VIC EPA increases occupation of glass recycling facility

The Victoria EPA has increased its occupation of a glass recycling facility in Coolaroo, after stepping in to remove stockpile hotspots in October.

The action comes after a spot fire demonstrated that an industrial waste stockpile was not being appropriately managed to protect community and environment.

According to an EPA statement, recent stockpile monitoring has detected an increase in temperatures across areas that remain a concern to the EPA.

Since 25 October, the EPA has removed over 1100 truckloads of waste from the site, representing 10 per cent of the contaminated waste where hotspots are occurring.

“Works to remove hotspots and contaminated glass will continue for some months, with an estimated volume of 50,000 cubic metres of waste to remove,” the statement reads.

EPA Taskforce Manager Danny Childs said the EPA would continue to use all regulatory powers available to ensure hotspots are removed from the site as soon as possible.

“EPA will continue to undertake this work to reduce the risk to local communities and the environment,” Mr Childs said.

A regulatory oversight group consisting of EPA, MFB, WorkSafe and Hume City Council will continue a coordinated, multi-agency approach to drive compliance across the site.

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$30M stockpile clean-up continues

Thousands of cubic metres of material will leave a waste stockpile in Geelong this week, as the EPA begins removing truckloads of contaminated soil.

The Victorian EPA used powers granted under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to take over management at the stockpile in April, after the previous operator let recycling waste grow to dangerous levels.

In a statement at the time, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the stockpile contains an estimated 320,000 cubic meters of waste including timber, concrete, brick, plaster, glass and ceramics.

EPA South West Region Manager Carolyn Francis said the contaminated soil will be removed in a closely monitored operation over the next four weeks.

“The soil contains a variety of contaminants including metals, plastics and some asbestos, so the removal operation has been carefully planned,” Ms Francis said.

“The soil will be kept damp during loading to prevent any problems with dust, then sealed in plastic on site for safe transport in covered trucks to a licensed landfill in Melbourne, and will be tracked to their destination by EPA’s electronic Waste Transport Certificate system.”

Ms Francis said the EPA will run additional asbestos fibre air quality monitoring at the site during soil removal, which will be managed by an independent occupational hygienist.

“The removal of this hazard will clear some of the land around the edges of the property and remove a potential source of dust from the site,” Ms Francis said.

The site’s land will likely be sold to recover costs following the cleanup, according to the EPA’s website.

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$30M Victorian stockpile clean-up begins

The first truck loads of construction and demolition waste are being removed from a waste stockpile in Lara, Geelong, after the Victorian Government took control of site management in May.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator let the recycling waste grow to dangerous levels, resulting in an unacceptable fire risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“There is absolutely no excuse for the reckless behaviour of the people who left this mess for us to deal with, and we will have no hesitation pursuing them to cover the cost of the clean-up.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the site contains an estimated 320,000 cubic metres of predominantly construction and demolition waste, including materials such as timber, concrete, bricks, plaster, glass and ceramics.

“The first stage will be the processing and removal of a 27,000 cubic metre stockpile of timber, weighing an estimated 3500 tonnes,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and government, including managing interim fire risk measures by maintaining 24/7 security, secure fencing and maintenance of firefighting equipment.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the EPA is pursuing previous site occupiers, owners, company directors and any other relevant parties to recover the costs of the fire prevention measures and clean up.

“Since August 2017, the EPA has had additional powers to support Victoria’s fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“These powers will be strengthened further under the new Environment Protection Act which will come into effect on 1 July 2020, to prevent situations like this in the future.”

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TSA partners with reporting app to monitor stockpiles

Tyre Stewardship Australia has partnered with Snap Send Solve to enable simple public reporting of local tyre stockpiles or dumping hotspots.

Snap Send Solve is a digital platform that facilitates the identification of local issues such as illegal waste dumping and broken infrastructure.

Snap Send Solve CEO Danny Gorog said users capture photos on their smartphones, and the app notifies relevant authorities.

“Now users can easily report not just rubbish, but more specifically dumped or stockpiled waste tyres,” Mr Gorog said.

“The reports will be provided to the relevant council for resolution, as well as Tyre Stewardship Australia, who will monitor hotspots and communicate directly with tyre retailers, state and local authorities to stamp out poor behaviour.”

Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO Lina Goodman said the free smartphone app will help monitor where waste tyres are being dumped or stockpiled.

“If you see some dumped waste tyres or what you suspect is a stockpile, simply snap a photo and send a report using the app,” Ms Goodman said.

“The appropriate authority can then be alerted, and the problem can be solved.”

Ms Goodman said 10 per cent of the almost 56 million tyres discarded annually in Australia are domestically recycled.

