Waste

Landfills


Landfills are an important part of Victoria’s waste management infrastructure. The siting, management and rehabilitation of landfills requires a high level of design and management to ensure that the environment is protected and community aspirations are met.

While disposal of materials to landfill is the least preferred management option for waste, landfills will continue to be required to manage those wastes that cannot be practically removed from the waste stream. Today’s landfills must not leave an unacceptable environmental legacy for our children to address. As long as landfilling remains part of our waste management strategy, best-practice measures must be adopted to ensure that landfills are acceptable to the public.

In Victoria, only one landfill is licensed to accept Category B prescribed industrial waste. Other landfills across the state are licensed to accept certain Category C (low-hazard) prescribed industrial wastes – for example, low-level contaminated soil, packaged asbestos and odorous wastes such as seafood processing wastes.

We are auditing landfill levy statements.

Properties listed on the Victorian Landfill Register

If you have received notification that a property that you own has been identified as being on the site of a current or former landfill, no action is required from you. More information is available at Victorian Landfill Register.

If you have additional information about your property that could benefit other users of the register, or believe your property has been listed in error, please call EPA on 1300 372 842.

For further information, visit:

EPA’s role in landfill management

Waste classification

EPA sets the standards for what type of waste an existing landfill can accept. All prescribed industrial wastes intended for landfill disposal must be classified into one of three categories, depending on the level of hazard. Category A is the highest hazard and Category C is the lowest hazard. Category A wastes must be treated and can not be accepted at any landfill.

Financial assurance

EPA requires financial assurances from landfill operators/owners and any sites which accept any prescribed waste for the purposes of reprocessing, treatment, storage or disposal; or which generate and then reprocess, treat, store or dispose of certain wastes.

Financial assurances are intended to provide a guarantee that the costs of remediation, site closure and post-closure liabilities are not borne by the community if the occupiers of the premises abandon the site, become insolvent or incur clean-up costs beyond their financial capacity.

Licensing and approval

A works approval must be obtained before a landfill can be constructed, except for municipal landfills serving a population of fewer than 500 people. A licence under the Environment Protection Act is required for all landfills, apart from municipal landfills serving a population of fewer than 5000 people. The licence sets the performance objectives for the operating landfill, defines operating parameters and requires monitoring to check on environmental performance.

Landfill levies

Landfill levies are levies paid on all waste disposed of at licensed landfills in Victoria. Levy funds are used exclusively for environment protection activities, including promoting the sustainable use of resources and best practices in waste management.

The landfill levy structure reflects the difference in the magnitude of environmental risk posed by the different waste streams and also seeks to accommodate regional differences. Levies also provide an incentive to minimise the generation of waste, sending a signal to industry that the Government supports efforts to develop alternatives to disposal to landfill.

Until 30 June 2015, all landfill levies were paid into the Environment Protection Fund. Money received from Municipal & Industrial landfill levies was distributed by EPA in accordance with the Environment Protection (Distribution of Landfill Levy) Regulations 2010.

From 1 July 2015, following the enactment of the Environment Protection and Sustainability Victoria Amendment Act 2014, EPA has passed on all Municipal & Industrial landfill levies it collects to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), which has taken over responsibility for distributing funds to regional waste and resource recovery groups (RWRRGs), Sustainability Victoria and EPA. DELWP also administers levy funds allocated by the Premier and the Minister for Environment and Climate Change through the Sustainability Fund (Sustainability Victoria).

Find out more about landfill levies

Landfill gas assessment

All operators of licensed landfill sites across Victoria must undertake a landfill gas risk assessment, put in place an environmental monitoring program verified by an EPA-appointed environmental auditor and have regular environmental audits. Operators are required to implement audit recommendations through the issuing of an enforcement notice, to ensure risks are kept at an acceptably low level.

The requirements for these risk assessments are set out in the guideline Best practice environmental management – Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills (publication 788 – the Landfill BPEM). Owners of closed landfill sites may also have to undertake the same work under an enforcement notice.

Further information

 

Q and A on landfills + Expand all Collapse all

  • What is a landfill?

    A landfill is a specially designed and engineered facility for the burial of solid waste.

    Historically, landfilling occurred in quarries and gulleys with little or no engineering or lining. Standards have improved over time, and modern landfills are designed with both base and side wall liners, as well as leachate collection systems to minimise leakage of leachate (liquid formed from rainwater and waste breakdown products within the landfill) to groundwater. Waste is deposited and compacted within the landfill, and once the landfill cell is full, it is capped with clay (at a minimum), and rehabilitated.

    As landfill designs and processes have evolved over time, some closed landfills may not have all the environmental controls listed above.

  • What types of materials go into landfills?

    Municipal solid waste landfills contain everything we throw away, from food scraps and glass bottles to grass clippings and other yard wastes. There are also landfills that accept solid inert wastes (mainly construction and demolition wastes), prescribed industrial wastes (hazardous waste) and those that accept asbestos. Landfill approvals consider the type of wastes that will be deposited to ensure they are properly constructed and managed.

    Landfilled waste contains a wide range of materials, some of which break down, and can, over time, leach into soil and groundwater causing contamination. When waste is landfilled, it is generally compacted down and covered. As organic waste, such as food scraps and green waste, breaks down in an oxygen depleted environment, landfill gas is produced. The main components of landfill gas are methane and carbon dioxide.

  • What happens to waste when it goes into a landfill?

    When waste is buried underground it will be degraded by bacteria to produce landfill gases. These gases consist predominantly of methane and carbon dioxide, as well as a range of trace gases and vapours depending on the nature of the waste deposited.

  • How much of Victoria’s waste is disposed of in landfills?

    The Victorian waste and resource recovery system managed an estimated 12,673,000 tonnes of materials in 2015–2016. Of this, 67 per cent was recovered and 33 per cent sent to landfill. These figures do not include the volumes of prescribed industrial wastes managed, recovered or landfilled.

    Source: Statewide Waste and Resources Recovery Infrastructure Plan, Victoria 2017–2046.

  • Are biodegradable and photodegradable materials better for the environment?

    Green-advertising claims such as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘photodegradable’ aren’t always accurate. Plastics labelled ‘biodegradable’ due to the addition of starch simply disintegrate into tiny non-degradable pieces after the starch has been degraded. Photodegradable plastics need sunlight to degrade so cannot be broken down in landfills.

  • What are the main problems or environmental concerns associated with landfills?

    Landfill gas, leachate and loose waste are the three main challenges for landfills today.

    • Landfill gas is produced in landfills as waste decomposes, and predominantly consists of methane and carbon dioxide, as well as containing a range of trace gases. If not managed correctly, landfill gas can migrate from the landfill, causing odours, contributing to climate change, and potentially posing explosion and/or asphyxiation risks if concentrations of methane or carbon dioxide build up in enclosed spaces.
    • Leachate is a liquid that forms when waste decomposes. If leachate is not adequately contained and removed from the landfill, it can leak into the groundwater, causing contamination. There can also be odour issues from leachate if not managed properly.
    • Loose waste attracts disease-carrying vermin of all types, and it can fly away in the breeze. This is managed by landfill operators by placing a cover over the waste daily, by installing litter fences around the active tipping area and by collecting any rubbish that flies away from the tipping area.
  • What is "integrated" solid waste management?

    This is an approach that includes a combination of waste prevention, waste reduction and disposal techniques to manage the problem of municipal solid waste. When we reduce, reuse, recycle and compost waste materials, less waste ends up in landfills or incinerators.

  • What happens to landfills once they are closed?

    Landfill operators are required to progressively rehabilitate their sites, as each cell is full, until the whole site is closed and fully rehabilitated. Victoria’s environmental audit and planning processes require proposed developments to be carefully considered against specific risks posed by closed landfills – to determine if the development site is suitable for the proposed use and, if not, what controls/steps would be required (for example sub-floor venting structures or landfill gas barriers) to make the site suitable for the proposed development.

    Many fully rehabilitated closed landfill sites are used as parks, playgrounds, golf courses, resource recovery centres or other facilities.

  • Are there products in my house that should not be sent to a landfill?

    Yes, hazardous materials (ones that are toxic, or will corrode metal, or burn, or explode) such as oven cleaner, batteries, motor oil, paints, varnishes, thinners, fluorescent bulbs, mercury switches, etc. should not be sent to landfills. These materials should be taken to a hazardous waste drop-off site. For more information visit Detox your home on the Sustainability Victoria website.

  • How can we reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills?

    You can reduce the amount of waste that you generate by:

    • strictly following your community's recycling program
    • composting organic wastes so they can be used as nutrients for other plants
    • using leaves and grass clippings as mulch
    • buying recycled paper products and products with less packaging
    • buying durable products rather than disposable ones
    • reusing jars and containers.
  • Is it safe to live on the site of a closed landfill?

    Landfill operators are required to plan for and complete rehabilitation of landfill sites after they are closed. Victoria’s environmental audit and planning processes require proposed developments to be carefully considered against specific risks posed by closed landfills – to determine if the site is suitable for the proposed use and, if not, what controls/steps would be required (for example underground structure, landfill gas management) to make the site suitable for the proposed development.

    Community concerns are sometimes raised in relation to old closed landfills where housing development has subsequently taken place. Such sites may predate landfill regulation. Due to the large variability in wastes types, and landfill operation and design, it is not possible to give definitive advice on the health risks of such landfills without a risk assessment specific to that landfill. Where a landfill site is causing local concern, site-specific monitoring and/or modelling is needed to aid any risk assessment and address any uncertainty about potential public health impacts.

  • What is EPA Victoria doing to ensure that closed landfills in Victoria don’t pose risks to human health and the environment?

    Landfills are assessed in accordance with EPA guidance Assessing planning proposals within the buffer of a landfill (publication 1642).

    All operators of licensed landfill sites, and owners of closed landfill sites that are regulated by EPA via a Post Closure Pollution Abatement Notice (PC PAN), must manage landfill gas and leachate to minimise impacts to the environment and human health. They must also undertake a landfill gas risk assessment, put in place an environmental monitoring program verified by an EPA-appointed environmental auditor and have regular environmental audits. Operators and owners are required to implement audit recommendations through the issuing of an enforcement notice, to ensure risks are kept at an acceptably low level. The requirements for these risk assessments are set out in the guideline Best practice environmental management – Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills (publication 788). 

    EPA regional staff are aware of smaller landfills below the licensing threshold (landfills exempt from licensing) in their regions and may inspect these sites. Field staff will only issue a Pollution Abatement Notice (PAN) if there is a risk posed by the site. EPA supports councils to identify and understand landfill risks in their municipalities with the local council self-assessment tool for closed landfill environmental risk.

    Download a copy of the closed landfill self-assessment tool (publication 1671).

Page last updated on 25 Jun 2018