Standards, compliance and planning

Combustible recyclable and waste materials


The threat of fire at waste and resource recovery facilities is very serious, and the Victorian Government is committed to reducing this risk. In August 2017, an interim Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities) (WMP) (Victorian Government Gazette) was implemented placing requirements on sites that store combustible recyclable and waste materials (CRWM*). Compliance with the policy is mandatory and requires that CRWM is managed and stored in a manner that reduces risk to human health and the environment from fire. 

* CRWM includes paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, rubber, textile, organic material, refuse derived fuel, specified electronic waste, metals, and other combustible material which is considered waste.

To support compliance with the policy, Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials - guideline (publication 1667) has been developed by EPA, Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) in consultation with a wide range of government and waste industry representatives. This is a helpful guide for small to medium sized businesses to assist with introducing risk management into the workplace.

The interim policy expires in August 2018. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is examining longer-term policy and regulatory responses to reduce the risks of stockpiling, and ensure that Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system remains robust and effective.

DELWP and EPA are working together to consult with industry and the community on the development of an ongoing Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Material) and review of the existing guideline.

Consultation now open

After researching and consulting on various approaches, a proposed policy has been developed. This is supported by an assessment of the policy's impacts on Victoria's community and industry. Public consultation on the draft policy, the supporting policy impact assessment and the existing guideline is open until 1 August 2018.

During this time, various engagement and communications activities will be held to ensure all stakeholders understand the proposed policy and have an opportunity to comment.

A copy of the documents and other key information is available on the Engage Victoria website. Use this website to tell us what you think about the documents, and whether you think changes are needed in the policy and the guideline. Industry and government stakeholders can learn more about consultation sessions by contacting taskforce@epa.vic.gov.au

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

  • Why has an interim Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities) 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 WMP (the policy) 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 is 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 Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is currently leading the development of a (permanent) legislative instrument to manage combustible wastes in Victoria.

  • What does the interim policy do?

    The interim policy requires facilities that receive CRWM to manage their operations to prevent risks to human health and the environment from fire.

    The interim 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 interim policy?

    The interim policy requires operators to take reasonable steps to prevent risks associated with fire at their premises. To meet this requirement, operators should 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) – to support industry in meeting their obligations. This guideline provides advice on how CRWM can be managed and stored to minimise fire risks.

    Sites must maintain any stockpiles 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 interim policy?

    There will be no impact to householders who recycle through kerbside recycling.

    The Victorian Government recently announced a new recycling industry taskforce to assist and drive a more sustainable market.

  • How is the interim 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 fire, and 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 interim policy apply to?

    The WMP 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.

    Lower risk sites are still expected to conduct a risk assessment and assess their practices and controls. The guidance assists in this process and is expected to be amended over time 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 22 Jun 2018