Victorian Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has appointed a new Chair of EPA Victoria, with Kate Auty to assume the role form 1 July.
EPA Victoria has issued a Works Approval for two new landfill cells to accept waste from the decommissioning and remediation of Alcoa’s Point Henry premises.
Alcoa operated an aluminium smelter and rolling mill at the site for 51 years between 1963 and 2014, when the final operation of the rolling mill ceased.
Alcoa has commenced physical decommissioning, environmental remediation, and long term planning for future use of the site.
As part of the decommissioning and remediation, Alcoa proposes to construct containment cells, as part of an overall strategy that reduces the number of landfills on the site from three to two.
The Works Approval allows the construction of two new cells at the Moolap landfill, but limits them to only accepting waste generated at the Point Henry premises.
“The cells are designed to contain industrial wastes including dross dust, soil, sediment, clay, coke, salt pond residue, carbon spent anodes, concrete and pavers from the decommissioned plant, and the contents of the existing CPL landfill on the Point Henry premises,” an EPA Victoria statement reads.
“The two new cells at the Moolap landfill will be above ground and contain 90,000 cubic metres of waste. They are expected to be filled, capped and rehabilitated by mid-2022.”
Under the Works Approval, the EPA also requires the project to include an independant environmental audit of the site, lining of the cells, environmental monitoring, with reporting to the EPA and plans for prevention and control of fire, litter and weeds.
Along with the Works Approval, the proposal will also require planning permission from the City of Greater Geelong Council and an EPA licence before the landfill can begin operation.
Members of the public are being asked to report illegal dumping in their communities, after the NSW EPA recorded a 34 per cent increase in illegal dumping last month compared to April 2019.
Environment Minister Matt Kean said illegally dumped waste can harm human health, pollute the environment and cost millions of dollars in taxpayer clean up money each year.
“Most people do the right thing and book in a waste pick up service with their council or sell items in good condition through online forums, but some don’t,” he said.
“Leaving waste on the kerbside without contacting your council could be illegal dumping and cost thousands of dollars in fines.”
Reports to the RIDonline database, which is used by NSW councils and government agencies to record and manage illegal dumping, show incidents of dumped household waste were up 42 per cent, with green waste and mulch up by 30 per cent.
The EPA, which is now a part of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, has advised residents to book waste collections with their local council and to store unwanted good safely until they can be disposed of.
“COVID-19 is also putting stress on charity stores and volunteers. If your local op shop or charity bin is closed, don’t leave your donations outside. Look for an alternative nearby, or revisit when the store is open,” an EPA statement reads.
“Goods left outside op shops and charity bins often become waste, costing charities to clean up and dispose of.”
95 per cent of surface coating operators in South Australia are complying with all licence conditions.
Following results from a sector compliance report, surface coating operators across the state have been found to be placing the environment first.
Surface coating, which includes metal finishing, hot-dip galvanising and spray painting or powder coating, are covered under Schedule 1 of the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act).
The primary risk to the environment from surface coating is the lack of appropriate bunding of chemicals and liquid waste, potentially resulting in soil and ground or stormwater contamination. Other environmental concerns from the activity are noise and air quality impacts.
Naomi Grey, EPA Manager for South East and Campaigns said it was pleasing to see the greater majority of operators doing the right thing.
“The compliance of almost all of the surface coating sector shows that the industry is taking its responsibilities to protect the environment seriously,” Ms Grey said.
A total of 40 South Australian surface coating operators were inspected by the EPA in late 2019.
The sector compliance report revealed that 80 per cent of surface coaters undertake at least one or more activities of environmental significance.
Out of 520 licence conditions, only 28 breaches were found due to lack of improper storage of liquid waste, with 50 per cent of those due to a lack of appropriate bunding.
“We will continue to monitor and work with operators who were found to have breached the regulations to ensure that they can operate effectively within the EP Act regulations, noting that these are difficult times for the industry during COVID-19 restrictions,” Ms Grey said.
