Waste Management Review looks at the emergency planning provisions in place to prevent stockpiling following a recent EPA notice in Melbourne.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) says a $8060 fine issued over non-compliant stockpiling of recyclable waste north-west of Geelong should serve as warning for waste management companies across the state.
EPA South West Manager Carolyn Francis said the loose stockpiles of combustible timber waste could pose a significant challenge for fire services if they were to catch fire.
“If those stockpiles ignited, firefighters could face major challenges protecting the health and environmental safety of the surrounding area,” Ms Francis said.
EPA issued the site operator with a fine for not complying with a legally binding remedial notice to manage the stockpiles in line with EPA Waste Management Policy requirements.
The unsafe stockpiles were detected through the Victorian Government’s Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce, which has been auditing recycling facilities to identify non-compliance, including the stockpiling of materials that pose a fire risk to community safety and the environment.
Despite EPA issuing the operator with a remedial notice in October 2018, a follow-up inspection in December revealed that the operator had not completed the works required to improve stockpile sizes and management.
The operator has since started work to meet materials recycling guidelines at the premises, with EPA continuing to closely monitor its progress. A further two remedial notices are due for compliance shortly.
“The EPA Guidelines on the management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials were established to reduce the risk of fire, and the impacts of smoke and fire water run-off. They cover issues including separation distances, firefighting facilities, staff training, emergency management planning and preventative behaviours including regular inspections and hazard identification,” Ms Francis said.
Ms Francis said EPA takes a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance against the Waste Management Policy requirements and expects the recycling industry to take their compliance obligations seriously.
“EPA is continuing inspections of these premises to ensure compliance and reduce the risk that a fire could cause to the community and the environment,” Ms Francis said.
Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2008, the company has the right to have the decision to issue the infringement notice reviewed or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.
About one quarter of a tyre stockpile in the Victorian town of Numurkah has been removed – equating to an estimated tonnes of 1200 tyres.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) used its powers at the end of last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council and funding from the Victorian Government.
Located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, the stockpile on privately-owned land has a stockpile of an estimated 500,000 tyres.
EPA Victoria North East Region Manager Emma Knights said the disposal of the tyres was going well.
“The project has been carefully planned, and the tyres removed so far have come from the sides of the stockpile where the hazards are most critical,” Ms Knights said.
“Aerial pictures taken by an EPA camera drone late last week show piles of waste tyres have been removed from the eastern side, closest to homes along the Goulburn Valley Highway. The southern side, which faces several business premises, is currently being removed,” she said.
The removal began in mid December with up to eight trucks a day leaving the site, five days a week, and the whole project is estimated to take approximately 10 weeks.
“The work is progressing well and we are on schedule, although the completion date will depend on the weather, including any days of total fire ban,” Ms Knights said.
The stockpile has been a concern to the community for some time.
“Tyre fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and produce considerable amounts of toxic smoke. With an estimated 5000 tonnes of waste tyres at the site, CFA has already warned of serious consequences if a summer grass or bushfire spreads to the stockpile,” she said.
The clean-up was carefully planned to include fire safety, security and wildlife and vermin management. Firefighting equipment is located on site for the duration of the clean-up, and no snakes have been observed so far during tyre removal.
The waste tyres are going to a licensed facility in Melbourne for recycling. Once they have been shredded, waste tyres can be put to use in the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, in the form of products such as athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres or road surfacing.
The Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform (ANZRP) has announced plans to build the world’s first commercial e-waste plastic microfactory after receiving a $250,000 grant from Sustainability Victoria.
In partnership with UNSW SMaRT Centre and e-recycler TES, the microfactory will process up to 500,000 kilograms of waste plastic per year. This will be recovered from e-waste recycling and reformed into 3D printer filament for retail sale.
Worldwide demand for plastic 3D printer filament is estimated to triple during the next four years, reaching a value of more than USD$1,965.30 million by 2023.
With the upcoming e-waste ban in Victoria and growing restrictions on exports of mixed e-waste plastic, options to reduce the cost of recycling and keep these materials out of landfill are growing. The project aims to reform a waste stream (e-waste plastic) that’s currently shipped overseas for processing or sent to local landfill.
Warren Overton, CEO of ANZRP, said the e-waste plastic micro-factory is a truly circular economy approach that ensures materials are kept in productive use.
“We’re so pleased to be supporting Australian innovation from UNSW and TES that helps improve e-waste recycling,” Mr Overton said.
“As the volume of e-waste continues to increase, technologically advanced approaches such as microfactories will play a key role mitigating the impact of old televisions and computers.
“By working alongside industry and internationally recognised research hubs, ANZRP is committed to ensuring all e-waste is managed responsibly. This reduces environmental impact and creates employment.”
Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the grants will help develop a circular economy that maximises the reuse of materials and reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
With construction due to start early 2019, the microfactory will be housed at the TES e-waste recycling facility in Somerton, Victoria. This portable factory has the potential to be moved and process recovered e-waste plastic in other areas.
“The microfactory has the potential to scale and accommodate the 6000 tonne plastic feedstock that is currently produced each year from the e-waste recycled through the TechCollect program,” Mr Overton said.
“We have taken the first step with a scalable solution that has guaranteed feedstock, strong environmental benefits, as well as economic benefits through the creation of employment opportunities in regional and metropolitan parts of Australia.”
The Victorian Government has announced $4.8 million for 20 recycling projects as part of the third round of the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.
The projects are expected to create 155 jobs across Victoria and divert more than 350,000 tonnes of waste from landfill each year.
The projects, worth more than $35 million, will expand the collection of kerbside food organics, increase the recycling of plastics and upgrade major recycling facilities, including three regional resource recovery facilities.
A further $1.5 million will be provided to 10 research organisations to explore new uses for recycled materials and to work with businesses or government to maximise their use.
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The Research, Development & Demonstration Program will provide grants of $50,000 to $200,000 to each of the 10 research projects.
The projects will investigate innovative uses for glass, plastics, organics, concrete, brick and rubber, while exploring new processing technologies.
The program will work with the University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Swinburne University and the Australian Road Research Board – in collaboration with several major Victorian businesses – to increase procurement of large volumes of recycled materials in to the commercial market.
The Victorian Government has awarded $15.1 million to support 47 projects through the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.
The Research, Development & Demonstration grants are part of the Victorian Government’s broader $4.5 million Market Development program, which helps to build new, strong domestic markets for the state’s recovered resources.
A shift in business practices would support a significant increase in procurement of recyclables, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria.
A dangerous tyre stockpile in Numurkah will be removed, with the Victorian Government utilising its legislative powers to enter the site and remove the tyres.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Thursday called a community meeting in Numurkah, a town located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, to announce funding to clear up the stockpile on privately-owned land, where an estimated 500,000 tyres have been stored.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria will use its powers under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site and remove the tyres, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council.
The removal of the tyres will take approximately 10 weeks, with the waste to be taken to an EPA-licensed facility in Melbourne for shredding and recycling..
A Country Fire Authority fire risk assessment of the Numurkah site concluded that a fire at the premises would be catastrophic. A security fence will be constructed around the border of the site to prevent any access.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the stockpile presents an unacceptable risk to the community.
“We’re providing immediate funding to clean-up this site and keep the community safe,” she said.
Lily D’Ambrosio will continue her work as the Victorian Government’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change following the announcement of a new cabinet.
It comes after the Labor party’s sweeping victory in November’s election.
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One of her key responsibilities will be to implement the government’s commitment to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. She has also been appointed the Minister for Solar Homes, tasked with overseeing Solar Victoria as it rolls out a large-scale program of solar panels, solar hot water systems and batteries to help reduce power bills for consumers.
Ms D’Amrosio has represented the electorate of Mill Park in the Victorian Legislative Assembly since 2002. She was appointed the Minister for Industry and Minister for Energy and Resources after the election of the Andrews Labor Government in 2014. In 2016, she was appointed Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Suburban Development.
One of her achievements in the climate portfolio saw her oversee the passage of the Climate Change Act, which led to Victoria becoming the first Australian state to legislate in line with the Paris Agreement for net zero emissions by 2050. The minister has also overseen an overhaul of the Environmental Protection Act 1970, a 2014 election promise, which reformed the regulatory body to focus on the prevention of harm to human and environmental health.
CMA Ecocycle has spent the past 18 months planning a first-of-its-kind battery recycling plant set to become a critical part of Victoria’s e-waste recycling infrastructure network.
The Victorian Government has awarded 76 councils a share of $16.5 million to improve the state’s e-waste infrastructure.
Funding will go towards upgrading more than 130 e-waste collection and storage sites and help local councils to safely store and collect increasing amounts of e-waste.
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The funding aims to assist councils prepare for the state’s ban on e-waste which will come into effect in July 2019.
The upgrades aim to ensure 98 per cent of Victorians in metropolitan areas are within a 20-minute drive of an e-waste disposal point and 98 per cent of regional Victorians are within a 30-minute drive from a disposal point.
Councils will receive discarded electronics which will then be stripped of components for reprocessing or sold on the second-hand goods market.
Applications will also open in November for a share of $790,000 to deliver local education campaigns, with councils able to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.
E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or a battery that has reached the end of its useful life, including phones, computers, white goods, televisions and air conditioners.
The amount of e-waste generated in Victoria is projected to increase from 109,000 tonnes in 2015 to 256,000 tonnes in 2035.
Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the funding will ensure the state has one of the best e-waste collection infrastructure networks in Australia.
“We’re delivering on our promise to maximise recycling and minimise the damage e-waste has on our environment,” she said.