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The Victorian Government is committed to reducing the risk of fires at waste and resource recovery facilities. The Government therefore developed the Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials) (the policy) which came into effect on 28 August 2018, replacing the interim Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities).
Compliance with the policy requires combustible recyclable and waste materials (CRWM) at waste and resource recovery facilities (WRRF) to be managed and stored in a manner that minimises risk of harm to human health and the environment from fire.
The policy applies to all WRRFs in Victoria regardless of size, other than licensed waste tyre storage premises and licensed landfills.
To support compliance with the policy, an updated Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials – guideline (publication 1667.2) (the guideline) was developed by EPA, Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) in consultation with a wide range of government and waste industry representatives.
In summary, the policy requires managers of waste and resource recovery facilities to:
A number of fires at resource recovery facilities have highlighted poor industry practices for storing and managing combustible recyclable and waste material (CRWM).
The interim Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities) was declared following the significant Coolaroo recycling facility fire in July 2017. Fires such as those at recycling facilities pose significant risks to the community and environment. The interim WMP was needed to ensure that stockpiles of CRWM are appropriately managed to reduce risks of future stockpile fires, and the associated risks to human and environmental health. These include generation of hazardous air pollutants (including smoke), oil, run-off and leachate that affect the air, soil and waterways.
The interim WMP was replaced by the Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials) on 28 August 2018. A revised guideline to assist managers comply with the policy has been released.
The policy requires facilities that receive CRWM to manage their operations to minimise risks of harm to human health and the environment from fire.
The policy requires operators to take reasonable steps to prevent risks associated with fire at their premises. To meet this requirement, operators must conduct a risk assessment and implement necessary controls.
Whether additional actions are required will depend on existing fire risk management at each site, but could include improved work procedures, maintenance and training to minimise ignition, changing the volumes and the way waste material is stored, and improving firefighting capabilities.
EPA, MFB and CFA have published the Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials guideline (publication 1667.2) – to support industry in meeting their obligations. This guideline provides advice on how CRWM can be managed and stored to minimise fire risks.
Sites should maintain any CRWM piles according to the dimensions stipulated in the guidelines or alternative dimensions that reduce risk to an equivalent or better level. Alternatively engage a suitably qualified fire expert to complete a separate risk assessment and fire management plan.
Councils will work with the Victorian Government Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce to ensure local planning and building regulations are being met by operators of waste and resource recovery facilities.
There will be no impact to householders who recycle through kerbside recycling.
The Victorian Government recently announced the Recycling Industry Strategic Plan to assist and drive a more sustainable market.
The goal is to have all resource recovery facilities effectively managing fire risks. The Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce will continue to determine which sites represent the highest risk to human health and community from will work with these sites to ensure compliance.
EPA, CFA, MFB and local government are inspecting CRWM sites and will take remedial action through their respective regulatory tools where required. Non-compliance with the policy is an offence under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and EPA may apply sanctions (enforcement) in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy (publication 1388).
Fire services, local government, and WorkSafe can also take action under their respective legislation.
The policy applies to operators of any site receiving combustible recyclable waste material. However, the Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce is adopting a risk based approach to inspections and compliance and enforcement, targeting its efforts at the sites that pose the highest risks.
All sites are still expected to conduct a risk assessment and assess their practices and controls. The guidance assists in this process and has been updated to reflect feedback from stakeholders and intelligence gathered by the Taskforce to ensure it is relevant, targeted and proportionate.
EPA consulted with key industry stakeholders including industry peak bodies and a variety of operators of waste and resource recovery facilities.
Government stakeholders involved included: Country Fire Authority, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Municipal Association of Victoria, WorkSafe, DELWP, and waste and resource recovery groups.
Page last updated on 3 Sep 2019