a sense of fun, our storeroom at work is jam packed with gifts and prizes we have lined up for our delegates. It’s going to be intense but fun 1 and a half days.”

Topics at the conference include:

  • Recycling update
  • Community attitudes and perceptions of the sector
  • Reducing operating costs through smarter power options
  • Managing brand and crisis communications for the sector
  • Battery Stewardship Scheme Design
  • E-Waste and PIW check-ins  (one month on)
  • Workforce discussions (on mental health, drug and alcohol policy, overseas workers and more)
  • High-risk dangerous goods taskforce
  • VicRoads updates
  • EPA Act 2.0
  • As well as workshops and information sessions on: drones; solar; new tech; multiunit development challenges; and the dos and donts for grant applications.
  • Plus a heap of networking opportunities

For more information contact VWMA or access the conference program here.

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New recycling facility opens in Melbourne

Australian Paper Recovery’s $2.5 million paper sorting facility in Melbourne’s west will process 39,000 tonnes of recycled paper a year.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the state government provided $475,000 in funding to the project, with the facility providing full grade separation of kerbside and commercial mixed paper and cardboard.

“The high quality sorted and graded paper is reprocessed locally and recycled into valuable products such as newspaper and packaging,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The facility has also expanded operations to accept additional materials from regional and metropolitan kerbside recycling, including plastics and metals, further increasing recycling capability here in Victoria.”

Government funding came from the $2.6 million Recycling Industry Transition Support Fund, which is designed to help Victoria’s resource recovery and reprocessing industry transition after the collapse of international export markets.

“Facilities like these are a crucial part of reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill – it’s fantastic to see Australian Paper Recovery expand their operations to accept more materials,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“A circular economy will not only improve Victoria’s waste and recycling systems – it will support local businesses and create local jobs here in Victoria.”

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Victoria to develop 10-year action plan

The Victorian Circular Economy Policy, which will establish goals for the Victorian waste and resource recovery system to transition to a circular economy, has opened for public comment.

A 10-year action plan outlining how the Victorian Government will work with businesses and community to deliver the policy’s goals will also be established.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Circular Economy Policy would deliver new opportunities for industry and more jobs for Victorians.

“We’re transforming the way we think about waste and resource recovery – developing a circular economy will deliver better environmental, social and economic results for Victoria,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Through the policy, Victoria will transition from the traditional linear model of consumption to a circular model that continually seeks to minimise the use of natural resources.”

The public now have an opportunity to comment on the policy issues paper, with a draft policy set to be released in September.

“The draft policy will outline a suite of specific proposals for how we can improve material use throughout the economy,” the paper reads.

“This could include regulations, incentive programs, innovation support and/or education. The final circular economy policy will draw together this consultation and research and analysis.”

The circular economy policy will establish goals and targets, in addition to a strong performance framework to measure, monitor and publicly report on progress.

“While these goals are still to be set, there will be many factors that will need to be measured and tracked, such as materials used for each unit of economic output, waste generation per person, energy generated from waste and reduction in stockpiles of recyclable material,” the paper reads.

The paper references multiple case studies including the use of recycled materials in public infrastructure and food waste reduction.

“Victoria can leverage additional benefits from the pipeline of public infrastructure projects. Approximately 3.9 million tonnes of recovered material are already used in road and other construction in Victoria, and there is scope to use more recycled materials in the construction of our public infrastructure,” the paper reads.

“There is significant scope to reduce food waste and ensure more is recovered in Australia’s leading food and agriculture state. Only 10 per cent of food waste generated by households and businesses is currently recovered. That means over 887,000 tonnes of food waste ends up in Victorian landfills each year and the water and energy required to produce and transport it is wasted.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the policy responds to global recycling challenges, and will build on the government’s continued investment in waste and resource recovery initiatives.

“This latest package builds on the $37 million Recycling Industry Strategic Plan – bringing the state government’s investment in the waste and resource recovery industry to more than $135 million,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“I encourage Victorians to have their say on this important issue, as we work towards a final policy in 2020.”

The Circular Economy Policy issues paper is open for consultation until 2 August.

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Victorian parliament bans single-use plastic bags

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned across Victoria from 1 November, under new legislation introduced to parliament this week.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said all single-use plastic shopping bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less will be banned, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

The ban applies to bags provided by retail outlets including supermarkets, fashion boutiques, fast food outlets, convenience stores and service stations.

“These legislative changes follow an overwhelming number of responses during community consultation,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The feedback on this one was clear. Victorians want to do more to protect the environment from the damage litter causes, and are overwhelmingly supportive of banning single-use plastic shopping bags.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, work is underway with the National Retailers Association to ensure Victorian businesses are prepared for the ban and have access to sustainable packaging alternatives.

A plastic pollution action plan is also under development to help reduce other types of plastic pollution.

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Officeworks to receive e-waste upgrades

Officeworks has received funding though the state governments $25.3 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund to upgrade e-waste collection facilities at 42 stores across Victoria.

The Officeworks sites will collect mobile phones, ink cartridges and IT waste items – forming part of a network of more than 1000 e-waste drop-off locations across the state.

Officeworks already operates as a drop-off point for mobile phone product stewardship scheme MobileMuster and the Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program.

From 1 July 2019, any device with a power cord or battery will be prohibited from landfill.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the ban will ensure valuable materials left inside e-waste can be safely recovered and reused, while reducing the damage electronic items can have on the environment and human health.

