Immersed in industry: VWMA Waste Expo site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association’s recent industry site tours took delegates through a range of resource recovery and manufacturing facilities.

The partnership between the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) and Waste Expo Australia was particularly significant in 2019, given current challenges facing the Victorian arm of the sector.

While the event had a national focus, Mark Smith, VWMA Executive Officer, says Victoria was lucky to have Waste Expo located in Melbourne.

“We support Waste Expo because of the relevance this national event brings to the Victorian landscape, with thought provoking discussions and presentations on everything important and impactful to the sector,” he says.

As a strategic Waste Expo partner, VWMA ran three concurrent industry tours on the Friday following the expo, a first for the leading waste and resource recovery event.

Hosting a wide range of delegates including representatives from the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, industry heavy weights such as TOMRA, local government agents and small business owners, VWMA’s tours were designed to educate and stimulate conversation.

The day’s events included a construction and demolition tour, an organics tour and a packaging process tour.

“Working with industry partners Alex Fraser, the Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA), VWMA ran the tours to bring the steps industry is taking to support Victoria’s recycling agenda into focus,” Mark says.

As attendees gathered at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Friday morning, many expressed difficulty over choosing which tour to attend.

After an opening address from Mark, delegates piled into three separate buses, each with an industry specific tour guide.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, included site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Toll Shipping’s terminal at Webb Dock.

Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility is established on a site acquired 18 months ago by the company, with Bingo pouring $23 million into the facility since then. The site allows Bingo to convert waste into seven different products and has capacity for around 300,000 tonnes per annum. The company aims to achieve a 75 per cent recovery rate on-site.

At Webb Dock, Alex Fraser has worked with contractor Civilex to develop a heavy-duty pavement which incorporates reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) that meets VicRoads guidelines. The pavement base layers are comprised recycled glass sand and recycled concrete.

As part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the Western Program Alliance used Alex Fraser’s recycled sand as bedding material for the combined services conduit housing the communications and power cables. The grade separation was undertaken at Kororoit Creek Road in Melbourne. The low embodied energy material replaces virgin sand with all 900 tonnes diverted from landfill at a lower cost.

Finally, Waste Management Review got to explore where Alex Fraser’s recycling happens, touring its Laverton North supply hub where more than one million tonnes of C&D waste, and one billion bottles of glass waste is reprocessed to make the quality construction materials needed to build greener roads.

A climb to the top of Alex Fraser’s high recycled technology asphalt plant topped off the excursion. The new $18 million faciliity is capable of producing over half a million tonnes of green asphalt per year, utilising the recycled glass sand and RAP produced in its collocated recycling facilities.

Shifting material focus, the Organics and Composting Tour’s first stop took attendees to the South Melbourne Market, where they were told about the market’s 32 tonne a year dehydrating compost initiative.

From there, VWMA and AORA directed the tour bus to Sacyr’s new indoor compositing facility. Michael Wood, Sacyr Environment Australia Consultant, guided the group through the 120,000 tonnes per annum facility, and explained the challenges associated with adapting a European model to an Australian environment.

The group was then guided through Cleanaway’s South East Organic Processing Facility and food depackaging unit.

Melinda Lizza, Cleanaway Development Manager, explained the depackaging unit’s 150,000 tonnes per annum capabilities, before handing the tour over to Michael Lawlor, Cleanaway Operations Supervisor.

After the tour, the group had lunch with the Cleanaway crew and discussed interactions with the EPA and growing levels of scrutiny on the compost industry.

From there, the group was driven to Bio Gro’s Dandenong South Facility, where Sage Hahn, Bio Gro General Manger, explained the company’s approach to organics diversion and composted mulch production.

After taking the group through the Bio Gro site, Sage fielded a range of technical questions and detailed the mineral additive process of mulch manufacturing.

Doug Wilson, AROA Victoria Admin Officer and compost group tour guide, says the day allowed delegates to closely inspect organics processing.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour took delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” he says.

The APCO packing tour, which was delivered in partnership with the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging, took attendees to Ego Pharmaceuticals, the South Melbourne Markets and recycled plastic manufacturer Replas’ Carrum Downs site.

Of the APCO tour, Mark says industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to address challenges in the packaging supply chain and achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Great stuff happens all across Australia by the waste and recycling industry and many organisatsions that we partner with,” Mark says.

He added that these were areas of interest that were not spoken about enough.

