Efforts to reduce Western Victoria’s worst environmental hazard may take even longer after the owners of Stawell’s Tyre Yard were found to “repeatedly fail” complying with fire protection notices.
Used Tyre Recycling Corporation’s (UTRC) inability to follow Environment Protection Authority (EPA) notices and a Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Protection Notice has forced EPA to take action.
To date the owners of the Tyre Yard have not complied with a CFA Fire Prevention Notice or three statutory demands issued by EPA.
The notices required UTRC to reduce tyre numbers, separate stockpiles and carry out measures to reduce the risk of fire.
EPA said it was considering taking steps under Section 62 (conduct or cause a clean-up) of the Environment Protection Act 1970 to take charge of the site and effect a clean-up.
UTRC now has seven days to respond before EPA takes any further action.
The stockpile was also assessed by CFA as a “very high fire risk” which presented social, environmental and economic implications for the community.
CFA issued an updated notice to UTRC outlining fire protection work the company needed to complete by July 31, September 30 and November 30.
The July deadline was not met.
UTRC had previously told Times-News that works to reduce the rubber stockpile would speed up once EPA approved a permit for a recycling (pyrolysis) plant.
EPA chief executive Nial Finegan said the application was received in December, but later contacted UTRC to inform the company it had not received enough information.
“While subsequent information has been received from UTRC, it has not been sufficient for EPA to formally accept and begin assessing the application under the statutory works approval process,” he said.
“EPA has had regular communication with UTRC since this request, but as the information has still not been forthcoming EPA has returned to UTRC its works approval fee and is no longer processing the application.”
Green Distillation Technologies Corporation (GDTC) owns the block of land next to the Tyre Yard and chief operating officer Trevor Bayley said pyrolysis should not have even been considered.
“Pyrolysis is not a favoured method of recycling in Australia,” he said.
“There are a number of examples around the world which demonstrate that the pyrolysis recycyling process produces harmful emissions.”
Pyrolysis involves the application of heat and the absence of oxygen, converting used tyres into low grade oil, gas and biochar.
The Malaysian government banned pyrolysis in 2015 after finding the method “polluted air and waterways”, but was also “dangerous- leading to explosions”.
Up to 25 pyrolysis factories were shut down.
In 2011, 45 oil-producing pyrolysis units suffered a similar fate in India, citing complaints of air and odour pollution.
Mr Bayley said methods of used tyre recycling, like crumbing or chipping, were too expensive to make the by-products from the tyres economic to sell.
So Mr Bayley has approached the state government and EPA with his company’s method of recycling used tyres.
The GDTC recycling process is called destructive distillation, similar to pyrolysis, it uses heat and excludes air.
But Mr Bayley said under his process, controlled heat reduces whole tyres to their constituent elements- which then reform into oils- which are distilled and collected.
“The process is emission-free, uses recycled oil as the heat source during production and the only waste generated is heat,” he said.
The GDTC technology achieved global recognition- becoming the first ever Australian finalist in the Edison Awards, one of the world’s top accolades for innovation.
Mr Bayley said the company had received inquiries from organisations in Italy, the US, Romania, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.
With another fire season fast-approaching EPA and CFA continue to work together with Northern Grampians Shire Council and other agencies to ensure the Tyre Yard is managed appropriately.
EPA will continue to provide the community with updates as the process unfolds.
Used Tyre Recycling Corporation did not to respond to Times-News for comment.