Programs and initiatives

ChemCollect


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Background

In 2001, the use of certain pesticides, fungicides and other veterinary chemicals were banned in Victoria following an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent pollutants.

ChemCollect was a nationally coordinated program established to collect and safely dispose of wastes, including pesticides, fungicides and other veterinary chemicals. Approximately 235 tonnes were collected in Victoria and 1676 tonnes were collected nationwide.

Most of the collected chemicals were able to be treated, disposed of or destroyed safely and easily at the time. However EPA, on behalf of the State Government, currently manages a stockpile of 80 tonnes that were unable to be treated due to them being a complex mix of pesticides.

Until recently, there has not been a viable and safe solution for the treatment and destruction of these chemical wastes and they have been securely and safely stored in Melbourne over the past 15 years.

Fortunately, technology at waste management facilities has since evolved to now allow these chemical wastes to be treated and destroyed safely.

To relieve the burden of ongoing chemical waste storage in Victoria, EPA is overseeing a small-scale chemical waste disposal trial. As part of the trial, five waste management facilities across Victoria and Queensland were invited to submit a proposal on how they would treat and safely dispose of the chemical waste.

Following a rigorous and extensive technical and commercial assessment, only two facilities were selected to trial their proposed treatment methodologies: Sterihealth in Laverton, Victoria and Toxfree in Narangba, Queensland.

Both facilities will be given approximately half a tonne of the waste to treat as part of the trial.

The trials will determine which of the available technologies can best resolve this ongoing environmental issue from the commercial and technical perspective.

EPA will oversee the trials to ensure they are conducted according to best practice methods that EPA enforces for the treatment and destruction of similar chemicals.

The trials are expected to commence in early 2016 and will run for three months.

EPA will keep the community informed on how the trial is progressing.

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Q&A on ChemCollect + Expand all Collapse all

  • What is the waste? What chemicals are present in the waste?

    The waste is a mixture of ‘persistent organic pollutants’ banned from use under the Stockholm Convention. The chemicals that make up the waste are a mixture of organo-chlorinated pesticides (OCPs) and metal-based pesticides. These pesticides were used for agricultural purposes, to protect crops from damage by insects and other pests.

  • Where did the waste come from?

    The chemical wastes came from farmers and others in the agricultural and veterinary sector. As the Stockholm Convention was being mandated and prior to its formal international adoption in 2001, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments jointly funded the collection of chemicals that had been banned for use. The collection, between 1999 and 2002, included 235 tonnes of wastes including pesticides, fungicides and other veterinary chemicals. 80 tonnes of the wastes were deemed un-treatable as metal based pesticides and organic based pesticides had been mixed together prior to collection.

  • Why were the chemicals banned?

    If consumed, these chemicals have the potential to accumulate in the body, so organisers of the Stockholm Convention sought to have them banned. The Stockholm Convention was formally adopted in 2001 and reviews of pesticides that may be added to the list regularly occur. Further information on the known toxicological effects of persistent organic pollutants can be found on the Stockholm Convention website.

  • What is the purpose of the trial?

    The trial aims to determine the most suitable treatment method for these chemicals, which will ensure the most effective treatment and stabilisation of the pesticides. The facilities selected by EPA to undertake the trial have technology capable of minimising the generation of by-products, the volume of end products, and ensuring safety is maintained for the entirety of the treatment trials.

  • How will this work benefit the community?

    In undertaking these treatment trials, as a precursor to full scale treatment of the pesticide waste currently in storage, EPA aims to remove risks associated with long-term storage, as well as associated costs. It is also important to ensure chemical waste is dealt with using best practice methods to ensure minimal hazards remain for future generations to manage.

  • How will EPA ensure trial works are undertaken safely?

    All relevant, current standards and guidelines will apply to the treatment trials. Both facilities will maintain their current protocols  of monitoring and reporting outputs against the relevant standards or guidelines. EPA has also required that any issues must be reported to EPA and addressed according to an agreed process.

    Occupational Health and Safety plans are in place for the specific equipment to be used during these trials. Task-specific plans will also be developed for the treatment trials, reviewed by EPA prior to works starting, and audits of the facilities will be undertaken during the treatment trials.

