Business, industry and planning guidance

Combustible recyclable and waste materials


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:

  • Understand the fire hazards associated with their activities and take reasonably practicable steps to reduce the fire risk associated with those hazards.
  • Take all reasonable steps equivalent to the guideline to manage and store combustible recyclable and waste materials in a manner that minimises the risk of harm to human health and the environment.
  • Prepare an emergency management plan.

Key updates to the guideline

  • Covers the wide range of facility sizes and types in Victoria, including metro and regional areas.
  • Less prescriptive, focusing on providing options for industry to build their own solutions to comply with the policy.
  • Written in a workbook format and outlines a process that industry can follow to establish their fire risk management framework.
  • Describes a process for occupiers to develop a fire risk management framework, focusing on:
    • Hazard identification and assessing the risk from fire
    • Controlling your fire hazards and risks
    • Checking and evaluating the effectiveness of your controls.
  • Provides detail and information around effective storage management, including understanding how fires start and burn.
  • Supports the development of an emergency management plan at a waste resource recovery facility.
  • Provides more clarity around indoor management and storage of CRWM:
    • This is achieved by focusing on the process of managing CRWM regardless of where it is stored, and with added information on the specific requirements for fire safety in a CRWM indoor storage facility.
  • Addresses how occupiers can meet performance outcomes for fire risk management rather than stating a list of prescriptive requirements.
  • Highlights what is needed for compliance, using performance outcomes, regardless of operational size/type. 

Q and A on WMP Resource Recovery Facilities + Expand all Collapse all

  • Why has a Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials) been declared?

    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.

  • What does the policy do?

    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 gives EPA additional powers to support local government controls and Victoria’s fire services, and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks.
  • What do operators of waste and resource recovery facilities need to do to comply with the policy?

    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.

  • How will councils be impacted under the reforms?

    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.

    Kerbside recycling through councils will continue as normal. In some municipalities, the destination of the recyclable material may change as the waste and resource recovery network evolves.
  • How will householders be impacted under the policy?

    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.

  • How is the policy being enforced?

    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.

  • Which sites does the policy apply to?

    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.

  • How were the guidelines developed?

    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 30 Oct 2018