Taskforce to audit Victorian recycling facilities

The Victorian Government has announced a joint taskforce to target key recycling sites it believes require extra management to ensure community safety.

It comes after a large fire at the Coolaroo recycling plant in Melbourne’s north, which took days to get under control.

The taskforce will comprise Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Emergency Management Victoria (EMV).

It will audit recycling facilities across Victoria, to identify and prioritise sites that require action such as a fire management plan to better protect community. It will also consult with waste resource and recovery groups.

As part of this, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio intends to declare, under section 18B of the Environment Protection Act 1970, an interim waste management policy to require facilities to store materials in a manner that minimises risk to human health and the environment.

It will outline requirements for appropriate storage of recyclable materials, require risk assessment by operators, and compliance with fire services guidelines. Non-compliance with this interim policy could lead to sanctions under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

The interim policy will remain in place for 12 months while a more permanent solution is finalised. The Environment Protection Bill 2017, which is before Parliament, will further clarify EPA’s role as a protector of human health and the environment.

The Victorian Government is overhauling the Environment Protection Act. The cornerstone of the new legislation will be a general preventative duty to minimise risk of harm to human health and the environment. The duty will require everyone to take reasonably practical steps to minimise risks of harm from pollution and waste.

The Victorian Government has already invested $162.5 million to further strengthen the state’s environment protection framework and bolster the EPA’s ability to prevent and reduce harm from pollution and waste. The Labor Government has also set a 30 year Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan to set the priorities for effectively managing waste, including providing a record $30.4 million over four years to improve waste and recovery resource management.

“We are taking immediate measures to ensure better protections for Victorians and our environment,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.

“The Environment Protection Bill 2017, which is currently before Parliament, will further clarify EPA’s role as a protector of human health and the environment.”