Victoria’s single-use plastic ban begins

Single-use plastic shopping bags have been banned across Victoria, under new legislation introduced to parliament in June.

The ban, which commenced November 1, applies to bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less, including bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the ban follows extensive community consultation on tackling plastic pollution, with 96 per cent in favour of the ban.

“The plastic bag ban is part of a suite of government measures designed to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and strengthen Victoria’s recycling industry,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“To support the community in moving to reusable bags, Sustainability Victoria is running a Better Bag Habits campaign – helping Victorian households to remember their phone, wallet, keys and bag before leaving home.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the EPA is also is working with retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers to support them in understanding their obligations, as well as monitoring industry performance.

“The government engaged the National Retail Association to conduct over 180 tours of shopping centres and precincts throughout Victoria to assist retailers transitioning away from banned bags,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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Community conference called on Laverton North WtE plant

The Victorian EPA will host a community conference on Recovered Energy Australia’s proposed waste to energy plant in Laverton North.

In June 2019, Recovered Energy Australia submitted a final works approval application to the EPA, as required under section 19B(c) of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

According to an EPA statement, the application proposed developing a waste-to-energy facility with the capacity to process 200,000 tonnes of source separated residual municipal solid waste each year.

“The proposal utilises a modular system of vertical rotary thermal gasifiers, and is classified under legislation as an A08 (waste to energy) and K01 (power station) scheduled premises,” the statement reads.

“Following a public consultation period, EPA received more than 30 submissions on the plan, which proposes to deliver approximately 15 mega watts of electricity to the grid.”

Submissions range from positive, such as support for gasification and renewable power, and negative, such as concerns over waste to energy’s inability to address waste reduction and littering.

“The purpose and agenda of the conference is to enable the EPA to listen to, and better understand, the views and concerns of the community and stakeholders,” the statement reads.

“The community conference, and the independent chair’s report, will form part of EPA’s assessment of the proposal.”

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Cleanaway acquires SKM Recycling for $66 million

Cleanaway Waste Management has acquired the assets of SKM Recycling for approximately $66 million.

The acquisition follows a public sale process by KordaMentha, who were appointed receivers and managers of SKM by Cleanaway, after the company acquired SKM’s senior secured debt.

Cleanaway CEO and Managing Director Vik Bansal said significant progress had been made clearing waste stockpiles, repairing plants and equipment and bringing SKM sites to required safety, environmental and operational standards.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank the Victorian Government who helped expedite the clearing of waste stockpiles and the return of operations at the Laverton North site, through the loan provided to the receivers,” Mr Bansal said.

“We expect to gradually restore operations in Victoria over the coming months, to provide councils with a quality, sustainable solution for their recycling.”

Pursuant to the acquisition, Cleanaway will obtain the properties, plant, equipment and other assets of SKM, subject to customary completion adjustments.

The acquisition will provide Cleanaway with a network of five recycling sites, including three material recovery facilities and a transfer station in Victoria and a material recovery facility in Tasmania.

One of the Victorian facilities, in Laverton North Victoria, includes an advanced plastic sorting facility that separates plastics into individual polymer grades for sale or input into pelletising facilities.

According to an ASX statement, the acquisition also includes two properties in South Australia, which are not currently expected to form part of future operations and may be sold.

“Cleanaway is expected to offer employment to the majority of SKM’s full time staff,” the statement reads.

Completion of the acquisition is expected to occur by the end of October, with sale proceeds applied to repay Cleanaway’s senior secured debt, accrued interest and costs associated with the receivership.

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VWMA to host forum on EPA changes

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is holding an industry forum to grow the waste sector’s understanding of new environmental protection legislation.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said new environmental regulations, starting 1 July 2020, will greatly impact industry sectors throughout Victoria.

“July 2020 will see the biggest overhaul of Victoria’s environmental laws and regulations, which will have substantive impacts to the waste and recycling sector including logistics, reprocessors and the organics and composting industry,” Mr Smith said.

“The new regime adopts a preventive and duties-based approach to environmental protection, and imposes new frameworks and principles that will change the way waste management companies are regulated.”

The EPA’s new Environment Protection Amendment Act is focused on preventing waste and pollution risk, rather than managing harm after it has occurred and is modelled on occupational health and safety legislation.

Some of the most significant changes include a general environmental duty, which requires all Victorians undertaking an activity with risks of harm to the environment and human health to identify and implement reasonably practical means to eliminate or minimise these risks.