The sector compliance report has set out future actions for the EPA.
“All licensees are expected to undertake correct action to ensure they comply with licence conditions,” the report stated.
“The EPA will continue to monitor these actions and licensees, and take further regulatory action for any ongoing noncompliance and inspect all mobile surface coating businesses,
“Conditions on many surface coating licences will be updated to assist to achieve greater consistency in regulation of the surface coating industry.”
Over 10,000 people have already provided a submission on the NSW Government’s plan to tackle the use of plastics, reduce waste and pollution and increase recycling across the state.
There are currently two papers open for consultation until Friday, May 8.
The issues paper Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future for Waste and Resource Recovery in NSW was released for public consultation last month, to help shape the development of the NSW 20-Year Waste Strategy.
The NSW Plastics Plan discussion paper outlines actions to reduce single-use plastics in NSW and help the shift towards a circular economy.
For more information on the policy proposals click here.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said in a statement that the plan is crucial considering in 2018-19, 60 per cent of all littered items were made from plastic and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish.
The second paper open for public submissions is the Cleaning Up Our Act: The Future for Waste and Resource Recovery in NSW issues paper.
The Cleaning Up Our Act plan outlines options to reduce waste and increase recycling, guides the opportunities and strategic direction for future waste and recycling infrastructure, and for growing sustainable end markets for recycled materials.
A NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment spokesperson said there has been a fantastic response to the consultations on the 20 Year Waste Strategy and Plastics Plan.
“We have received thousands of submissions and encourage more people to have their say, with consultation running until 8 May,” the Department spokesperson said.
The Department spokesperson said to adapt during COVID-19, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has moved planned face to face engagement, to hold online forums and a webinar.
“The online forums allowed participants to take an in-depth look at the issues and opportunities presented by the 20 Year Waste Strategy and Plastics Plan papers, with a strong level of engagement from industry, councils, peak bodies and government agencies,” they said.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will analyse all submissions following the closure of the consultation period next month.
“Submissions will be analysed and taken into consideration when developing the 20 Year Waste Draft Strategy and there will be an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft strategy in late 2020,” the Department spokesperson said.
“The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is looking forward to analysing the submissions and developing an innovative and impactful 20 Year Waste Draft Strategy in late 2020.”
Commencement of the Victorian EPA’s new Environment Protection Act 2018 has been postponed until 1 July 2021, due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
The Act was originally scheduled to commence 1 July this year.
According to a Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning statement, the decision is part of the state government’s focus on delivering a suite of initiatives designed to ease the burden on business, industry and Victorians as they address the impacts of the pandemic.
“As a result of this decision, the EPA will continue to regulate under the Environment Protection Act 1970, including all subordinate legislation (regulations and statutory policies including state environment protection policies and waste management policies) until the new commencement date,” the statement reads.
“The Victorian Government is committed to the EPA’s reforms and the long-term benefits they will provide for all Victorians. This is not a cancellation of the environment protection reforms. As with many aspects of working life at the present time, it is a responsive adjustment to the current circumstances.”
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has welcomed the announcement, with CEO Gayle Sloan noting that WMRR has been engaging with the regulator.
“Originally slated to commence this July, the new Act represents a significant shift in approach towards prevention, as well as a more flexible, risk-based approach to compliance – both of which are welcome, but will take time for industry and government to work through together to get the balance right,” she said.
“Additionally, with the current challenges being faced by all of Australia, including our essential industry, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is consumed with the job at hand of keeping our services operating and ensuring the safety of our staff and the community, and we need to remain focused on this task at this time and not further regulatory change.”
According to Ms Sloan, the deferral further illustrates that the Victorian Government listens to the needs of industry and considers its concerns and recommendations.
“WMRR appreciates the government’s decision to defer the commencement of the new EP Act by a year, which affords all of us – industry and governments alike – time to work through the sticking points and ensure that the Act meets all its objectives and the industry is given sufficient time to plan for the changes,” she said.
