The Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 (Bill) was introduced on 20 June 2018, and it will be the biggest revamp of environmental regulations in Victoria to date.
The Bill affects everyone, but the waste industry most of all.
New duties and obligations
The Bill introduces a general environmental duty (GED) requiring individuals and businesses to:
- use reasonable efforts to eliminate; and
- take steps to minimise risks of harm to human health, or the environment from pollution of waste.
If pollution from waste occurs, and there is risk of harm to the environment, the polluter will be under a duty to restore the polluted area to its original state.
Additionally, a person must notify EPA of a pollution incident as soon as becoming aware of it.
Obligations in regard to industrial waste will also change:
- Industrial waste can only be deposited at an authorised industrial waste site.
- Receivers of industrial waste must be authorised to receive waste.
- Producers of industrial waste must ensure it is transported to an authorised waste site.
New permissions system
The Bill proposes to regulate business activities according to risk with a new three-tiered permissions system. These are:
- automatically granted; and
- suited to organisations posing significant risks but who have access to simple and standardised controls.
- Permits for medium-high risk activities with low complexity.
- granted for complex activities that require the most regulatory control to manage any significant risks to human health and the environment; and
- reviewed at least every 5 years and are no longer granted indefinitely.
Reforms to waste management
The general environmental duty requires waste producers to identify and implement ways of minimising waste generation, and waste management risks.
The amendments also lay out a waste management hierarchy:
- recovery of energy;
- containment; and
- waste disposal.
Waste companies should take particular note of the new community rights. These new rights mean that Individuals affected by environmental breaches may commence action against the responsible entity by commencing action in court.
This is a significant departure from the current laws which limit this type of redress to EPA enforcement activity.
If a business breaches the general environmental duty, it may face a civil penalty of up to $1.6 million, or criminal penalties.
If a business does not notify the EPA of a pollution incident, a $194.00 financial penalty will be imposed on them.
Breaches of the industrial waste duties can result in civil and criminal penalties.
What does this mean for you?
Businesses and individuals will be under stricter obligations with heavy penalties for non-compliance.
The Bespoke Waste Management and Resource Recovery group will be closely following the progress of the Bill. Get in touch if your business would like to discuss compliance and legal risk management for your waste business.