Setting and reviewing standards

Waste tyre storage RIS

On 17 September 2014, EPA released the Storage of waste tyres – regulatory impact statement (RIS; publication 1576) and proposed Regulations for public comment. The public exhibition period closed on 31 October 2014.

The preferred option of the RIS was to require premises in Victoria that store more than 40 tonnes or 5000 equivalent passenger units (EPU) of whole waste tyres to obtain works approvals and licences from EPA. The main objective is to minimise the environmental and public health impacts from the unacceptable storage of waste tyres.

After considering comments received on the RIS, the Regulations were made on 15 April 2015 as the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises and Exemptions), (Industrial Waste Resource) and (Fees) Amendment Regulations 2015.

The amended Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises and Exemptions) Regulations took effect from 29 April 2015, the same day the interim Waste Management Policy (Storage of Waste Tyres) expired.

Comments received and EPA’s responses

EPA received five submissions on the RIS and proposed Regulations:

The table below sets out the key themes and related comments received on the RIS and EPA’s responses to them.

Theme or comment EPA response

Underestimating the environmental impacts and costs of the problem

The RIS underestimates the environmental impacts from dumped tyres and tyre fires and the benefits from regulating this problem.

EPA agrees the stockpiling or dumping of waste tyres can impose significant environmental, social and economic costs on the community. This is particularly relevant in the event of a fire, where the impacts can result in emergency services costs, pollution of the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters, disruption to businesses and communities and increased healthcare costs.

As noted in the RIS (p.22), health impacts, nuisance costs and many of the environmental costs are difficult to reliably quantify. Fire-fighting costs, the costs of avoiding oily run-off polluting waterways, the cost of cleaning up waterways, and site remediation costs are more often cited (particularly for larger fires). The RIS provides a conservative estimate of the likely costs of the preferred option that are more reliably quantified.

Potential continuation of the activity of stockpiling

The RIS does not specifically preclude the activity of stockpiling waste tyres as an end point or for long-term storage.

The Victorian Government environment portfolio is applying an integrated approach to addressing the problems of waste tyre management, including stockpiling as an end-point, by using a balance of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches.

In the short term, working with the Country Fire Authority and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (together, the Victorian Fire Services), the interim Waste Management Policy (Storage of Waste Tyres) was established to strengthen EPA’s compliance and enforcement powers for known high-risk sites, particularly large stockpiles or those with no clear processing capacity or use for the stored tyres.

As the interim waste management policy will expire on 29 April 2015, the RIS and proposed regulations seek to provide an ongoing regulatory framework to manage the risk of fire from any future storage or stockpiling activities. The proposed Regulations are also designed to support the national Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme and work by Sustainability Victoria to improve market conditions and demand for tyre derived products.

As noted by Sustainability Victoria in its submission to the RIS, ‘Sustainability Victoria is working to facilitate strengthened markets for tyre derived product (TDP) by partnering with Tyre Stewardship Australia [TSA] to improve communications and enhance responsible procurement for tyre recycling services. This includes engaging all points of the supply chain to identify barriers and work collaboratively to overcome these barriers...The intent of this approach is to support a market pull for tyres away from stockpiling as an end point through the creation of value for tyre derived products by increasing demand via new and expanded local markets.’

Licensing threshold

The 5000 EPU threshold for works approval and an EPA licence should be lowered to 500 EPU.

The Regulations will result in smaller legitimate waste tyre collectors exiting the industry.

The threshold of 5000 EPU (or its equivalent tonnage) has been chosen as it has been assessed as the amount that, under certain circumstances, has the potential to represent a significant fire hazard.

As noted in the RIS (p.45), this application threshold will also enable the Regulations to focus on larger processors and handlers of waste tyres, while minimising the regulatory burden on smaller or intermittent operators, or those with strong private incentives to manage the fire hazard from stores of waste tyres (for example, tyre retailers).

As part of the evaluation of the Regulations, the effectiveness of the threshold will be monitored.

Definition of scheduled activity

The activity definition should be broadened to capture other forms of vulcanised rubber waste and ensure management of other residual combustible waste materials stored on site.

Under the Regulations, a condition of an operating EPA licence is likely to require the duty holder to effectively manage the risk of fire at the premises. Licensees will be required to develop and implement a fire management plan consistent with the Victorian Fire Services Guidelines for the storage of tyres. The management plan should address a range of management and mitigation measures, including the removal or minimisation of potential ignition sources (e.g. residual combustible waste materials stored on site).

Waste tracking

The addition of waste tracking requirements would support a broader approach to ensure the entire supply chain (retailers, collectors and processors) accounts for its waste tyres.

The RIS (p.32) examined the option of creating a new classification for waste tyres under the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009, which would (among other things) trigger waste tracking requirements. This would include requirements to maintain vehicle permits and record the movement of waste tyres.