“It was exciting to see demonstrations of the circular economy in action. Parts of our sector are leading on this front and there are scale interventions that only really need the appropriate government policy to delivery environmental, economic and social benefits to Australia.”

He says this was clearly demonstrated on the tours in the Victoria context.

“Industry is leading on parts of this and it’s important to acknowledge the good work being done locally.

“A big thanks to all our partners for coming on board and collaborating with us.”

This article was published in the December issue of Waste Management Review. 

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Waste talks

Last year’s Waste Expo Australia saw a record number of delegates converge on the Melbourne Exhibition Centre to examine new opportunities in a changing sector.

At last year’s Waste Expo Australia, Pete Shmigel, Australian Council of Recycling, opened his presentation with a question: when you think about the waste and resource recovery industry over the last 12 months, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Audience reactions were mixed, with one delegate calling the system a mess, and another applauding the sector’s ability to acknowledge its problems and move forward. For an industry in a state of flux, this lack of consensus should come as no surprise.

But Mr Shmigel was positive, highlighting rising construction and demolition (C&D) and commercial and industrial (C&I) recovery rates.

“What kind of animal would I use to describe recycling? I’d say a bear, and what’s a bear? It’s surprisingly fast, it grows really fast and it sleeps for about half the year,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Amazingly fast growth in C&D and C&I, and then we look at kerbside recycling and it’s asleep.”

A solution for kerbside’s slumber, Mr Shmigel said, is further funding and harmonisation across jurisdictions.

According to Mr Shmigel, the Australian Council of Recycling recently conducted an analysis across 110 councils in NSW, finding 3824 collection and recycling process variations.

“There’s an argument for standardising the types of packaging that goes in, and there’s an argument for standardising the types of systems councils themselves run,” Mr Shmigel said.

“If Canada can do it, why can’t Australia?”

Supporting a stronger kerbside system was the focus of multiple Waste Expo Australia presentations, with over 100 speakers and 120 exhibitors navigating opportunities in the changing market.

According to Event Director Cory McCarrick, 2019 saw record attendance, with early reports indicating a 33 per cent increase from 2018.

“We are thrilled with the large increase in visitation at last year’s Waste Expo Australia, with a number of people travelling from interstate for the event,” Mr McCarrick said.

“Waste Expo Australia has truly cemented itself as the must-attend event for the waste management and resource recovery sector.”

The two-day event was opened with a keynote from Victorian Energy Environment & Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who outlined actions her department is taking to improve the state’s resource recovery system.

“Our country is facing some major challenges in the waste and resource recovery sector and that, of course, includes restrictions on the export of recyclable materials,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“It has also made us think differently about how we manage our waste domestically, and it’s been a bit of a wake-up call to many of us, because we know that we can do better.”

Ms D’Ambrosio highlighted the state’s forthcoming circular economy strategy and waste infrastructure investments, including a $500,000 grant to Advanced Circular Polymer for Australia’s largest plastics recycling plant.

“We are committed to strengthening and growing the waste and resource recovery sector as we transition to an economy with less waste and better reuse and recycling,” the minister said.

“My commitment to all of you as industry players is to be available and to listen and work with you as we manage the transition the community expects us to undertake.”

Policy drivers that would help Ms D’Ambrosio’s plan to strengthen the sector were then addressed by Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council. Ms Read highlighted the importance of market development, landfill levies, product stewardship, environmental regulation, product bans, standards and education.

In reference to product stewardship, Ms Read highlighted the success of the used oil recycling scheme, the National Television and Computer Recycling scheme and state-run container deposit schemes (CDS).

The topic of CDS was further discussed at the Victorian Waste Management Association’s (VWMA) post day one discussion dinner, with presentations from Peter Bruce, Whenceforth Consulting, and David Cocks, MRA Consulting.

Mr Bruce, who recently served as Exchange for Change CEO, presented state-by-state CDS comparisons. He specifically highlighted variations between who owns the collected material, how cashflow is managed and how different schemes designs facilitate convenience.

While attendees appeared largely in favour of a Victorian CDS, questions were raised over long-term efficacy, material recovery facility liability and kerbside glass collection as a CDS substitute.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser, also addressed the importance of glass separation.

On the C&D stage, Mr Murphy discussed innovative recycling approaches and the consequence of increased recycled content in pavements and roads.

Following the presentation, Mr Murphy faced a steady stream of questions, highlighting
an understanding of the central role sustainable infrastructure will play in the transition towards a circular economy.