This covers risks from waste management activities from generation through to disposal.

Under the new legislation, licences will also be subject to regular reviews and a risk-based environmental audit regime introduced.

According to Mr Smith, it’s important businesses make themselves aware of these changes, and aligning with an association is a great way to stay on top of what is going on.

“The VWMA participates in a number of references groups related to the new act and has been communicating for the last 12 months to our members about some of the incoming changes,” Mr Smith said.

“Now it’s the people on the ground, the people that deliver waste and recycling services daily to make sure they understand what’s coming and prepare accordingly or voice their concerns now. ”

Mr Smith said the VWMA, in partnership with Russell Kennedy Lawyers and Equilibrium Consulting, is inviting anyone working in the waste and recycling industry to take part in the forum, which will also include opportunities to engage with experts across the sectors.

“Substantial changes are ahead for Victoria and we have crafted a program that will unpack the essential elements of the new Environment Protection Act and the areas of regulation,” Mr Smith said.

“We encourage everyone to come along to these sessions with laptops and other relevant devices, as sessions will include opportunities to summarise and submit feedback via government’s engage platform website.”

Mr Smith said attendees will receive all relevant information in one place and also also hear from legal firms and consultants, who will present multiple perspectives on how the new changes will impact businesses.

Russell Kennedy Lawyers Principal Stefan Fiedler said the state government’s legislative reform mandate originates from protecting human health from pollution and waste.

“The reform must facilitate, support and protect investment, by industry, state government and local government by creating certainty to achieve this objective,” Mr Fiedler said.

“A balanced and proportionate regulatory response is required recognising the contribution by legitimate operators forming the foundation of Victoria’s waste and resource recovery sector.”

According to Mr Smith, the VWMA will capture and consolidate industry concerns and feedback, which it will incorporate into an industry submission on the upcoming changes.

The forum will run 23 October at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, as part of Waste Expo Australia.

For information click here.

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VIC commits $1.6M to recycling research projects

The Victorian Government, through Sustainability Victoria’s Research, Development and Demonstration grants program, has allocated $1.6 million to projects that develop products sourced from recycled glass, plastic, paper and e-waste.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the grants program supports innovative research to develop and test new uses and technologies for materials recovered from household and commercial recycling.

Projects include testing roads and railway line noise walls made of recycled plastic, establishing a method to extract zinc and zinc oxide powders from spent alkaline batteries and investigating new blends of foamed bitumen using recycled glass.

Ms D’Ambrosio said research institutions will contribute a further $3.4 million to the projects.

“Institutions including the University of Melbourne and Deakin University will work to drive procurement of large volumes of recycled products into the commercial market,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Sustainability Victoria Interim CEO Carl Muller said research findings from the funded projects will inform industry of the opportunities to use recovered materials in manufacturing and infrastructure.

“The environmental benefits of using recycled content products and materials are clear, including reducing the need for resources, reducing production of high energy products such as concrete and curbing greenhouse gas emissions from production,” Mr Muller said.

“It’s all part of Victoria’s growing circular economy – we need proven recycled content products and markets for those products to make recycling viable. This will build confidence and market demand.”

Projects include: 

Australian Road Research Board: $200,000, trialling high proportions of recycled crushed glass in asphalt on local roads within Brimbank City Council.

The University of Melbourne: $200,000, developing a precast structural concrete wall using waste glass fines and waste paper cellulose fibres.

Deakin University: $195,00, investigating an alternative to the current physical and mechanical recycling methods of polyethylene.

Victoria University: $195,000, developing new blends of trench backfill material specifically for use in and around sewer and manhole structures.

Swinburne University: $192,950, evaluating the use of glass, plastics and crushed concrete in railway substructure including the capping layer and sub ballast.

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VIC compost facility seeks expansion

The Victorian EPA is assessing a works approval application for an expansion and upgrade of the Camperdown Compost Company’s Gnotuk facility.

Under the proposal, the existing Blind Creek Rd compost facility would be expanded to receive up to 36,300 tonnes a year of solid and liquid wastes – a 13,138 tonne increase on the sites current 23,162 tonne capacity.

If approved, the site will add additional waste categories including commercial food waste, tannery and wool scouring wastes, category C soils and stormwater contaminated with oil or hydrocarbons.

