The passing of the Environment Protection Act 2017 and the subsequent Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (New Act) signals a once in a generation reform of the environment protection regime in Victoria. The new regime is scheduled to commence operation on 1 July 2020.

The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have recently released documentation including the proposed Environment Protection Regulations (Draft Regulations), proposed Environment Protection Transitional Regulations, proposed Environment Reference Standard and an associated Regulatory Impact Statement. These documents are available for public consultation and comment until 31 October 2019 and are accessible here.

Our previous legal updates have outlined some of the key reforms proposed by the New Act. In this update we examine the key areas of change relevant to the waste and resource recovery sector.

A number of significant environmental incidents such as toxic fires in Melbourne's north and west caused by stockpiling of recyclable materials and unlicensed storage of hazardous chemicals have prompted increased focus by the EPA on the waste sector in response to pressure to ensure human and environmental safety.

These incidents have demonstrated some of the limitations of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Current Act) in relation to regulating certain waste activities whilst providing an interesting context to consider how a number of new duties imposed by the New Act will apply to the sector post 1 July 2020.

In particular, the waste and resource recovery sector will be subject to supply chain wide regulation and the EPA will have the discretion to take action in instances where there will be risk caused or potentially caused to human health or the environment in the depositing, transporting and receipt of waste. Under the current regime, the ability to pursue regulatory action is limited and this will be addressed by the implementation of the new regime.

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