  • Why has it taken so long to do something with the waste?

    The treatment of organo-chlorinated pesticides and metal-based pesticides separately has well known methods. However, when these chemicals are mixed, a separation process is required to allow for the separate treatment methods to be applied. This separation technique, along with the treatment method, being undertaken at the one location has not been available to a standard suitable to EPA until now. EPA required that this waste be able to be treated in the same location and to best practice standards. That includes ensuring the minimisation of potentially toxic by-products and the minimisation of solid end products, which will need to go to landfill.

  • Where are the wastes being stored now?

    The wastes are stored in a chemical storage facility in Laverton, Victoria. The waste was originally placed in metal 40 gallon (~200L) drums. The metal drums have since been encased in UN dangerous goods-approved drums that are sitting on pallets. These drums have been proven safe for transport, including in the event of dislodgement from a secure lodging within a vehicle.

  • How will the waste be safely transported from Victoria’s storage facility to the trial treatment facilities?

    The transport will be in accordance with Dangerous Goods transport regulations, EPA requirements and national requirements.

    Sterihealth is located in Laverton - the same industrial zone the storage facility is located in. The two drums of 500kg in total will be trucked two kilometres between Dohertys and Fitzgerald roads. The drums will remain in their UN dangerous goods-approved drums and on their pallets, and will be tightly secured and immobilised within the truck to ensure they will not move during transport.

    As Toxfree is in Narangba, Queensland, EPA will arrange for the two drums to be transported via cargo train to the site. The wastes are stored in UN-rated dangerous goods drums, which will be secured within a sealed container (similar to a shipping container yet appropriate for storage on a train). There will be no passengers on the train and safe transport methods will meet Dangerous Goods transport requirements. Transportation of the waste will be safe and bears minimal to no risk to the community.

  • Why have these facilities been selected?

    There are not many facilities around Australia that are capable of undertaking this type of treatment. Five facilities were identified with the potential capability to undertake separation and effective, best practice treatment of the wastes at the one location and, subsequently, a Request for Proposal to undertake treatment trials was sent to all five facilities. Four operators returned proposals to EPA. After a selection process based on the technical capability of the facilities, value for money, commercial and governance review, two facilities were selected to undertake treatment trials: Sterihealth, located in Laverton, Victoria, and ToxFree located in Narangba, Queensland.

  • How will the waste be treated? How will they break the waste down?

    The treatment method at both facilities will differ slightly, based on the different equipment that will be used. However, the general treatment method will follow a similar process.

    After the waste enters the system, it will undergo a thermal process to separate the organic components from the metals. The metals will come out as ash and will be chemically immobilised to prevent potential leaching, then solidified to prepare them for disposal in accordance with EPA and Queensland Department of Environment and Health Protection (DEHP) disposal guidelines.

    The volatilised organics will be destroyed and by-products treated through a best-practice controlled-emission process. This will include rapid quenching, and passing the emissions through activated carbon or liquid scrubbers. Trade waste sludge may also be produced at the end of this process.

  • Will there be an impact on air quality?

    There will be no impacts to air quality and all emissions will be in accordance with EPA and DEHP guidelines. The facilities selected to undertake treatment trials are either treating similar types of waste or have treated similar types of waste in the past. The end products will be very similar, if not exactly the same, to those being treated by the facilities. All emissions being produced are, and will be during the trials, within the facilities' licence limits.

    Both facilities will have regular monitoring during the treatment works to maintain a check on what the emissions are, what the emissions contain and that they adhere to all relevant guidelines.

  • When will the trials begin?

    The trials are expected to commence in early 2016 and will run for three months. Wastes will be sent out as soon as contracts and approvals are obtained, where applicable.

  • What will happen with the remaining waste?

    The remaining waste will continue to be stored until EPA selects a treatment facility to undertake the full-scale treatment.

    An evaluation process will be followed in accordance with the Victorian Purchasing Board Guidelines to ensure the wastes are destroyed under optimal technical and value-for-money criteria.

  • How can I find out more information?

    For more information on this project call EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email contact@epa.vic.gov.au.

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Page last updated on 10 Aug 2016