“We’re making sure Victorian households know how to dispose of e-waste properly and easily ahead of the e-waste to landfill ban on 1 July.”

“It’s great to see businesses like Officeworks getting on board to ensure all Victorians to have a convenient drop-off point close to home.”

The state government has also invested $16.5 million to help councils across the state upgrade their e-waste collection and storage facilities, and deliver a public education program.

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Sustainability Victoria CEO moves to Solar Victoria

Stan Krpan will leave his position as CEO of Sustainability Victoria after being appointed inaugural CEO of Solar Victoria.

Mr Krpan said it was a privilege to lead Sustainability Victoria and watch its impact grow.

“I am enormously proud to have been able to work with so many passionate people across projects which inform, educate and deliver tangible outcomes for Victorians to act on climate change and improve the way we manage waste and recycling,” Mr Krpan said.

“I am particularly grateful to the many and varied stakeholders, who have been the key ingredient to our success and share our passion to position Victoria for a sustainable future.”

Mr Krpan said the position at Solar Victoria will present an opportunity to transform the way Victorians generate residential power from renewable sources.

“In less than a year since Solar Victoria was established, we have seen the huge demand for household solar energy by Victorians,” Mr Krpan said.

“This program is a cornerstone of the Victorian Government’s target to achieve 50 per cent renewable energy in the state by 2030.”

Sustainability Victoria Board Chair Heather Campbell thanked Mr Krpan for his service.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to acknowledge and thank Stan Krpan for his dedicated leadership of Sustainability Victoria since 2012,” Ms Campbell said.

“Under Stan’s leadership Sustainability Victoria delivered Australia’s first statewide waste infrastructure plan, growing investment in waste and resource recovery infrastructure, market development and education to their highest levels.”

Ms Campbell said the board wished Mr Krpan all the best in his new role as CEO of Solar Victoria, which will deliver the state government’s $1.2 billion Solar Homes package from 1 July.

“In August 2018 Stan led the establishment of Solar Victoria as a dedicated business unit under Sustainability Victoria,” Ms Campbell said.

“This will be a seamless transition for both Stan and Solar Victoria, as that organisation moves to become a standalone entity reporting to the Environment Department and Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said Solar Homes would cut Victoria’s carbon emissions by four million tonnes – the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road.

“Household solar is expected to generate 12.5 per cent of Victoria’s 40 per cent target for renewable energy by 2025,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Mr Krpan has a strong record in this sector and the right experience to lead the delivery of our landmark Solar Homes package.”

Sustainability Victoria Director Corporate Services Carl Muller will act as interim CEO while a full recruitment process is underway.

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Victorian Government commits $30 million to stockpile clean up

The Victorian Government has announced it will provide $30 million in initial funding to maintain fire prevention measures and assist clean up at a waste stockpile in Lara north of Geelong.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said clean up processes could take several years, as the stockpile contains an estimated 320,000 cubic meters of waste including timber, concrete, brick, plaster, glass and ceramics.

The Victorian EPA used powers granted under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to take over management at the stockpile after the previous operator let recycling waste grow to dangerous levels.

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, action from the EPA will ensure fire prevention can continue in the short term, ahead of a full clean up.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator has resulted in an unacceptable risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services in the event of a fire at the site,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The occupier and owner of the site have gone into liquidation, and the funding available to the liquidators to maintain security and fire prevention measures on site ends today (30 April 2019).”

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

“We will be pursuing the private operators involved for every cent of the clean up cost. They created this mess, it’s only right they pay for it to be fixed.”

Member for Lara John Eren said the site has been cause for local concern for some time.

“It’s excellent news for the whole community to know that the EPA will now take control of the clean up, it’s time to get on with fixing the problem once and for all.”

Since August 2017 the Victorian EPA has possesed additional powers to support fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks.

Ms D’Ambrosio said powers will be further strengthened under the new Environment Protection Act which comes into effect on 1 July 2020.

The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and state government.

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Single-use plastic bottles banned by Zoos Victoria

The Victorian Government has announced all single-use plastic bottles will be banned from Zoos Victoria sites in an effort to move towards zero public waste going to landfill.

From 1 May single-use plastic bottled water and soft drinks, along with straws and plastic bags, will no longer be used or sold at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo or Healesville Sanctuary.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said plastic pollution is an urgent environmental problem that is having a significant impact on marine wildlife.

“Each year Zoos Victoria’s Marine Response Unit deals with an increasing number of callouts to marine wildlife in distress,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Zoos Victoria is leading by example to reduce Victorians’ impact on the environment, advance the sustainable use of resources and help protect marine wildlife.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said Zoos Victoria is the state’s leading zoo-based conservation organisation.

“This move is part of a broader effort to influence visitors and other organisations to make positive changes towards a greener, more wildlife-friendly future,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Additionally, from June this year the three Zoo properties will have a new public three-bin waste system – organics, co-mingled and soft-plastics such as single-use food wrappers.

Ms D’Ambrosio said soft plastics will be recycled through a circular economy arrangement where Zoos Victoria will buy back products made from the plastics it recycles.

The move follows the state government’s ban on single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags, which comes to effect in November.

“We’re investing in initiatives that maximise recycling and reduce the amount of material that goes to landfill – it’s fantastic to see Zoos Victoria taking strong leadership to help achieve that goal,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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