The Victorian Government established the Resource Recovery Audit Taskforce following a large fire at SKM Recycling in Coolaroo, which released smoke into the atmosphere that significantly affected the local community.
The multi-agency taskforce, chaired by EPA, comprises the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), Country Fire Authority (CFA), Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
The taskforce is targeting key recycling facilities requiring extra management measures to ensure community safety. Facilities storing combustible wastes are being identified, with those facilities considered high risk made a priority. The agencies are conducting joint audits, and taking action when required. The taskforce also aims to improve industry awareness reducing and managing fire risks from stockpiled combustible materials and support best practice.
What has happened so far?
Significant intelligence gathered has identified more than 850 sites related to resource recovery. Of these sites, over 500 have been assessed for risk, and approximately 180 of these have been identified as storing combustible material, and requiring further investigation.
The taskforce has conducted 40 inspections across Victoria to date, with a second round of inspections occurring throughout October and November. Several notices have been issued to recycling facilities, with more notices expected in the coming months.
To assist the taskforce, the Victorian Government has also established an Interim Waste Management Policy (IWMP) to improve safety standards at Victorian waste and resource recovery facilities. The policy requires facility operators who store combustible recyclable and waste materials (CRWM) to manage the material in a manner that minimises risks to human health and the environment from fire. Non-compliance with the interim policy may lead to sanctions under the Environment Protection Act 1970.
To support industry to comply with the interim policy, a new guideline has been developed by EPA in partnership with MFB and CFA that provides practical advice on how to improve management of combustible material materials. The guideline provides advice on conducting risk assessments, controls that should be in place, management plan requirements and storage requirements to prevent fire. The policy and guideline were developed in consultation with industry and a range of government stakeholders.
How you can help the taskforce
You can help us help Victoria
The taskforce needs help from business and community members to identify more facilities that may pose a fire risk. Facilities that store combustible material can become fire risk in a very short time. It is important for the Victorian community to report operations they are concerned about or facilities that have recently accumulated significant volumes of waste.
What does high risk look like?
If you have noticed a business or operation where you think the stockpiled recycling materials can catch on fire, EPA wants to hear from you. This information can be provided anonymously, and EPA is particularly interested in warehouses where waste may be stored inappropriately.
Things to be on the lookout for include:
- piles of combustible material greater than 4 m high
- warehouses or sites containing material that appears to have been abandoned
- signs of pollution, such as litter blowing from the site, or liquid running offside to the footpath, road or drains
- staff smoking on sites, near material that could catch fire or material stored near ignition sources.
When reporting, you can help our staff by informing us your report is to help the Resource Recovery Taskforce.
Want to know more or get involved?
For more information on the Resource Recovery Taskforce or the Interim Waste Management Policy, contact EPA.