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EPA Victoria has withdrawn its official notice banning recycler SKM Services from accepting recyclables at its Laverton North facility.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Following an Inspection by EPA this week, the notice was revoked.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.

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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 conference will provide a forum for business, local and state government to discuss issues relevant to the waste and resource recovery sector.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the two day program had been crafted to address key challenges for the sector including EPA updates, legal insights into regulatory changes, labor and overseas workers and technology updates.

Additionally, attendees will hear from Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who will present on the Victorian Government’s waste and resource recovery agenda.

“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.

“There will also be information about the new Circular Economy Issues Paper, as well as workshops covering grants and urban planning,” Mr Smith said.

“This event is opened to members and non-members, basically anyone working in, with or for the sector would benefit in attending.”

Other speakers include Choice Energy CEO Christopher Dean, Infrastructure Victoria Resource Recovery and Recycling Project Director Elissa McNamara and National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Reed.

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

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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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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.

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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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Essential Services Commission to review Victorian waste sector

The Essential Services Commission will review waste and recycling services in Victoria to assess whether they should be regulated as an essential service like water and energy.

A further review of the landfill levy will also be conducted, to consider the current and future effectiveness of the initiative as an economic instrument for influencing waste management practices.

A $14.3 million Recycling Industry Development Fund has been established, targeting secondary processing infrastructure for priority materials such as paper, cardboard and plastics.

A $13.8 million program to provide incentives for new entrants to the Victorian recycling market has also been announced.

The Victorian Government announced the review in conjunction with a new $34.9 million package of recycling reforms.

Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith welcomed the review.

“The VWMA welcomes consultation by the Essential Service Commission, with us and our members,” Mr Smith says.

“Grants can be great, but are not always the best method to support private investment. I’d like to see funding bodies exploring new ways for business to access funds, and this shouldn’t result in business competing with local government.”

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the review will help create a more stable and productive recycling sector.

“It’s more important than ever to minimise the amount of waste we produce and ensure we’re recycling as many items as possible,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

She said the new initiatives are an important step in planning for the future of the waste and recycling industry.

“The package will provide support to Victorian councils when it comes to negotiating new contracts for recycling services, helping to improve business performance and put better contingency plans in place,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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Think tank asks if Victoria’s ready for the e-waste ban?

With just over a month to go, Ewaste Watch questions how prepared Victoria is to realise the benefits of the e-waste landfill ban.

Victoria will become the third jurisdiction in Australia to ban e-waste from landfill on 1 July, following in the footsteps of the ACT and South Australia.

Ewaste Watch director Rose Read said while the state government has made efforts to increase the number of convenient drop-off locations, she is unsure if communities and businesses are sufficiently aware of new collection points.

Ms Read also said critical questions had not been answered, including, will householders and businesses have to pay for the recycling? What controls are in place to ensure waste is properly recycled? What will happen to data left on electronic items? And can householders and businesses take their electronic goods back to manufacturers for free recycling?

“Finally, will local councils who are left to implement the landfill ban be able to field the many questions and provide collection services that meet the expectations of residents and businesses?” Ms Read said.

“If not, there is a real risk we may see an increase in illegal dumping, problematic stockpiling and general non-compliance with the ban.”

Ewaste Watch’s second Director John Gertsakis believes the ban is only one part of the e-waste solution, and that federal government must expand the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme to include all electronic and electrical products not covered by an industry product stewardship scheme.

“Councils need the support of manufacturers, brands and retailers to ensure recycling is free, and that community-friendly options are provided for electronics reuse, repair and recycling,” Mr Gertsakis said.

“The Victorian e-waste ban is a great opportunity to adjust consumer behaviour, build a circular economy and provide a clear signal to the electronics and battery industries to produce more durable and sustainable goods.”

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VIC budget allocates $35 million to waste and resource recovery

The 2019-20 Victorian budget has injected $35 million into the waste and resource recovery industry, using funds raised from the municipal and industrial landfill levy.

According to the offical budget website, proceeds from the levy are first used to fund core activities of environmental agencies, with the remaining balance going towards the sustainability fund.

The budget has allocated an additional $68.8 million in levy proceeds including $15 million to strengthen the EPA, $30 million for the Lara stockpile site rehabilitation and $3.7 million to combat illegal stockpiling and hazardous waste mismanagement.

Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan said Victoria was leading the way in its financial commitment to assisting the waste industry in developing markets.

“It’s been more than 18 months since China implemented its National Sword policy and its impacts, along with other ongoing challenges, have brought to the fore the need to build and grow domestic remanufacturing,” Ms Sloan said.

“This week’s $35 million announcement is on top of the almost $37 million Victoria provided to industry in 2018 in the wake of China.”

Ms Sloan said developing a sustainable remanufacturing base was dependant on robust government regulation, and policy that supports market development and demand for recycled material.

“With the recent appointment of two federal ministers in the environment portfolio, including for the first time an assistant minister for waste reduction, WMRR is hopeful that Australia will finally have the much-needed national coordination and leadership it requires to grow its domestic remanufacturing sector and develop a consistent policy approach,” Ms Sloan said.

“We know that for every 10,000 tonnes of product recycled we create 9.2 jobs, so this is good news for Victoria.”

Ms Sloan said it was an exciting time to be working in the waste and resource recovery industry.

“WMRR looks forward to continuing its positive collaboration with the Victorian Government, as it fixes and builds its essential waste and resource recovery industry to create a circular economy and build a local remanufacturing industry,” Ms Sloan said.

“We will continue to work closely with Victoria’s leaders to provide feedback and input on the projects, policies, and investment priorities that will drive the sector forward.”

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Preparing for the Victorian e-waste ban

With the Victorian e-waste to landfill ban less than six weeks away, the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is holding an event to prepare delegates on 28 May.

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

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the ban had been pushed from its original 2018 start date 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.

“We’re putting this event on in response to member 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.”

Mr Smith said the event will provide key information to prepare attendees, 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.

“The event will feature presentations from the Department of Environment, a Q&A with the EPA on compliance and an e-waste infrastructure build update from Sustainability Victoria.”

Mr Smith said there will also be presentations on battery stewardship and the rise of advanced machinery and robotics.

“Delegates will have the opportunity to raise questions, which VWMA will formally raise with government agencies,” 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.”

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 the Barwon South West and Grampians Central West regions 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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