According to an EPA statement, the site will convert waste into up to 15,000 tonnes of pasteurised compost material a year, using upgraded forced aeration technology.

The EPA’s assessment is being jointly carried out with a Planning Permit application to Shire of Corangamite.

The Gnotuk facility is an EPA licensed site.

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Chemical and paint drop-off centres open in SA

The South Australian Government has opened new chemical and paint drop-off centres in Campbelltown, Heathfield, North Plympton and Edinburgh North.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the state government contributed more than $1 million to the centres, with local partners set to operate the facilities.

“Until now, householders could only access a depot at Dry Creek, which only opened on the first Tuesday morning of each month for three hours,” Mr Speirs said.

“The new facilities make it significantly easier for South Australian households to safely dispose of these chemicals, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this free service.”

According to Mr Speirs, many people don’t realise the damage that can be caused when chemicals and paint are handled or disposed of incorrectly.

“Apart from the threat to our waterways and surrounding environments if flushed into our sewerage and drain systems, storing unused hazardous chemicals at home or in the garden shed can be potentially lethal if not handled properly,” Mr Speirs said.

“They can be particularly dangerous to young children who cannot yet read warning labels.”

Mr Speirs said it was important to note that some items and substances would not be accepted, such as ammunition, asbestos, tyres, fertiliser and pharmaceuticals.

“Residents are reminded to keep chemicals in their original containers where possible, and ensure they are clearly labelled and well-sealed,” Mr Speirs said.

“It is also best to place open or leaking containers in a plastic rubbish bin or bucket, and transport them in the boot of the car or a trailer making it safer for the driver and to also assist in worker safety at the depots.”

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Comment sought for VIC EPA regulations and standards

The Victorian EPA is calling for public consultation on their revised environmental regulations and standards, which apply from July 2020.

According to EPA Executive Director Tim Eaton, the new regulations and standards are part of the Victorian Government’s modernisation of the EPA, through the recently passed Environment Protection Act.

“The new act and regulations will give the EPA more power to prevent pollution and hold polluters to account,” Mr Eaton said.

“Where the new act lays out the increased powers and responsibilities, the regulations and standards fill in the details and create certainty for duty holders to meet their obligations.”

Mr Eaton said the draft regulations outline obligations in relation to environment protection, pollution incidents, contaminated land and waste.

“As an example, the new act allows the EPA to require duty holders to be licensed, permitted or registered,” Mr Eaton said.

“The regulations then provide the detail of what activities will require a licence, permit or registration.”

The EPA and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will review all public submissions, before releasing a public report that includes submission responses and final regulations and standards.

“We want to hear from community groups, industry, small business operators, anyone with an existing EPA licence, environmental lobby groups or any other member of the public or industry with an interest in the environment protection laws,” Mr Eaton said.

“Have your say on proposed regulations and standards that relate to waste, permissions and licences, water, noise, air and contaminated land.”

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Cleanaway acquires SKM debt

Cleanaway Waste Management has acquired the senior secured debt in the SKM Recycling Group from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the largest lender to SKM, for approximately $60 million.

According to a Cleanaway statement, the debt is secured against all assets of SKM, with the exception of its Glass Recovery Services business.

“This includes the property, plant and equipment that form part of a network of five recycling sites, including three material recovery facilities and a transfer station in Victoria and a material recovery facility in Tasmania,” the statement reads.

“The site in Laverton Victoria includes an advanced plastic sorting facility, which separates plastics from material recovery facilities into clean, individual polymer grades for sale or input into a pelletising facility.”

Following the debt acquisition, Cleanaway appointed Mark Korda and Bryan Webster of KordaMentha receivers and managers for the entire SKM Recycling group, excluding its Glass Recovery Services entities.

“KordaMentha will immediately implement a three-point plan, with the aim to get the business back to capacity to help ease Victoria’s waste crisis,” the statement reads.

“The rescue and restructure package may include a sale of all or part of the assets. If a sale process is undertaken by the receivers, Cleanaway intends to participate in the process, and will undertake a thorough due diligence review of the business.”

Cleanaway CEO and Managing Director Vik Bansal said the acquisition would allow Cleanaway to work with the receivers to examine viable options for SKM.

“If a sale process is undertaken, and if we are successful in purchasing any assets, we will return the assets to a sustainable footing,” Mr Bansal said.

“It will also present us with an opportunity to add to our network of prized infrastructure assets as part of our Footprint 2025 strategy.”

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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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