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VWMA partners with EPA for waste and recycling training

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is partnering with Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) to develop a training package that seeks to equip operators with information and tools to better manage fire risks.

The training course will be delivered by VWMA as part of its industry training program to be modelled on the Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials – guideline.

The training will equip operators with information and tools to understand the fire hazards associated with their activities and take steps to reduce risk. It will include the management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials in a manner that protects the environment and human health from the risk of fire.

EPA sees the partnership with VWMA as an important way of ensuring ongoing implementation of the management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials – guideline and will be seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith highlighted that last year’s VWMA State Conference saw a commitment from the association to work with insurance sector and legal firms, consultants and government to tackle rising insurance costs and the risk of fire at sites.

“This announcement today lays the foundation for us to move forward. Members can expect further information about additional services we will be rolling out at our state conference on 30/31 July,” Mr Smith said.

“Figures from DELWP reveal more than 100 recycling facility fires have happened in the last 10 years, with the largest costing Victorian Government over $110 million. We want to reduce instances of fires and work with insurance companies to show that the sector is making inroads to lift standards.

“Participating in this training will demonstrate a waste and resource recovery operator’s willingness and commitment to identify and manage risk.  It will also support business lower their risk profiles, which will increasingly be expected if the sector wants to remain insurable.”

EPA CEO Cathy Wilkinson said that through extensive engagement with industry and local government, EPA has developed practical guidelines on how to comply with the Victorian Government’s Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials).

The VWMA and EPA recognise the need to promote better practice through a shared commitment to drive industry leadership in the preventative management of combustible recyclable and waste materials. The VWMA aims to support its members and the waste and resource recovery sector to reduce the frequency, scale and severity of fires at waste and resource recovery facilities.

In a statement, the VWMA noted that the Victorian waste and resource recovery sector provides over 23,000 direct and indirect jobs across over 1200 businesses and is an essential community service supporting all the waste management needs of every Victorian business and household.

Currently, the sector is responding to changes in the regulatory environment around fire risk and management following new government policy introduced after several major fires.

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Laverton North site regains compliance

An inspection of a major Melbourne recycling company by EPA Victoria officers in March has determined the company has met the conditions of the notice served on them and is now able to resume accepting recyclable waste materials at its Laverton North site.

The Coolaroo site remains non-compliant and will not be able to accept recycling waste until compliance has been confirmed by the EPA.

On 15 February 2019 EPA alleged the company was not in compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy(Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials) and issued them with a remedial notice which required them to cease accepting recyclable waste materials at their Laverton North and Coolaroo sites.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said that in the event of a fire at either site, large amounts of plastic materials could likely generate significant community impacts from smoke and that the recycling industry had had ample time to become compliant with the policy.

The Melbourne company requested the inspection following improvements at their Laverton North site’s outdoor storage which has seen a reduction in stockpiled waste and increased separation distances as required by the policy.

“The closure of the sites was a decision taken to protect the community from the risk of a major fire. EPA will not allow a repeat of the 2017 Coolaroo fire,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“The company has demonstrated that it has met the conditions outlined in our notices and is again compliant. However, EPA will continue to inspect the Laverton site to ensure it remains compliant with the outdoor storage requirements.

“The community expectation is that the company will now maintain compliance and be able to provide a valuable service to Victorians. The message should be clear, EPA is vigilant. Safety and security cannot allowed to be compromised.”

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