EPA requires SKM to cease accepting new materials at Laverton North site

An alleged failure by recycler SKM Services Pty Ltd to meet the requirements of the Victorian Waste Management Policy has seen Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) issue the company a notice that requires it to stop accepting recyclable waste materials at its Gilbertson Road, Laverton North site.

EPA has taken this action to reduce any potential risks to human health and the environment posed by stockpiles of recyclable waste materials at the site.

It has been almost two years since the Victorian Waste Management Policy was introduced, which in EPA’s view has given industry ample time to modify business practices to ensure ongoing compliance with its requirements.

EPA had issued SKM Services Pty Ltd with notices on 19 June 2019 that required the company to bring its outdoor stockpiles at its Maffra Street, Coolaroo and Gilbertson Road, Laverton North sites into compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy by 3 July 2019.

The company requested two extensions to these notices with the final compliance date agreed for 17 July 2019.

EPA granted the extensions with strict conditions that included an increase of inspections at the site and it was stated that if stockpiled waste was observed to increase, EPA would require the company to cease accepting waste until compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy was achieved.

The Coolaroo site has until 17 July to comply with the Victorian Waste Management Policy but is subject to the same conditions. All other SKM sites will be subject to an increase in EPA inspections as well.

The notices did not prevent SKM from receiving combustible recyclable waste materials at the sites.

Today’s regulatory action follows an inspection with co-regulatory partners this week that revealed waste on site had increased following the extension of time for compliance.

EPA is of the opinion that SKM understood its obligations under the notices, but had not demonstrated a move towards achieving compliance at the Laverton North site.

Other co-regulatory partners also raised potential risks that exist at the site during the inspection.

The company will still be able to process waste at its Laverton North site while the notice is in place, but will not be able to receive any new materials until EPA is satisfied that it has achieved compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy.

EPA officers will determine when compliance has been achieved at each site, which would allow the company to begin receiving new materials again at those sites.

There was a small fire at the Laverton North site on 8 July 2019 that EPA believes began in a conveyor belt. MFB advised EPA that the fire started at approximately 5.30pm, it was quickly brought under control, and that firefighting water has been contained on the site. MFB is investigating the cause of the fire.

Victoria’s seven waste and resource recovery groups can support local councils to work with recyclers and other service providers to minimise any impacts to kerbside collections if further action is required at the SKM sites.

During June inspections, EPA officers observed large stockpiles of combustible recyclable waste materials from kerbside collections stored without appropriate separation distances between stockpiles, buildings or the premises boundary.

EPA will also commence a formal investigation in relation to these matters to explore if sanctions are warranted under the Environment Protection Act 1970. EPA has also issued SKM with a number of notices requiring compliance with the Victorian Waste Management Policy as well as handing down a number of fines for non-compliance with notice requirements.

EPA has completed over 60 inspections across the two sites in order to assist SKM to comply with its obligations.

EPA holds duty holders to account. Since its inception, the Taskforce has conducted about 600 inspections across 164 sites that have resulted in 163 remedial notices and 32 sanctions being issued. Where remedial notices or actions are required, follow up inspections will be carried out to ensure compliance.

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