George Hatzimanolis, Repurpose It, expressed similar sentiments, with a presentation on the company’s approach to C&D transformation via best practice technology.

“The principles of our business are based on the concept of industrial ecology, taking a product at the end of a lifecycle and converting it into a product that begins a new lifecycle,” he said.

Mr Hatzimanolis went on to discuss the importance of urban recycling facilities located close to generation points and Repurpose It’s C&D washing process.

The contrast between urban and rural capabilities and needs was further discussed in a session chaired by Mark Smith, VWMA.

With presentations from Matt Genever, Sustainability Victoria, Isabel Axio, Just Waste Consulting, and Joe Agostino, Yarra City Council, the discussion emphasised the multifaceted nature of resource recovery, with distinctions made between what is appropriate in city centres and what works in the regions.

Ms Axio explained how to adapt urban concepts to regional landscapes, and suggested challenges such as low populations and transport costs were enabling characteristics rather than barriers.

Mr Genever then broadened the scope, focusing on what Sustainability Victoria has learnt over the past seven years.

He specifically stressed the importance of closing the market development, sustainable procurement and new infrastructure loop.

Similar arguments were made at day two’s Towards a Circular Economy Partnership Panel, chaired by Toli Papadopoulos from Prime Creative Media.

During the panel, Sebastian Chapman, DELWP, highlighted the importance of data, and said while the department doesn’t fully understand the flow of material in the Victorian economy, it is working to improve.

Pushing the point, Cameron McKenzie, ASPIRE, referenced the axiom that data is more valuable than oil. Without data, he said, waste cannot be sustainably managed.

While each panellist presented different perspectives, the consensus was clear: for a circular economy to thrive, action needs to extend beyond waste to reuse, repair and sharing economies.    

As the expo wrapped up its final day, delegates discussed waste-derived products, destructive distillation and optical sorting.

The extensive and varied nature of the Waste Expo Australia program was perhaps best expressed by Steven Sergi, South Australian EPA: if anyone still thinks waste management involves simply putting material in a hole, they’re behind the eight ball.

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VWMA hosts National Recycling Week business breakfast

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), in partnership with Frankston City Council, is hosting a business breakfast on 14 November as part of National Recycling Week.

With the support of Frankston City Council, Corio Waste Management and Functions by the Bay, the VWMA is aiming for a zero food waste to landfill event.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the event is open to anyone, but is particularly focused on businesses in the Frankston Municipality.

“The Choice Energy sponsored event by will feature expert speakers from across the sustainability field, including Equilibrium, Beyond Zero Emissions and the Sustainable Australia Fund,” Mr Smith said.

“The business breakfast, held at Functions by the Bay, will include energy efficiency advice, material efficiency advice, access and explanations of tools and services to support business, and will be followed by coffee and networking.”

Mr Smith said the event is aimed at talking about waste, recycling and energy efficiency to businesses outside the waste sector.

“This event is all about making it easier for businesses to understand the steps and strategies they can begin straight away, or the areas they can make strategic investments in to reduce their waste and energy costs and increase efficiency,” Mr Smith said.

“There are a lot of government programs and grants out there for business, but these programs often have lengthy application processes with little certainty of when funds will come through if successful. What we’re hoping to create with this event is a one stop shop for businesses to gain an in-depth understanding of proven approaches to become more sustainable and more profitable.”

Frankston City CEO Phil Cantillon said the city was commitment to understanding the needs of Frankston’s diverse business community.

”Late last year we carried out a survey of our business community to understand the areas where they wanted our support to become more sustainable. This event is the outcome of that work, and we hope for a great turn out,” Mr Cantillon said.

“It’s great that the opportunity we’ve created with the VWMA includes benefits for business who register, including free energy assessments from event sponsor Choice Energy.”

Choice Energy CEO Christopher Dean said the current state of power prices is a challenge for businesses.

“Energy costs are one of the highest line items for business, alongside tax and payroll,” Mr Dean said.

According to Mr Dean, Victorian businesses are often confused when it comes to electricity, which inhibits their ability to make good decisions about their energy supply.

“This event will help to demystify energy bills, and empower people to take back control and reduce their costs with practical advice and solutions,” Mr Dean said.

The Frankston City Business Breakfast will be held 14 November between 7:30am to 9:00am at Functions by the Bay – Cnr Plowman Place and Young Street, Frankston.

