The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), in collaboration with the Victorian EPA, recently carried out workshops to help inform and shape upcoming engagement activities related to EPA’s new integrated waste tracking tool.
In April 2019, the Victorian Government announced it would invest $5.5 million to switch to a GPS electronic tracking system on the back of a series of high profile illegal stockpile fires. With improved data analytics and reporting, the system is designed to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial and high risk waste.
The new system will enable the EPA to monitor the movement of waste more quickly and accurately, with additional modern surveillance devices and tougher penalties. This will deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity.
Victoria will see the biggest overhaul of environmental laws taking place from July 1, when the Environment Protection Act and related subordinate legislation comes into effect. For more information about these incoming laws click here.
According to EPA Executive Director Regulatory Standards Assessments & Permissions Tim Eaton, the system is designed to enable businesses to comply with new laws.
“It’s an important investment in creating more transparency of waste movement and improving usability with modern technology,” he said.
Despite the VWMA supporting the action, VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said government needs to ensure implementation doesn’t result in unintended consequences from rogue operators that will actively look for ways around the system, while at the same time burdening already compliant businesses.
Late last year, the VWMA did a call out to the industry for expressions of interest to join a working group around the topic of Prescribed Industrial Waste (PIW) and the incoming waste tracking system.
“Membership with the association empowers us to act on our member’s behalves. Members have raised concerns with me throughout the year about incoming changes so we decided to form a working group to better understand the industry issues, concerns and opportunities that exist with the incoming changes,” Mr Smith said.
“Last year, we saw a very rushed engagement process by EPA in the lead up to shifting Victorian businesses from a paper-based waste transport system to an only online system. The process last year let down a lot of businesses and there was room to improve. This year we wanted to be on the front foot and work with EPA to ensure those improvements were realised.”
Mr Smith added that despite rushed 2019 consultation, the EPA has since changed its approach, recognising the opportunities of early engagement and industry involvement.
“EPA have engaged early – from July last year at our State Conference they began engaging with industry and informing them about the incoming changes. The biggest challenge we have now is that there isn’t much time before going live for EPA 2.0,” he said.
“This time round, we’ve seen business asked to provide input and feedback in the development of the new waste tracking system and its implementation. It’s great to see EPA recognising the important role that our members play in this process.”
Mr Smith flagged that the new normal for businesses in Victoria will be an expectation that they are taking active steps to understand what compliance means for them.
“In short they need to know and understand their risks and have the appropriate systems and processes in place to eliminate or reduce risk and impacts. The VWMA will provide our members information about incoming changes as they are made available, but I’d encourage members and non-members to subscribe to EPA’s communications via their website,” he said.
VWMA represents Victoria’s largest collection of waste and recycling operators including private operators, local councils, state government agencies and service providers / suppliers to the industry.