EPA orders shutdown of construction materials recycler

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has ordered a Coolaroo construction materials recycling facility to stop accepting combustible recyclable and waste material until it implements measures to reduce the fire risks associated with the stockpiles at the site.

EPA’s Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce Manager, Danny Childs, says the Taskforce Officers found the premises at 80A Maffra Street, Coolaroo, had large stockpiles of waste and recyclable materials that presented a significant risk of fire and would be difficult to extinguish.

“The size and contents of the stockpiles, inadequate separation distances and the potential sources of ignition increase the fire risks dramatically. The burning plastics, foam and polystyrene would create toxic gases and a great deal of smoke, and fire water runoff could contaminate local waterways,” Mr Childs said.

“This is the second EPA notice we have issued to this company for the same issue, and the facility again won’t be allowed to operate until it complies with the requirements set out in the Victorian Government’s Waste Management Policy,” Mr Childs said.

The company, Phoenix Environmental Group Pty Ltd, processes construction and demolition (C&D) waste, including timber, plasterboard, foam, insulation, cardboard, plastic and metals. If it fails to obey the EPA notice, it faces fines of up to $48,357, plus $8,060 for each day the offence continues.

Officers from EPA found loose stockpiles of combustible recyclable waste material at the premises, without adequate separation distances between stockpiles and buildings or property boundaries. The stockpiles included:

  • Waste plasterboard approximately 5 metres square and 2 metres high.
  • Construction and demolition (C&D) waste including timber, plastic, paper, foam and plasterboard measuring 50 metres square and up to 8 metres high.
  • Waste timber 10 metres square, up to 2.5 metres high, and less than one metre from boundary fences
  • Overfilled bulka bags of C&D waste, 15 metres square and up to 2.5 metres high
  • Shredded waste timber measuring 10 metres by 5 metres by 4 metres high

“EPA officers inspecting the site concluded that the company has not taken reasonable steps to manage and store combustible recyclable and waste materials in a manner that minimises the risks of harm to human health and the environment from fire,” Mr Childs said.

“This is about protecting the community and the environment; the Waste Management Policy has been in place for over 18 months, and EPA has given operators plenty of time to take the necessary steps,” he said.

“When we inspect recycling businesses’ premises, we expect them to comply and they can expect a zero-tolerance approach from EPA.”

The EPA notice requires the company to make sure the site meets the criteria of EPA’s Management and Storage of Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials Guideline (Publication 1667.2), which includes requirements for:

  • maximum heights and widths for stockpiles
  • minimum distances between stockpiles and buildings, property boundaries or other stockpiles

Businesses can find a copy of the guidelines on the EPA website, at: www.epa.vic.gov.au/business-and-industry/guidelines/waste-guidance/combustible-recyclable-and-waste-materials

Members of the public can report hazardous stockpiles or other types of pollution by calling EPA’s 24 hour hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).

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