VWMA members and businesses residing within Frankston will receive special rates. For more information including how to book your place visit the VWMA website.

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VWMA to host industry site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will be running three concurrent tours to showcase the waste and recycling industry on 25 October, as part of Waste Expo Australia.

Waste Expo Australia, one of the most comprehensive free-to-attend conferences for the waste management, resource recovery and wastewater sectors, returns to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre 23-24 October.

The event is set to explore the future of waste and resource recovery in Australia, with a diverse schedule of speakers from local and state governments, industry bodies and the private sector.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said given the event’s focus, it made sense for the VWMA to come on board as a strategic partner.

“What better time to highlight the great work of our industry than during Waste Expo Australia,” Mr Smith said.

“This year will be a first for the Waste Expo Australia event, with the VWMA working with industry partners Alex Fraser, Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA) to run three tours that will bring into focus the steps business is making to support Victoria’s recycling agenda and demonstrate circular economy in action.”

The event includes a construction and demolition tour, an organics and composting tour and a packaging supply chain tour.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, will include site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Western Ring Road construction site.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said the tour will include an exclusive look at the workings of Alex Fraser’s new, awarding winning sustainable supply hub in Laverton, which was recently awarded the Sustainable Environment Award at the Victorian Transport Association’s 30th annual Australian Freight Industry Awards.

“The construction and demolition tour will take delegates along the journey that turns construction, demolition and kerbside waste into the high-quality, sustainable construction materials urgently needed to complete Victoria’s big build infrastructure projects,” Mr Murphy said.

AROA Victoria Admin Officer Doug Wilson said the Organics and Composting Tour will allow delegates to closely inspect significant infrastructure sites.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour will take delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” Mr Wilson said.

“Sites include South Melbourne Market’s dehydrator, Cleanaway’s depackaging facility, Sacyr’s new compost plant and Bio Gro’s comprehensive re-purposing operation.”

VWMA and APCO’s packaging tour is being delivered in partnership with Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging.

“Industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets and to address challenges in the packaging supply chain,” Mr Smith.

“The tour that we’ve lined up takes delegates into the manufactures and re-manufactures working to make packaging more sustainable and driving demand for materials circualarity.”

For more information click here.

Additional activities taking place in and around Waste Expo include:

VTA / VWMA business forum on the new EPA

– Waste Expo Networking Drinks

VWMA CDS discussion dinner

– Keep Victoria Beautiful and Litter Enforcement Officer Network Meeting

Industry Tours

– All energy expo

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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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VWMA CDS discussion dinner

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is hosting a dinner on 23 October, where attendees will hear from industry experts about container deposit scheme (CDS) implementation and results.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the event will examine what Victoria and Tasmania can learn from CDS roll outs in NSW, ACT, QLD, WA and SA.

Mr Smith said New Zealand is also in the process of implementing its own national scheme.

“CDS’s aim to reduce the amount of beverage container litter and increase the amount of recycling through financial incentives,” Mr Smith said.

“However, not all schemes and rollouts workout to be the the same. What can Victoria and Tasmania learn from the States leading on this front?”

Mr Smith said the event, which is part of Waste Expo Australia, is open to all attendees and anyone interested in the topic of CDS’s.

“In addition to a scrumptious dinner and drinks, we’ve organised experts to present on a state by state comparison of CDS, and an overview of what happens with the cashflow of these schemes,” Mr Smith said.

“Big thanks to event sponsors MRA Consulting Group and RSM Group for making this event possible.”

For more information click here.

Extinguishing risk: EPA Victoria

Waste Management Review explores the Victorian EPA’s amended policy for combustible recyclable and waste materials and a training partnership to support it.

A recent spate of waste fires has highlighted the questionable storage and management practices of some Victorian resource recovery facilities.

While the issue spurred proactive responses from government and the private sector, significant media attention has resulted in public scrutiny.

Figures from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning reveal more than 100 recycling facility fires occurred in Victoria over the last 10 years, with the largest costing the Victorian Government over $110 million.

In 2017, a Coolaroo facility fire burned for 20 days before it was extinguished, causing significant human health and environmental problems. This resulted in community evacuations, with facility staff and the public also requiring medical treatment.

Following the fire, the Victorian Government established a Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce. The group was tasked with inspecting resource recovery facilities across the state to tackle stockpiles that might pose a fire risk. Since July 2017, the taskforce has conducted 628 inspections at 169 sites, issuing 186 notices and 35 sanctions.

