Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is intensifying its enforcement campaign at recycling industry sites, with inspection teams applying a zero-tolerance approach that has already cut the size and impact of recycling fires in Melbourne.

“We don’t want any fires in recycling facilities. Our hard work and practical measures have seen the severity and consequences of fires reduced compared to recent years, but there is still more work to be done” EPA Director of Waste Crime Prevention Rachel Gualano said.

“EPA’s new Fire Prevention Program takes a zero- tolerance approach that means any risk that is not controlled or any non-compliance that is detected will see EPA officers take strong regulatory action including fines and prosecutions” Ms Gualano said.

“The key is on-site inspections by EPA Officers to identify risks and require facility operators to remove hazards before fires start. We will be enforcing stockpile size limits and safety zones around them. By last year those tactics had significantly reduced the number of days with recycling industry fires in comparison to 2017,” she said.

In addition to stepped up inspections and enforcement action, EPA’s Fire Prevention Program for 2021 also includes education of industry stakeholders.

EPA is taking a zero tolerance approach to fire risks and expects businesses to understand and manage their risks to prevent fires from occurring.

“The program is under way with metals recyclers and has begun to expand into the broader waste and recycling industry” Ms Gualano said.

Members of the public can help EPA to reduce fire risk by reporting recycling sites that don’t comply with the regulations.  If you see tightly packed, large or rapidly growing stockpiles at a recycling site near you, call EPAs 24 hour pollution hotline, on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).


ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

Since the major fires of 2017, EPA has conducted more than 1000 inspections at 236 resource recovery facilities, issuing 376 notices and 73 sanctions, through the Victorian Government’s multi-agency former Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce.

Since 18 January 2021, EPA has conducted 59 inspections and 21 aerial surveys of high-risk metal recycling businesses.

Fines for non-compliant businesses start with EPA infringement notices costing $8,261, and can go as high as $396,528 in a court prosecution.

There’s more information on EPA’s Fire Prevention Program here:  epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/waste-and-recycling/fire-prevention

There’s more information on the former Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce here:  epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/our-programs-and-projects/resource-recovery-facilities-audit-taskforce

There’s a media release on how EPA has just ordered four metals recycling sites to cease to accept any waste until they comply with the Waste Management Policy and Guideline, here: epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/manage-industrial-waste/crwm#crwm-guideline

The Waste Management Policy and Guideline covers a wide range of practical measures designed to identify and eliminate fire risk, such as stockpile size and separation, up to date emergency plans, smoking bans, emergency training for staff, emergency exits, fire detection systems, security systems, quarantine areas for hot loads, firefighting equipment and water supply, liquid runoff management, and record keeping.
 

Reviewed 12 March 2021