This alert is relevant to the Waste Industry, Councils and Water Corporations.
On 29 August 2017 the State Government introduced the:
- Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities) (“Policy”)
- Management and Storage of Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials – Guideline (Publication 1667) (“Guideline”)
The Policy and Guideline were introduced for special reasons without delay in response to a fire at a resource recovery centre at Coolaroo in July 2017, which caused a major emergency response and significant impact on the community.
The Policy and Guideline are interim and expire after one year.
The Policy and Guideline regulate the storage of combustible waste and apply to:
- facilities that receive combustible waste including recyclables, for the purpose of storage, transfer, sale, sorting, reuse, recycling, reprocessing or energy recovery (“Controlled Facility”);
- the storage of combustible waste, including recyclables at a Controlled Facility prior to transfer, sale, sorting, reuse, recycling, reprocessing or energy recovery;
- the storage of combustible waste including paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, rubber, textiles, organic material, refuse derived fuel, specified electronic waste, metals or other combustible material which is considered waste;
- transfer stations, material recycling facilities, resource recovery facilities, re‑processors, recyclers and energy from waste facilities.
The Policy and Guideline apply to scheduled premises, including, in certain circumstances, A01 (PIW management), A07 (Organic waste processing), A08 (Waste to energy), E01 (Textiles), F03 (Paper pulp mills) and, G05 (Container washing.
The Policy and Guideline control the height, width and length of stockpiles of combustible waste and the separation of those stockpiles from other stockpiles of combustible waste and buildings.
The Policy and Guideline also impose controls in relation to:
- fire mitigation infrastructure and practices;
- the drainage of fire water in the event of an emergency incident;
- inventory records; and
- implementation of a fire management plan and emergency management plan.
The Policy and Guideline do not apply retrospectively.
Existing planning permits, works approvals, building permits and other permissions allowing the development and use of land are not varied or voided by the commencement of the Policy and Guideline.
Authorities including the EPA, responsible authorities, planning authorities and building surveyors will be required to, where appropriate, have regard to and apply the Policy and Guideline.
It is not clear how the EPA intends to apply the Policy and Guideline to existing Controlled Facilities. It appears that the only mechanism available is for the EPA to issue a pollution abatement notice to comply with the Policy and Guideline or a minor works pollution abatement notice where urgent action is required and the cost of compliance is less than $50,000.
An application for merits review of any pollution abatement notice may be made to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This right will be important where the Policy and Guideline substantially impact the capacity of an existing Controlled Facility (reduces storage capacity). The Policy and Guideline do not apply to:
- facilities that produce and store combustible waste, including recyclables (this would include manufacturing, forestry, agriculture, food production, etc);
- faculties receiving combustible waste, including recyclables for disposal (landfills, land disposal, sewage treatment, industrial wastewater treatment, incineration); or
- licenced waste tyre storage¹.
Further, the Policy and Guideline excludes control of:
- Combustible waste, including recyclables, during the sorting, reuse, recycling, reprocessing or energy recovery activity (e.g. composting pre-pasteurisation).
- Storage of product (e.g. maturation phase of organic processing after pasteurisation).
The Policy and Guideline do not purport to restrict or control the duration of any storage of combustible waste. This may be a matter addressed in future amendments having regard to clause 4(2) of the Policy which provides the storage must only be for transfer, sale, sorting, reuse, recycling, reprocessing or energy recovery. Permanent or long term storage of combustible waste, including recyclables is not identified and is inconsistent with the environment protection principles of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic).
The Policy and Guideline are directed at minimising the risks of fire and the protection of the environment and human health from hazards arising from fire and emergency incidents.
The Policy and Guideline adopts a similar approach to the Waste Management Policy (Storage of Waste Tyres) which sunsetted on 30 April 2015. Those measures led to the introduction of scheduled premises category A09 (Waste Tyre Storage) into the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2017 (“Regulations”).
The State Government’s approach with the Policy and Guideline may signal further amendments to the Regulations introducing new scheduled premises categories not otherwise covered for the storage of combustible waste, including recyclables. This may include for the first time transfer stations, which have previously been excluded to prevent what would otherwise be a double count of waste volumes for State and Federal reporting purposes.