Moves to Tackle Victoria’s Toxic Waste as Recycling Piles Up From China’s Ban

Victoria’s waste woes continue with authorities cracking down on a glass recycler and four chemical collection sites with illegal stockpiles.

It comes as the state government works to increase penalties for mishandling dangerous goods while announcing the Environment Protection Authority will spend $5.5 million to implement a GPS electronic tracking system for chemical waste from July.

Three sites in Craigieburn and one in Campbellfield, which are capable of storing up to 11 million litres of chemical waste, are under 24-hour surveillance as a months-long clean up starts.

The sites were discovered by a WorkSafe-led taskforce prompted by a warehouse fire at West Footscray last year.

On April 15 it was also confirmed the authority has told Glass Recovery Services in Coolaroo to stop accepting combustible recyclable waste until its stockpiles comply with state regulations.

There were two fires recently at the site.

Despite several massive fires at waste sites, including one at Campbellfield earlier this month which injured a worker, the government says it is still working on tougher penalties for wrongdoers.

Attorney-General and WorkSafe Minister Jill Hennessy said she hoped to have legislation before parliament by the end of the year to increase civil and criminal penalties.

“Our dangerous goods laws and the consequences of breaching those laws need to reflect the kind of damage that we have seen done by what has occurred in recent times,” she told reporters.

“We need to make sure we’ve got the civil law and the criminal law working and working well because the consequences are not just environmental, as we’ve seen in recent times, this has real impact on people’s lives, their physical health, and wellbeing.”

WorkSafe had conducted more than 700 dangerous goods inspections in 2019, but as the recent months highlighted, there’s been covert stockpiling and 12 sites are under investigation, she added.

Earlier on Monday, the government announced the move to GPS tracking of chemical waste, putting an end of paper transport certificates.

“The introduction of a fully electronic waste transport certificate system will enable EPA to better track the movement of waste by providing improved quality data, helping us to detect potential risks and intervene earlier,” EPA chief executive Cathy Wilkinson said in a statement.

Victoria’s waste industry is facing increased scrutiny after fires at chemical waste and recycling plants.

Stockpiling of recyclable material by processor SKM since China stopped accepting international waste also prompted the temporary shutdown of several sites due to the fire risk, sending kerbside recycling straight to landfill in some council areas.

By Kaitlyn Offer and Melissa Iaria