The extremity of the Coolaroo fire reaffirmed the importance of proper material storage and prompted the Victorian Government to revise its Waste Management Policy for Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials in 2018.

Organisations such as SKM Services have been issued with notices in line with the policy in mid-2019 to stop accepting combustible waste until compliance was achieved.

Danny Childs, EPA Resource Recovery Audit Taskforce Manager, says the waste and recycling industry is going through a period of momentous change.

“EPA’s message is clear: community and environment first. Compliance and enforcement efforts against waste crime and illegal industrial and chemical waste stockpiling will continue to be a major priority,” Danny says.

“In parallel, EPA has ramped up its work with industry to increase compliance understanding and risks that must be managed.”

Waste Management Review explores the amended Waste Management Policy and a training partnership with the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA).

At the VWMA 2019 State Conference, Miranda Tolmer, EPA Victoria Industry Guidance Unit Manager, discussed the combustible waste policy, its supplementary guideline report and steps towards compliance.

The EPA Waste Management Policy for Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials was designed to enforce stringent safety standards in an attempt to address the rogue operators adversely affecting the sector’s reputation. Additionally, as with all EPA policies, it is based on the authority’s broader duty to protect human health and the environment.

Noncompliance can result in sanctions under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

Following the policy amendment, the EPA released a complementary set of compliance guidelines in October 2018.

Miranda said the guidelines, developed in consultation with the Country Fire Authority and Metropolitan Fire Brigade, aim to support compliance and educate operators on their legal responsibilities.

The guidelines stress the significance of understanding fire hazards associated with waste storage and management activities, while also outlining steps to reduce risk.

During her presentation, Miranda named five key risk assessment concepts including previous occurrence, frequency, changes in operational conditions, changes in environmental conditions and behaviour.

Accompanying each concept are guiding questions operators can ask themselves in order to assess their facilities risk potential.   

Besides previous occurrence for example, the guideline report asks – has a fire occurred in your industry, and if so, what were the consequences?

“Assessing incidents or near misses provides an understanding of the context in which the incident occurs,” the report reads.

According to the guideline report, assessing this question provides a good indication of how to prevent the issue in the future.

“It is also important to not just consider your site, but think about all occurrences across industry,” the report reads.

The guideline lists a number of operator responsibilities to achieve compliance including ensuring new buildings and refurbishments meets requirements of local planning and building authorities, signing off on essential safety measures and actively involving employees in site safety.

Site managers must also respond to all fire prevention notices and comply with relevant Victorian occupational health and safety legislation. The policy applies to all waste and resource recovery facilities regardless of size, with only licensed waste tyre storage premises and licensed landfills excluded.

Additionally, the policy states that operators are responsible for minimising harm caused by fires irrespective of how they start. If a fire starts on nearby bushland and travels to a facility for example, operators are still liable for managing resulting harm potential.

EPA guidelines suggest operators develop a risk register, where they can document a hazard and potential causes, before examining the likelihood and consequences for the business itself and wider community.

“Identifying hazards and assessing risk is an ongoing exercise. Risk assessment involves developing an appreciation of the scale of potential consequences, and the relative likelihood of those consequences should an event occur,” the report reads.

“Understanding the consequence and likelihood of a hazard can support and inform the selection, development and application of controls.”

Miranda highlighted the hierarchy of controls as a useful prioritisation framework for the identification and selection of control measures.

The hierarchy prioritises eliminating the hazard, followed by substituting the hazard and engineering controls. If those mechanisms aren’t effective, the hierarchy outlines administering controls through training and protective equipment.

Miranda said risk analysis must also be accompanied by an assessment of the practicality and feasibility of each control option. She added that the primary consideration for applying controls should always be the practicality of implementation.

“Risk controls should be adopted in line with a cautious approach that considers the site’s capacity, inventory, location and proximity to sensitive land uses,” Miranda said.

Specific risk prevention measures include activity separation, such as separating drop off, processing and storage areas to prevent contamination and hot loads entering combustible spaces.

Furthermore, early detection devices such as thermal probes to monitor storage temperature, video smoke detection and flame detection, regular inspections, routine equipment servicing and adequate waste supply are encouraged.

“Whether additional actions are required depends on existing fire risk management at each site, but could include improved work procedures, maintenance and training to minimise ignition, changing the volumes and way waste material is stored and improving firefighting capabilities,” Miranda said.