“The rest are either exported overseas or disposed to landfill, stockpiled and illegally dumped,” Ms Goodman said.

“Understanding how we can work together to ‘stop the stockpile’ that is generated by illegal operators is the first step in finding sustainable end outcomes for a greater number of used tyres in Australia.”

According to Ms Goodman, there are currently up to nine major known stockpiles around the country, which cost an estimated $5 million each to clean up.

City of Port Phillip Victoria Mayor Dick Gross said he welcomed the addition of tyres as a new category on the app.

“This means we can gain a better understanding of where the hot spots are and thus deal with the dumped or stockpiled tyres faster,” Mr Gross said.

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New penalties for chemical stockpiling

Rogue operators who stockpile dangerous chemicals could face up to 10 years in jail, as part of Victoria’s new Dangerous Goods Amendment (Penalty Reform) Bill.

The Victorian Government announced it would crack down on operators who disregard dangerous good laws, following the discovery of millions of litres of waste chemicals stockpiled in northern suburbs warehouses earlier this year.

In a 27 August tweet, Premier Daniel Andrews said operators putting lives and health at risk would face jail time and fines in the millions.

“This is a message for any chemical cowboys out there who think they can treat our state as a dumping ground,” Mr Andrews said.

“We said we’d change the law – and today in Parliament, we’re doing just that.”

Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said a new offence will be created for those that engage in the manufacture, storage, transport, transfer, sale or use dangerous goods in a way that places, or may place, another person in danger of death.

“Body corporates who are found guilty of this offence could face fines of more than $6.4 million,” Ms Hennessy said.

“Existing maximum penalties for endangering health and safety, property or the environment will be increased from four to five years imprisonment and from $165,000 to $297,000 in fines for individuals.”

Penalties will also be increased for failing to comply with the direction of a WorkSafe Inspector, and other duties under the Dangerous Goods Act.

WorkSafe is currently leading a government agency taskforce to remove waste chemicals from 13 sites in Epping, Campbellfield and Craigieburn.

“The clearing of these sites is well underway with approximately 6.5 million litres of waste chemicals having been removed thus far,” Ms Hennessy said.

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Cleaning up a legacy stockpile

Tyrecycle’s Jim Fairweather explains the strategic planning required to clean up one of Australia’s largest tyre stockpiles in regional Victoria.

One of Australia’s largest tyre stockpiles, located within metres of homes and businesses in Victoria, was this year cleaned up by the Victorian Government.

The government at the end of last year appointed Tyrecycle, one of the country’s most experienced tyre recyclers, for the clean-up operation, with the site now deemed safe.

Over 44 operational days, Tyrecycle removed a 5200 tonne stockpile, equivalent to 500,000 tyres, at Numurkah near Shepparton, which posed an extreme fire, health and safety risk to local residents. The total transformation of the site saw 334 truckloads of tyre waste removed over this period.

The company worked closely with Moira Shire Council along with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which used its powers to enter the site late last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

The EPA introduced tighter controls for waste tyre storage in 2015, prompting a significant reduction in the number of known stockpiles across Victoria, with Numurkah being one of the legacy sites.

The Environment Protection Act 1970 requires scheduled premises to be licensed, with requirements for onsite firefighting resources, limits on the size of the piles and minimum distances between and around them. Stockpiles of more than 40 tonnes or 5000 equivalent passenger car units of waste tyres are scheduled premises under the regulations.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the site was an unacceptable fire, environmental and human health risk.

Tyrecycle began work on cleaning up the site in December 2018 under the control and guidance of the EPA and Moira Shire Council.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle CEO, says that the company was transporting 125 tonnes of end-of-life tyres per day from Numurkah to Tyrecycle’s EPA-licensed processing facility in Melbourne at Somerton, where they were cleaned, sorted and shredded for recycling.

“Tyrecycle ramped up its Melbourne facility to a 24/7 operation for the project and doubled its processing capability to remove the huge amount of waste tyres in the most efficient and time effective way,” Jim says.

“We increased our staffing levels to handle the waste, with most of each delivery being processed within 24 hours.”

According to the CFA and EPA, the consequences of a fire at the Numurkah site would have been catastrophic to the local community with air quality impacted and the contamination of soil, groundwater and surface waters.

“It was a great outcome for the local residents, to help them feel safe again after a decade of uncertainty. It was made possible due to the collaborative efforts between the Victorian Government, authorities and industry – working together,” Jim says.

The EPA conducted site inspections at Tyrecycle’s Somerton facility during the transportation and processing phase of the waste tyres from Numurkah.

Jim says that Tyrecycle is proudly the only EPA-licensed collector and recycler of tyres in Victoria and all environmental regulations were met during the project.