“Importantly, the EPA is keenly aware that now is not the time to be effecting significant regulatory changes, and as we continue to face mounting challenges related to the pandemic, business as usual is unrealistic.”
WMRR is encouraging other government to reconsider the need to progress additional regulations that will place undue financial and operational pressure on operators already facing difficult times.
“We would encourage other jurisdictions to urgently pivot towards a post-COVID-19 world for our essential industry, by actioning strategic policies and plans that will build a solid foundation for a strong and sustainable environment, as well as fast tracking the capital funding, planning, and approval of waste and resource recovery and remanufacturing infrastructure,” she said.
“Doing this now, we hope, will enable us to come out of this pandemic with a strong and viable sector, which will positively offer a much-needed boost to local economies, creating local jobs that will be welcomed now and into the future.”
According to an Engage Victoria statement, the EPA will continue to work with Victorian businesses, organisations and communities to prepare them for the act’s new date.
“This includes finalising and releasing the environment protection regulations and the Environment Reference Standard,” the statement reads.
Clean-up is set to begin at two sites in Sedan, South Australia, where thousands of tonnes of construction and demolition waste containing asbestos was found dumped in 2017.
The sites, on Battens and Pipelines roads, were discovered after an EPA investigation involving the SA Police, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and local government.
EPA Director Regulation Peter Dolan said the EPA had stepped in to remove the waste after the Port Adelaide-based demolition contractor alleged to have dumped the material failed comply with a clean-up order.
“We have engaged appropriately licensed contractors to carry out the work in order to protect the community and the environment,” he said.
“I can assure residents that the clean-up and transport operation is perfectly safe. Asbestos has to be inhaled to be hazardous to human health.”
According to Mr Dolan, the waste has been sprayed with glue to prevent the escape of exposed asbestos fibres.
“It will be wrapped and transferred in covered trucks to a specially lined cell at the Cambrai Waste Depot, which is licensed to receive asbestos,” he said.
“Air quality monitoring is also being carried out at both sites while work is under way.”
Transporting the waste from Sedan to Cambrai is expected to take one month, with trucks working between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
“The EPA is in the process of preparing a brief for the Crown Solicitor, seeking criminal prosecution relating to the dumping of the waste and cost recovery for the clean-up,” Mr Dolan said.
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Proponents of thermal waste-to-energy (WtE) activities in South Australia must engage the community in “genuine dialogue” and ensure the provision of accurate and reliable information, according to the South Australian EPA’s recently released thermal WtE position statment.
“A proposal to undertake a thermal WtE activity has the potential to generate interest and concern within the community, including non-government environmental organisations or other interest groups,” the statement reads.
“WtE projects requiring development approval will be subject to community consultation and/or notification as required by the Development Act 1993 and the EP Act during the development, assessment and licensing notification processes respectively.”
Additionally, refuse-derived fuel produced with EPA approval will no longer be considered waste under clause 4(a) of the Waste to Resources Policy, meaning its use in thermal WtE activities will not attract the payment of the waste levy.
“Thermal WtE activities receiving waste in accordance with the Resource Recovery Criteria, Thermal Efficiency Criteria, and holding an EPA Resource Recovery Approval will not be liable for payment of the waste levy, with the exception of thermal WtE activities receiving kerbside collected MSW,” the statement reads.
“For thermal WtE activities receiving kerbside collected MSW from a council or any other party contracted by a council, it is an additional requirement to demonstrate that the council’s kerbside collection system achieves the current MSW diversion target published within the Waste Strategy.”
Released following industry consultation in 2019, the statement aims to help planning authorities, licensees and development proponents understand the position of the EPA and the regulatory requirements for thermal WtE activities.
“The EPA will use this position statement to assess development assessment referrals and activities of prescribed environmental significance requiring a licence under Schedule One of the Environment Protection Act 1993 relating to WtE activities,” the statement reads.