WORKSHOPPING THE ISSUE

To educate industry on the amended policy, the EPA held five Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials Guideline implementation workshops in the first half of 2019. The workshops involved discussions with recycling and landfill operators on steps to take to reduce the risk of fire.

Sessions took participants through a virtual facility tour, identifying various risks and controls that needed to be identified, and remedial actions operators could take.

Members of the Country Fire Authority also provided advice on fire management and emergency preparedness.

Matt Peake, EPA Executive Officer Resource Recovery Gippsland, says the Gippsland workshop was a great opportunity for the growing region. Gippsland’s population is projected to increase by 25 per cent by 2030, bringing higher levels of waste generation with it.

“Our [Waste and Resource Recovery] implementation plan has identified that to meet the needs of our community, we need to assist industry and local government to continuously improve the performance of waste and resource recovery infrastructure and services in the region,” Matt says.

“Understanding how to comply with new regulation is critical in ensuring community expectations are being meet, and that these essential services are reliable.”

During her conference presentation, Miranda said the amended waste policy is less prescriptive than the original.

She added that the new policy has a greater focus on working with industry to provide flexible options and individualised solutions.

That said, VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith says the guidelines are somewhat ambiguous, with differing expectations and interpretations resulting in non-compliance. He adds that operators are often unaware of their level of compliance.

Mark says this uncertainty can lead to situations where well-intentioned operators are punished, when the focus should be on those operators that intentionally circumnavigate the system.

Since then, the EPA has partnered with VWMA to develop a training program to assist guideline implementation and alleviate industry confusion.

Mark says the program is modelled off the guidelines, with a focus on tangible action rather than broad concepts.

“VWMA wants to ensure industry understands the guidelines so we can all work together to mitigate fire risk,” Mark says.

“It’s all about transferring awareness into action to support a thriving industry sector.”

Mark says the program is designed to support policy compliance, while also holding organisations like the EPA to account in the delivery of prescribed outcomes.

“We need the policy to work with and around industry so we can achieve the best environmental outcomes without compromising individual business needs,” Mark says.

The risk-based training program will help participants identify, quantity and develop plans and processes to manage risk.

Mark says to achieve this, operators must both understand inherent risks and document them.

“The whole process needs to be transparent and open, government and the private sector must come together to address this problem,” Mark says.

“VWMA and the EPA recognise the need to promote better practice through a shared commitment to drive industry leadership in the preventative management of combustible recyclable and waste material.”

Mark says participating in the training program will demonstrate a waste and resource recovery operator’s willingness and commitment to identify and manage risk.

“We aim to support members and the waste and resource recovery sector to reduce the frequency, scale and severity of fires at waste and resource recovery facilities,” he says.

Mark says the program is being developed through stakeholder consultation and is expected to commence in September.

Looking forward, Danny says the EPA’s regulatory powers will be strengthened from 1 July 2020, following implementation of the new Environment Protection Act.

The reform represents the most significant change to Victoria’s environmental regulatory regime since the introduction of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

The new legislation is focused on preventing risks, rather than managing harm after it has occurred, and is modelled on occupational health and safety legislation.

Danny says the changes will modernise the EPA’s inspection and inquiry powers and introduce strong regulatory duties across the whole waste supply chain, from generators and transporters to receivers of waste.

Changes include significant increases in maximum fines and penalties, such as potential jail time for repeat illegal dumping offences and stronger fit and proper person requirements.

Danny says strengthened proper person requirements mean undesirable operators can be prevented from holding a permission and/or be excluded from undertaking specified activities.   

“Preventing environmental harm is at the core of this act and in an Australian first, the act will introduce a general preventative environmental duty that is criminally enforceable,” Danny says.

One of the most significant changes to the act is the general environmental duty.

“The general duty will require people conducting activities that pose risks to human health and the environment to fully understand risks and take reasonable steps to eliminate or minimise them,” Danny says.

This article was published in the September edition of Waste Management Review. 

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Nominations open for VTA’s Freight Industry Awards 2019

Nominations are now open for the Sustainable Environment Award, as part of the Victorian Transport Association’s (VTA) Freight Industry Awards.

The awards recognise achievements across a range of categories, with the winners to be announced on the evening of the event.

Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith said there are six awards available including the Sustainable Environment Award, Investment in People Award, Best Practice Safety Award, Application of Technology Award, Female Leadership Award and Young Achiever Award.

“Reflecting on the last 12 months we’ve seen some amazing projects realised by big and small operators,” Mr Smith said.

“I encourage those businesses to apply and share their good news stories. We need to hear them, especially now.”

According to Mr Smith, the Sustainable Environment Award acknowledges the close relationship between the VTA and the VWMA, and recognises implementation of a policy or program and or technological innovation that improves sustainability.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said the company was honoured to be recognised at last year’s awards for its work with problematic glass waste.

“It was wonderful for our people to be recognised for their innovation, hard work and commitment to getting better outcomes for the planet,” Mr Murphy said.

Alex Fraser won the Waste and Recycling Award, now named the Sustainable Environment Award, for its efforts turning waste into valuable infrastructure building material.

Nominations are open until 28 August.

The event, themed Queen, will be held Saturday 7 September at Crown’s Palladium Ballroom in Melbourne.

Tickets to the event cost $320 (excluding GST), with a table of 10 costing $3000 (excluding GST).

For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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Industry welcomes COAG recycling pledge

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s pledge to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

The decision was made at the 9 August Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, with the intention of developing Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the decision would help create market certainty among the private sector, which is the biggest investor in Victoria’s waste management system.

“For too long there’s been an air of uncertainty around Victoria’s recycling challenge, fuelled by finger pointing and short-sighted solutions, so it’s promising to see COAG agree on the urgent need for a new approach,” Mr Smith said.

“In order to successfully manage our waste needs, now and into the future, we need appropriate investment in the people, system, processes, education and engagement to drive sustainable change.”

According to Mr Smith, as the primary employer, purchasers and manager of waste and recycling assets across Victoria and Australia, business has an integral role to play in developing the sector.

Mr Smith said VWMA has long called for all levels of government to work together with the private sector and other key stakeholders on a sustainable solution to the state’s ongoing recycling challenge.

“The private sector supports more than 23,000 Victorian jobs and invests over $800 million into waste and recycling services and infrastructure annually,” Mr Smith said.

“COAG’s agreement to build the sector’s capacity to collect, recycle, reuse, convert and recover waste will be very welcome and serve as a catalyst for investment and innovation.”

Mr Smith said while it’s still early days, the COAG’s announcement is a step in the right direction.

“VWMA looks forward to continuing to work with local and state government, as well as councils and other expert bodies, to arrive at a solution that benefits all Australians,” Mr Smith said.

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VWMA urges ongoing recycling

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is urging Victorians to continue recycling despite temporary interruptions to the state’s waste and recycling network.

Despite recent challenges, VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said the sector collectively delivers an efficient waste collection service to all Victorians.

“The private sector supports 23,000 Victorian jobs and invests over $800 million into waste and recycling services and infrastructure annually,” Mr Smith says.

“We have the potential to create sustainable solutions out of this current crisis. I hope we capitalise on it.”

Mr Smith said the current approach to waste management and recycling had evolved over decades.

“Current procurement practices have encouraged a concentration of processing capabilities across large operators and sites focused on volume processing, which has traditionally been a lower cost option,” Mr Smith said.

“A series of events over the last 18-20 months has demonstrated the inherent risks of the state’s waste and recycling network when we drive low cost options.”

Over the next procurement period, VWMA strongly recommends government procurement and tendering address ongoing issues and challenges.

“For Victoria and Australia to successfully manage our future waste needs, we must invest appropriately in the people, systems, processes and education to drive sustainable change, with the private sector as a partner for local and state government,” Mr Smith said.

According to Mr Smith, the state will see materials traditionally destined for recycling end up in landfill as the system transitions.

“We may need to accept that this temporary interruption could last a few weeks, as our waste and recycling system adjusts and adapts to this most recent challenge. Temporary interruptions shouldn’t discourage people doing the right thing and disposing of their waste in the right bin,” Mr Smith said.

“I also encourage impacted members or industry to attend our conference next week. The State Conference is about Victorian issues and opportunities – this is a critical time for the industry. Come along.”

Mr Smith added that the average Australian generates roughly 2.7 tonnes of waste a year — equivalent to the weight of a Toyota HiAce.

“By global standards that’s high and is not sustainable,” Mr Smith said.

“People can support the current challenges we are having by reviewing their own habits and behaviours, including buying things made locally from recycled material.”

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