Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce interim report released

Resource recovery facilities across Victoria are being audited following the release of the Victorian Government-commissioned Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce interim report.

The taskforce was set up in the aftermath of the SKM Recycling plant fire in Coolaroo, targeting key recycling sites that require extra management measures to ensure community safety.

To date, the taskforce has conducted 88 inspections of 73 sites and issued 37 statutory notices. More than 500 sites have been assessed for risk and 170 sites were found to store combustible material and require further investigation, according to a summary of the report.

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The report summary highlights that the audit program identified that the resource recovery sector is generally “poorly prepared” and “ill-equipped” to manage the risk of fire at their facilities.

The interim report found that while no site was as high a fire risk as Coolaroo, a wide range of issues were identified, ranging from minor housekeeping matters to major failings subject to regulatory action.

The Victorian Government will consider each recommendation made by the taskforce, with inspections to continue until June 2018.

To assist the taskforce, the state government has strengthened the state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) by establishing an interim Waste Management Policy to improve safety standards at waste and resource recovery facilities.

The taskforce has developed guidelines that provide detailed information for resource recovery facility operators on how best to prevent and reduce the impact of fires.

A summary of the taskforce’s interim report can be found here. 

 

Victorian Government implements Interim Waste Management Policy

The Victorian Government has put into place an Interim Waste Management Policy to remain in tact for 12 months.

The policy was declared in response to a significant fire at the SKM Recycling plant at Coolaroo in mid-July. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria says it is needed to ensure that stockpiles of combustable recyclable and waste material are appropriately managed, and the associated risk to human and environmental health. These include the generation of hazardous air pollutants (including smoke), oil, run-off and leachate that affect the air, soil and waterways.

The policy, which applies to waste and resource recovery facilities, will remain in place for 12 months, however during this time further solutions for improving resource recovery facilities will be developed by the state government.

The IWMP applies to operators of sites that store combustible, recyclable, and waste material and requires storage of materials in a manner that reduces the risk to human health and the environment. These materials include includes paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, rubber, textile, organic material, refuse derived fuel, specified electronic waste, metals, and other combustible material which is considered waste. The policy also gives the EPA additional powers to support local government and Victoria’s fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks.

EPA has developed Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials – guideline (publication 1667) to provide practical guidance for industry on how to comply with the policy and operate in a manner that reduces potential fire risks and risks to human health and environment. This guideline will sit under the Interim Waste Management Policy.

Some of the guidelines outlined in publication 1667 include a necessity for operators to record inventory information on the types of waste stored and managed at the premises, its location and volumes. The inventory must also be maintained daily and easily accessible. Other areas of compliance range from safe working practices and infrastructure, to site selection and risk assessments. The guideline was developed in partnership with other government agencies such as Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), Country Fire Authority (CFA), local councils and Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group. The waste industry and resource recovery representatives were also consulted.