“Our planning procedures are thorough, including specific transportation schedules for the collection and arrival of waste.”

He says that the conditions were extremely challenging and strategic planning is required to begin a clean-up operation especially of this magnitude.

“Firefighting equipment is always onsite. However, when temperatures went to 40 degrees or if there was a total fire ban, all work ceased as the searing weather conditions resulted in an unsafe working environment.

“Fire safety preparation is paramount during a clean-up, as well as heightened security and effective management of any wildlife and vermin on site. With careful planning and protocols, we were pleased to deliver an incident-free project.”

The majority of the shredded and recycled waste tyres were converted into tyre-derived fuel (TDF), helping companies reduce their environmental footprint across South-East Asia.

“TDF is an attractive alternative fuel on an international scale. The extremely high calorific value of the product has significantly lower volumes of greenhouse gases when compared with coal,” Jim says.

The recycled tyre waste from the Numurkah site is also being used for a variety of products across the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, including crumbed rubber for road surfacing, athletics tracks and brake pads.

Tyrecycle also worked with the EPA in Victoria in 2017 to remove another dangerous and large tyre stockpile on the outskirts of Stawell.

During a clean-up operation lasting just over two months, 9500 tonnes of tyres which had been stockpiled for many years were removed, with more than two-thirds of the tyres transported to Tyrecycle’s Melbourne facility for processing and recycling.

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EPA Victoria removes ban

EPA Victoria has withdrawn its official notice banning recycler SKM Services from accepting recyclables at its Laverton North facility.

The facility, which processes large amounts of household recyclables collected by local councils, can now resume accepting waste.

The notice requiring SKM to cease accepting new waste was issued on 10 July, after an EPA inspection found the site failed to meet the requirements of the Victorian Waste Management Policy.

Following an Inspection by EPA this week, the notice was revoked. Inspectors from WorkSafe and the Wyndham City Council were also present to follow up on remedial action.

According to an EPA media statement, SKM’s recycling facilities can expect regular monitoring to continue and EPA will not hesitate to take further remedial action.

Victorian Government commits $30 million to stockpile clean up

The Victorian Government has announced it will provide $30 million in initial funding to maintain fire prevention measures and assist clean up at a waste stockpile in Lara north of Geelong.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said clean up processes could take several years, as the stockpile contains an estimated 320,000 cubic meters of waste including timber, concrete, brick, plaster, glass and ceramics.

The Victorian EPA used powers granted under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to take over management at the stockpile after the previous operator let recycling waste grow to dangerous levels.

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, action from the EPA will ensure fire prevention can continue in the short term, ahead of a full clean up.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator has resulted in an unacceptable risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services in the event of a fire at the site,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The occupier and owner of the site have gone into liquidation, and the funding available to the liquidators to maintain security and fire prevention measures on site ends today (30 April 2019).”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the EPA would rigorously pursue the previous site occupiers, owners, company directors and any other relevant parties to recover the costs of the fire prevention measures and clean up.

“We will be pursuing the private operators involved for every cent of the clean up cost. They created this mess, it’s only right they pay for it to be fixed.”

Member for Lara John Eren said the site has been cause for local concern for some time.

“It’s excellent news for the whole community to know that the EPA will now take control of the clean up, it’s time to get on with fixing the problem once and for all.”

Since August 2017 the Victorian EPA has possesed additional powers to support fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks.

Ms D’Ambrosio said powers will be further strengthened under the new Environment Protection Act which comes into effect on 1 July 2020.

The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and state government.

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Australians believe recyclables going to landfill: research

Most Australians across all states and demographics believe the recyclables they put into their council bins are ending up in landfill, according to new research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The series of surveys has also found that 49 per cent of people believe that green and eco-friendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime, with 63.8 per cent of those older than 65 seeing no benefits being realised.

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Key findings also report that 72.4 per cent of people would recycle more of the material if it was reliably recycled.

Confusion also surround which level of government is responsible for residential waste and recycling services, with some people thinking industry instead of government is responsible for waste management.

UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Director Veena Sahajwalla said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill, in the absence of a coordinated government solution to a waste problem, had not been lost on consumers.

“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of federal and state environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Dr Sahajwalla said.

“It is clear on this issue that people want action, and they want governments to invest and do something now.

“A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and reusable.”

UNSW’s SMaRT Centre launched a demonstration e-waste microfactory in April, which is able to recover the components of discarded electronic items for use in high value products.

UNSW is also finalising a second demonstration microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials into engineered stone products, which look and perform as well as marble and granite.

“Rather than export our rubbish overseas and to do more landfill for waste, the microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead,” Dr Sahajwalla said.

“Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”

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