VWMA to host e-waste ban briefing event

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is holding an event on 28 May to prepare delegates for Victoria’s upcoming e-waste to landfill ban.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith noted the government’s e-waste to landfill ban comes into effect on 1 July.

The original start date of 1 July 2018 was pushed back due to issues impacting the Victorian waste sector.

“We’ve all had a lot going on, and recent events impacting the waste and resource recovery sector have almost made us forget what’s around the corner,” Mr Smith said.

Once the ban comes into effect, any device with a power cord or battery is prohibited from landfill.

“We’ve collaborated with some of our regional partners and two leaders in e-waste management for this event,” Mr Smith said.

“We’re putting it on in response to our members feedback, and those of the broader sector, who are concerned with the lack of information they have in regard to the incoming e-waste to landfill ban.”

According to Mr Smith, the event will provide key information to prepare attendees for the ban, and also facilitate the opportunity to engage with peers and raise issues and concerns.

“Attendees can also speak directly with government agencies working to implement the commitment to support e-waste resource recovery,” Mr Smith said.

“By hosting this event in Ballarat – about an hour out of Melbourne – we can ensure regional members get access and also that our metropolitan members can attend.”

Mr Smith said the event will also cover information on compliance and current services and provide the opportunity to raise questions, which VWMA will formally raise with government agencies.

The event will run in partnership with Barwon South West Waste and Resource Recovery Group, Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group, CMA Ecocycle and the Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform.

VWMA members and delegates from within BSW/GCW region can purchase tickets for $50, which includes morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and workshop materials for the day.

The event will be held at the Mercure Hotel in Ballarat, with accomodation available on site.

To make a booking visit VWMA’s website.

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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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The City of Yarra to trial kerbside glass collection

The City of Yarra in Melbourne has announced plans to trial a fourth kerbside glass bin in 1300 Abbotsford households.

According to the City of Yarra website, starting in June the city will provide residents with a purple-lidded bin for glass waste in addition to the current garbage, recycling and food and garden waste bins.

“We need to change how we recycle as individuals, as a community and as a municipality,” the website reads.

“Our current model of consumption and waste is not working for the planet, environment or our community. We’re all part of the waste system and together must all be part of the solution.”

The trial is estimated to run for 12 months and builds on a successful food and garden waste collection (FOGO) trial conducted last year.

Results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

“Currently the glass in the kerbside recycling bin is creating contamination,” the website reads.

“Broken glass damages the quality of other materials, by removing it recycling will be better quality and more valuable to processors.”

The website highlights that a lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne, is creating additional pressure on the waste and recycling industry.

“For years we’ve ignored the potential of locally processing our recycled materials like glass,” the website reads.

“We are being proactive and exploring new ways to collect and manage your recycling to help fix the recycling industry, create local jobs and use waste as a resource instead of sending it to landfill.”

Following the trial period the city will consider expanding the service through Yarra.

The trial will be run with support from the State Government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and Alex Fraser Group.

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New tracking system for Victorian waste sector

Chemical waste in Victoria will be electronically monitored from July this year under a state government crackdown on the illegal storage of hazardous material.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio announced the EPA would 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 EPA currently uses a mix of electronic and paper waste transport certificates – with up to 100,000 paper certificates received each year.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the new system would enable the EPA to monitor the movement of waste more quickly and more accurately, compared to paper certificates which can be time consuming and difficult to process.

“Moving to a fully electronic GPS tracking system will mean we know when and where these chemicals are being moved and stored – so we can identify potentially illegal activity and catch these criminals in the act,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“This move will see the EPA phase out the paper certificates by 1 July 2019, ensuring all certificates are recorded electronically.”

EPA Chief Executive Officer Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the introduction of the electronic system would enable the EPA to better track the movement of waste, and help the regulatory body detect potential risks and intervene earlier.

“A new integrated waste tracking tool, with improved data analytics and reporting will also be developed over the next 12 months to deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity,” Dr Wilkinson said.

The tracking system will be finalised by March 2020, giving the industry three months to transition before the new Environment Protection Act legislation comes into effect on 1 July 2020.

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

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Victorian State of the Environment report lists recommendations

The Victorian State of the Environment 2018 report says the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of its planned circular economy strategy.

The report, commissioned by Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes, says five out of six waste indicators are stable.

Indicators used were total waste generation, generation of municipal waste per capita, total food waste generated, diversion rate, littler and illegal dumping and total hazardous waste managed and reported.

While most indicators are stable, except litter and illegal dumping which is improving, the report says the total amount of waste generated is poor and offers two key recommendations to improve the waste situation in Victoria.

First, in 2019 Sustainability Victoria need to develop indicators and implement a comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework to measure delivery of the statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan against circular-economy design principals.

Recommendations suggest that from July 2020 this progress should be expanded and a reporting framework that tracks progress put in place, with a public report released annually.

Second, the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of the circular economy strategy and clarify which agencies will be responsible for delivering policy, procurement, program, reporting and regulatory roles.

