The Victorian waste hierarchy directs that wastes should be avoided, re-used or recycled wherever practicable. This is reflected in the objectives and provisions of the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 (Vic) (the Regulations). 

However, the question of when what would otherwise be waste, ceases to be so, as a result of its intended or actual re-use has proven to be a complicated matter for regulators to clearly delineate in regulatory instruments. 

The EPA has recognised a lack of clarity in the current provisions in the Regulations relating to beneficial reuse of prescribed industrial waste (PIW) - ie certain waste from industrial and commercial activities that has characteristics or contains substances listed in the Regulations. The EPA has sought to resolve uncertainty via proposed amendments which were released on 31 March 2016 for public comment. 

Clarifying the regulatory regime around waste and re-use is important to ensure certainty to Victorian business. For those wishing to make submissions on the proposed amendments to ensure even greater clarity, they can do so until 12 May 2016

The key proposed amendments would:

  • introduce a requirement that, in order for the reuse of waste material to be treated as either direct beneficial reuse (DBR) or secondary beneficial reuse (SBR), the material must:

    • have one or more similar hazard properties to the input or raw material; and
    • not require any environmental risk management controls other than the controls required for the input or raw material;
  • alter the EPA notification requirements relating to SBR.  SBR involves the treatment of PIW prior to its reuse. While notification of SBR must already be given to the EPA under regulation 40, it is proposed to clarify and expand the information that must be included in a SBR notification;
  • clarify the matters in respect of which the EPA may impose conditions when authorising a SBR under regulation 43; and

  • embed the updated waste codes in the Regulations by including them in a new Schedule, along with several new definitions. These codes are currently referenced in the Regulations, but not included - instead they are set out in the EPA’s waste codes guidance. These changes are expected to help industry to comply with the information requirements applicable to waste transport certificates.  

The first of the changes noted above seems to have the effect of narrowing the scope of SBR and DBR, both of which would currently accommodate the substitution of traditional materials for waste-derived materials with different hazard properties and risk management requirements.

Complementing these proposed changes is a new draft guideline on beneficial reuse, which is intended to explain the beneficial reuse requirements set out in the Regulations and the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic). 

Further information can be found here.