However, this option was found to not allow for the setting of application thresholds and would extend the Regulations to any person involved in the transport, storage or handling of waste tyres. Ultimately, following consideration of the tracking requirements in other national and state programs, this option was assessed as not delivering the same benefits as the preferred option in addressing the objective of minimising the environmental and human health impacts (particularly as a result of fire) from unacceptable storage of waste tyres.

In particular, the proposed regulations aim to support the national Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, which will require members to provide data to Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) on the number of tyre equivalent passenger units (EPU) processed and sold or otherwise provided for an environmentally sound use. Specifically, TSA will require collectors to retain copies of all dockets/receipts from retailers, fleet operators, local governments and recyclers for TSA auditing purposes.

Assurance for ‘fit and proper person’

It is critical that any licensing regime ensures a prospective licensee and its directors and officers are ‘fit and proper persons’.

As part of the assessment of works approval and licence applications, EPA assesses whether the applicant is a fit and proper person. The Environment Protection Act 1970 allows EPA to refuse an application if the applicant is not a fit and proper person. When the applicant is a corporation, this extends to any director or person who is concerned in the management of the corporation (section 20C(3)(b)(ii) and section 20C(3)(c)).

Regulatory requirements

Increased fire infrastructure for facilities storing larger amounts of tyres – obviously the degree of risk associated with tyre storage increases depending on the volume of material on a site. Licensing conditions should reflect the increased fire, health and environmental risk of larger stockpiles.

The current Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises and Exemptions) Regulations 2007 are used to establish preventative (via works approval assessment processes) and ongoing operational environmental management requirements (via a licence with conditions) for high-risk industries in Victoria.

The proposed Regulations introduce a threshold at 5000 EPU to set additional compliance requirements on high-risk sites, and enable further site-specific controls to be applied to individual sites through licence conditions (such as the maximum number of waste tyres to be held onsite at any time).

The conditions of the licence would require the storage of waste tyres to be in a manner that minimises risks to the environment and human health, predominantly from the risk of fire. The duty holder would then be considered compliant with this requirement if waste tyres were stored in accordance with the recommendations in the Victorian Fire Services Guidelines. Licence conditions will, however, be reviewed regularly for their currency and to detect any emerging issues. This may lead to amendment of existing conditions or additional conditions being developed.

Financial assurance for large stockpiles

There should be higher standards and/or environmental bonds required for larger tyre stockpiles.

In addition to the option to introduce works approval and licensing requirements, the RIS also examined an option to include a requirement to maintain a financial assurance (option 3c).

EPA acknowledged that this may decrease the risk of fire by more than the preferred option (3b), as it provides improved access to funds that may enable a faster response and cleanup of waste tyres by a licensee or EPA in the case of business failure.

However, including a financial assurance requirement in addition to the requirement to undergo a works approval and maintain an operating licence is only expected to marginally reduce the risk of fire. It was also assessed as potentially resulting in higher costs for small businesses. Given the other powers available to EPA under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to either direct a duty holder to undertake cleanup or do it itself, the lower cost of these options is preferred.

Management of vector-borne disease threats

Small outdoor facilities and any long-term stockpiles should be required to have a fumigation regime to eliminate vector-borne disease threats.

EPA acknowledges that whole tyres can trap stagnant water and act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and vermin. In tropical parts of Australia, these pests can be transmitters of diseases that are life-threatening to humans.

In the United States, a study showed that 80 per cent of the children suffering from mosquito-vectored disease lived within 30 metres of a tyre dump. However, based on the available evidence, it is unclear the extent to which this is a problem in Victoria, and so given the relatively smaller risk (compared with the fire hazard), the management of vector-borne disease threats was not a focus of the RIS.

Control of illegal dumping

Regulating legitimate operators will not address those illegally dumping.

EPA needs to undertake a rigorous inspection and enforcement campaign to address illegal dumping.

A coordinated effort of inspections by EPA, fire authorities and local government is needed at implementation to ensure there is not a sudden flurry of tyre-related fires.

EPA will ensure that the implementation of the Regulations is effectively coordinated with a strong information and education campaign, as well as a program of compliance inspections targeting operations that seek advantage from not complying with the new requirements. This will be consistent with the work of EPA’s Illegal Dumping Strikeforce, which seeks to address the impacts from illegal dumping.

EPA and the Strikeforce team will respond to reports of illegal dumping from the community, work with local council and the Victorian Fire Services and gather intelligence to measure and track illegal dumping.

The proposed Regulations will help to strengthen EPA’s existing enforcement powers for those who illegally dispose of their waste tyres or are found to be financially profiting from undermining legitimate licensed waste operators.

Page last updated on 14 Apr 2016