According to the statement, South Australia’s Waste Strategy supports the efficient recovery of energy from residual waste and niche waste streams through best available technologies that suit local conditions, and can deliver environmental benefits and economic opportunities.
“In keeping with the waste management hierarchy and circular economy objectives, thermal WtE activities using waste that would otherwise be disposed to landfill are supported once sufficient material resource recovery has been undertaken,” the statement reads.
“The production and use of refuse derived fuel from waste that would otherwise be disposed to landfill will be supported where it includes appropriate material resource recovery, as set out by this position statement.”
When assessing a development application referral involving one or more prescribed activities, the EPA has the power to request further information, direct conditions for approval by the planning authority, or direct the refusal of the application as a referral body according to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016.
“Following the receipt of formal development approval, the conduct of any prescribed activity of environmental significance will also require an environmental authorisation from the EPA in the form of a licence,” the statment reads.
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia’s (WMRR) South Australia branch is hosting a free members-only webinar on 29 April to deliberate key elements of the position statement.
At the webinar, WMRR members will hear from South Australian EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli and Senior Environment Protection Officer Waste Reform Projects Brian White.
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Waste items from people in isolation with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in non-healthcare facilities should be placed in red-lidded waste bins, according to the NSW EPA.
The advice is listed in a series of EPA fact sheets pertaining to waste and resource recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the EPA, the risk of COVID-19 transmission when handling waste is low, however safe routine procedures should be followed.
Furthermore, despite public health orders listing restrictions to activities and places that are closed, the EPA says the waste and recycling industry should remain open, and “continue to provide its important services to the community and businesses.”
“Keeping facilities open also helps to reduce the potential for illegal dumping of waste that costs millions of dollars to clean up,” the fact sheet reads.
Under model work health and safety laws, employers must have measures in place to eliminate or mange risks arising from COVID-19.
“Measures to reduce risk include providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection, and information and training on how and why they are required to use them,” the fact sheet reads.
Additionally, the EPA stresses that waste facilities should remain open to the public to provide easy disposal options.
The NSW Government will also continue to work with the transport industry to ensure uninterrupted movement of goods and other materials across state borders.
“NSW has not imposed any state-based restrictions on the movement of waste,” the fact sheet reads.
While the Queensland Government has tightened restrictions on entry into the state, these restrictions provide for the continuation of essential goods and services.
The EPA also suggests operators develop a business continuity plan if one is not already in place.
“Plans should include the priority responsibilities of storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately, as well as measures to continue essential waste services like kerbside collection,” the fact sheet reads.
“Plans should be assessed and revised to account for changing circumstances, such as reduced staff numbers or the loss of key personnel, with focus given to high-risk activities.”
Applications are now open for round three, intake seven of Circulate, the NSW Government’s industrial ecology grant program.
Grants of up to $150,000 are available to businesses, not for profit organisations, product stewardship groups, industry bodies and government organisations for projects that apply industrial ecology principles to recover materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
According to a NSW EPA statement, industrial ecology aims to increase the efficiency of industry’s resource use by shifting from a linear to a closed-loop or circular system.
“Traditional industry typically follows a linear pattern. Virgin resources are extracted from the environment, products are made and sold and waste products are sent to landfill,” the statement reads.
“Industrial ecology redesigns industrial processes so they function in similar ways to natural ecosystems. In this way, the waste products of one process become the resources of another process.”
Projects funded under the six-year, $5.46 million program must also demonstrate how recovered material will be used as feedstock for other commercial, industrial or construction processes.
“Recipients develop synergies with other industries to identify industrial ecology opportunities, increase efficiency and save money by reducing waste sent to landfill,” the statement reads.
“To date, the program has diverted more than 50,000 tonnes of C&I and C&D waste from landfill.”
Applications are open until 1 May 2020.