This year’s Victorian Waste Management Association State Conference addressed all the key issues impacting the state’s waste and resource recovery sector, including changes to the EP Act and the government’s stockpiling taskforce.
Victoria’s dedicated waste conference, the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) State Conference in late July heard from a diverse panel of state-based regulators, industry associations and experts across the insurance sector.
Taking place in the picturesque Yarra Valley, the two-day event highlighted the challenges of obtaining waste insurance, provided an update on the Victorian Government’s stockpiling taskforce, the new EPA Act, heavy vehicle compliance and various other legislative and national issues.
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On day one, LMI Group’s Dr Allan Manning highlighted the importance of waste companies having risk mitigation processes in place.
His presentation noted that multiple fires at the same location, including six at one site in South Australia and three at one in Victoria, suggested the industry was not learning.
At the same time, natural disasters such as bushfires in Australia have led to insurance premiums going up, creating a “new normal” for underwriters.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP) Kate Gavens joined the EPA’s Dan Keely to discuss the new EP Act. The new Environment Protection Act 2017 has a commencement date of 2020 and focuses on prevention through a general environmental duty.
The presentation highlighted some of the new changes, including waste classes subject to tiered controls, such as littering and industrial waste offences, changes to make the environmental audit system more flexible and recognising the ongoing management of land for owner occupiers such as landfills.
The Victorian Government Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce, which is headed up by EPA and comprises the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority, Emergency Management Victoria, WorkSafe Victoria and DELWP, explained the progress it has made into audits of waste management facilities.
The taskforce was set up last year following a fire at Coolaroo and has been undertaking joint inspections to ensure that combustible recyclable and waste materials are stored and managed properly and take action where required.
In the first 12 months of the project at the time of the conference, the taskforce had identified 800 sites, inspected 307, issued 73 remedial notices and 10 sanctions. It found the resource recovery sector was poorly equipped to manage fire risks, with oversized stockpiles, non-existent or ineffective emergency response features and other issues.
An Interim Waste Management Policy was replaced at the end of August and an update on existing combustible recyclable and waste materials guidelines will be completed by the end of 2018.
Day two saw recycling standards, rising energy costs and e-waste thrust into the spotlight, with an update on the new Victorian ban to landfill by Sustainability Victoria, the process of building the collection network and how the industry can assist in its education campaign.
The Victorian Government Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio also headlined day two, addressing delegates about the government’s waste and resource recovery agenda including the $37 million Recycling Industry Strategic Plan.
The conference also saw the announcement of the VWMA’s new support package to help members in the in the face of rising legal and insurance costs across the country.
With four components, including training, tools and resources; information, webinars and access to experts, legal package; and communication and engagement, the package is currently being developed.
“We are optimistic the government sees value in industry-led approaches to tackling these challenges. It’s about a shared responsibility and we’ll take this formally through relevant government agencies,” said VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith.