Materials and wastes can be harmful to human health, damage the natural environment and impact on amenity. Therefore, the system, which is regulated by EPA Victoria, must operate to minimise these risks. Under the Environment Protection Act 1970, EPA Victoria can develop waste management policies (WMPs) to improve management of waste and material streams. WMPs provide enforceable statewide objectives and directions. Currently, a series of WMPs address movement of controlled waste, landfills, used packaging materials and other waste-related operations.
Sustainability Victoria has a legislated responsibility for long-term planning for waste and recycling infrastructure in the state. It released the first Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan (SWRRIP) in 2015, with an update in April 2018 to reflect the priorities identified in the seven regional implementation plans. The SWRRIP provides a blueprint for investment and highlights the gap between current capacity and future needs.
The SWRRIP is premised on a circular economy model. It sets goals and strategic directions to ensure that the system continues not only to provide an efficient and well-operated service, but also to maximise the recovery of materials and reduce reliance on landfill. It draws on data and information from a range of sources and identifies opportunities – both local and statewide – to increase infrastructure and the recovery of materials. The strategic directions underpin government interventions, but also play a critical role in informing industry investment and government decisions, such as strategic land-use planning and approvals. The SWRRIP critically notes the importance of viable markets for recycled materials and has led to an increased focus on the recovery of organic materials, which is building momentum for a significant increase in recovery. Monitoring and evaluation will measure progress and inform future iterations and action.
Since the SWRRIP’s publication, Victorian Government investments from the Sustainability Fund have been aligned to priorities identified in the Plan. Sustainability Victoria has also worked to promote opportunities for investment and growth in Victoria’s resource recovery sector through its Investment Facilitation Service.
While the primary role of the SWRRIP is to plan for the infrastructure needed to manage the waste and materials entering the waste and resource recovery system, the Victorian Government’s supporting initiatives provide a broader framework that include:
Victorian Organics Resource Recovery Strategy
Victorian Market Development Strategy for Recovered Resources
Victorian Waste Education Strategy
Victoria’s Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Investment Prospectus
Waste Data Service.
The Victorian Government has also provided funding in 2018–19 to build a better evidence base for hazardous waste management. This will deliver a research program for new and emerging hazardous wastes, better data management and collection, and an agreed process to include hazardous waste in the SWRRIP.
Recycling Industry Strategic Plan
On 3 July 2018 the Victorian Government released Victoria’s Recycling Industry Strategic Plan which sets out a vision for a more sustainable, resilient and efficient recycling sector. The suite of complementary actions included in the plan aims to support industry in the medium to long-term, minimise costs for Victorian households, and improve the resilience of Victoria's recycling sector.
The implementation of this plan will be supported by a $37 million package of initiatives that includes:
leveraging private investment in recycling infrastructure
ensuring Victorians clearly understand what they should place in their recycling bin
supporting research institutions and industry to identify new uses for priority waste materials
leveraging government procurement to drive demand for recycled materials
developing a whole-of-government circular economy policy and action plan by 2020.
It is an important step for Victoria and reaffirms the state’s intention to work towards a circular economy.
Greater efficiency and resilience in the recycling sector will be important in anticipating and reducing costs in the longer term.
Electronic waste (or ‘e‑waste’) volumes are growing three times faster than general municipal waste. E‑waste contains hazardous components that pose risks to the environment and human health, and valuable materials that can be recovered. To manage this growing waste stream, the Victorian Government has new regulatory measures that will ban e-waste from landfill and specify how e-waste must be managed. These will take effect on 1 July 2019.
To support these regulatory measures, the government has committed to upgrading Victoria’s e‑waste collection network, which will increase community access to safe e‑waste disposal points. The government also recently launched an education and communication campaign that will increase community and industry awareness of e‑waste and what to do with it.
Managing the Risks from Stockpiled Combustible Materials
The Victorian Government is committed to reducing the risk of fire at waste and resource recovery facilities. In August 2017, the interim Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities) placed requirements on sites that store combustible and recyclable waste materials to minimise their fire risk. The interim policy was replaced by a longer-term Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials) in August 2018.
The Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce was also established in 2017. It has conducted 295 on-site inspections across 114 sites, issued 70 remedial notices and 10 sanctions (as at 3 July 2018). Compliance has been achieved by about 50% of notice recipients. The Taskforce has been actively working with facilities through those inspections to minimise their fire risk and improve their understanding of obligations.
Addressing Plastic Pollution
The Victorian Government recently announced that a ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags will come into effect in Victoria by the end of 2019. The ban will include degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic shopping bags. Victoria is also working with other states, the Commonwealth, and retail associations on a national voluntary phase-out of thick plastic bags. The government will consider designing the ban so that thicker plastic bags can be included in the future if voluntary action is not effective.
In 2019, the Victorian Government will develop a plastic pollution reduction plan to prioritise the most effective actions to reduce other types of plastic pollution, such as beverage containers, balloons and cigarette butts. The government is establishing a reference group of government, industry, community and environmental representatives to help guide this plan.
The SoE 2018 indicators and analysis can be understood in terms of the circular economy – all aspects of which need to function to maximise the sustainable use of resources. Stakeholders need to think and act operationally