Environment Protection Authority Victoria has issued a warning to landowners about the flammable risk of tyre stockpiles over summer and its consequences on human health.
Chris Webb of the EPA’s Illegal Waste Disposal Strikeforce said summer grass fires and bushfires are dangerous enough without stockpiles of unused waste tyres waiting in their path.
“Tyre fires are very hard to control and generate hazardous smoke that can cause an even greater health risk to the community, through the inhalation of particles and chemicals,” Mr Webb said.
“It’s a threat to the landholder’s livelihood and the homes and safety of people who live nearby, whether they are on neighbouring farms or in a nearby town or suburban area,” he said.
“Farmers do have some practical uses for old tyres like holding down tarps, but many tyre stockpiles are just a fire hazard and a threat to the environment.”
EPA Victoria noted old tyres shouldn’t be used for erosion control or around new trees, it is illegal to burn or dump them. If left for long enough, they begin to decay and can pollute the soil and groundwater.
In 2015, EPA introduced tighter controls for waste tyre storage, prompting a significant reduction in the number of known stockpiles across Victoria, but there are more stockpiles out there.
The regulations require any stockpile of more than 40 tonnes or 5000 waste tyres to be licensed, with requirements for on-site firefighting resources, limits on the size of the piles and minimum distances between and around them.
EPA’s Illegal Waste Disposal Strikeforce is tackling the problem of stockpiles of unused waste tyres, encouraging owners to help to protect the community by making sure their stockpile complies with the regulations, or by legally disposing of the tyres.
Some waste tyres go to landfill, but many can be recycled, and there are several recycling companies in Victoria. When EPA recently took over a long-standing stockpile of approximately one million waste tyres at Stawell, most of those tyres were recycled. EPA is now pursuing the stockpile owners through the courts.
“When necessary, EPA can exercise legal power to order that an illegal tyre stockpile be removed for appropriate disposal, fine the owner or take the case to court, but we would much rather that landholders looked at the regulations, and either made sure their stockpile was legal or disposed of it responsibly,” Mr Webb said.
To view the EPA tyre regulations and CFA/MFB guidelines for the safe storage of tyres, visit their website.
If any member of the community suspects someone is illegally stockpiling tyres or taking them to a place that cannot lawfully accept waste tyres, they are encouraged to contact EPA’s 24-hour pollution hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).