The report says this alignment should be adopted statewide to enable an orderly transition to a circular economy in Victoria by 2030, with the initial focus being reducing consumption and contamination levels in kerbside recycling.

Recommendations also note that the Victorian Government needs to commit to long-term, systemic, statewide community education to support these transitions and improve long-term system outcomes.

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VWMA hosts breakfast briefing

Next week the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will host its first industry breakfast briefing for the year with partners Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria.

EPA Chief Executive Officer Dr Cathy Wilkinson and Worksafe Director of the High Risk Dangerous Goods Taskforce Michael Eather will speak at the event, providing attendees the opportunity to hear and discuss important issues affecting the sector.

Ms Wilkinson will discuss EPA priorities for 2019 outlining key aspects of the EP Act and business engagement opportunities.

Mr Eather will provide insights into the high risk dangerous goods taskforce and outline the company’s project to clean up eight work sites in Epping and Campbellfield.

The breakfast will take place at the RACV Club on Tuesday 19 March between 7:30 and 9 am.

Click here for more information

Victorian parliamentary inquiry into ‘waste crisis’

The Environment and Planning Committee will inquire into the “crisis” affecting Victoria’s recycling and waste management system following a parliamentary inquiry push from the Greens.

The inquiry was endorsed by the Victorian Parliament’s upper house on Wednesday.

Victorian councils were forced to send recyclables to landfill after the Environment Protection Authority banned a major Melbourne recycler from accepting waste at its Coolaroo and Laverton North plants in February.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told parliament a third of the councils affected by the ban had found alternative processors and the government was working to help the others.

When operational, the Melbourne recycler receives approximately 50 per cent of Victoria’s kerbside recycling across three facilities.

Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell said the inquiry would help develop short-term measures to support councils and limit the amount of recycling ending up in landfill.

The Victorian Greens party is of the view that Victoria has been in the midst of a waste crisis since at least February 2018 and has been calling for solutions to improve market development.

Ms Sandell said she hopes the inquiry will provide direction to develop a state-based recycling industry, highlighting Greens proposals to develop a container deposit scheme and ban on single-use plastics.

“Victorians are doing the right thing and recycling at home, but right now there are no assurances of where it ends up.

“Government support for a state based recycling industry is long overdue and it’s not good enough for Labor to continually push responsibility back onto councils,” she said.

The Environment and Planning Committee plans to report by 13 August.

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1200 tonnes removed in Numurkah tyre stockpile clean-up

About one quarter of a tyre stockpile in the Victorian town of Numurkah has been removed – equating to an estimated tonnes of 1200 tyres.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) used its powers at the end of last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council and funding from the Victorian Government.

Located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, the stockpile on privately-owned land has a stockpile of an estimated 500,000 tyres.

EPA Victoria North East Region Manager Emma Knights said the disposal of the tyres was going well.

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“The project has been carefully planned, and the tyres removed so far have come from the sides of the stockpile where the hazards are most critical,” Ms Knights said.

“Aerial pictures taken by an EPA camera drone late last week show piles of waste tyres have been removed from the eastern side, closest to homes along the Goulburn Valley Highway. The southern side, which faces several business premises, is currently being removed,” she said.

The removal began in mid December with up to eight trucks a day leaving the site, five days a week, and the whole project is estimated to take approximately 10 weeks.

“The work is progressing well and we are on schedule, although the completion date will depend on the weather, including any days of total fire ban,” Ms Knights said.

The stockpile has been a concern to the community for some time.

“Tyre fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and produce considerable amounts of toxic smoke. With an estimated 5000 tonnes of waste tyres at the site, CFA has already warned of serious consequences if a summer grass or bushfire spreads to the stockpile,” she said.

The clean-up was carefully planned to include fire safety, security and wildlife and vermin management. Firefighting equipment is located on site for the duration of the clean-up, and no snakes have been observed so far during tyre removal.

The waste tyres are going to a licensed facility in Melbourne for recycling. Once they have been shredded, waste tyres can be put to use in the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, in the form of products such as athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres or road surfacing.

VIC councils receive $16.5M e-waste infrastructure funding

The Victorian Government has awarded 76 councils a share of $16.5 million to improve the state’s e-waste infrastructure.

Funding will go towards upgrading more than 130 e-waste collection and storage sites and help local councils to safely store and collect increasing amounts of e-waste.

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The funding aims to assist councils prepare for the state’s ban on e-waste which will come into effect in July 2019.

The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive from a disposal point.

Councils will receive discarded electronics which will then be stripped of components for reprocessing or sold on the second-hand goods market.

Applications will also open in November for a share of $790,000 to deliver local education campaigns, with councils able to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.

E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or a battery that has reached the end of its useful life, including phones, computers, white goods, televisions and air conditioners.

The amount of e-waste generated in Victoria is projected to increase from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to 256,000 tonnes in 2035.

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will ensure the state has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in Australia.

“We’re delivering on our promise to maximise recycling and minimise the damage e-waste has on our environment,” she said.