- About the booklet
- Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations
- Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
- Roles and responsibilities
- Legislation and the farmer
- Further information
About the booklet
This booklet is one of a series of eight covering legal aspects of managing a farm:
- Chemical Management
- Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety
- Livestock Management
- Noxious Weed and Pest Animal Management
- Soil Management
- Waste Management
- Water Management
Each booklet provides a list of the relevant legislative Acts and explains the purpose of each Act.
They have been written for land managers and primary producers. Each booklet consists of the following sections:
Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations – an explanation of some of the language and terms used throughout the booklet.
Introduction – a summary of the intention of the legislation.
Roles and responsibilities – an explanation of roles played by national, state and local governments, their agencies and farmers.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes – the relevant Acts, guidelines and Codes covering farm management in Victoria.
Legislation and the farmer – A table of potential situations with an explanation of a farmer's obligations or the implications under the relevant Acts in Victoria.
Dangerous Goods – Substances or articles that, because of their physical, chemical (physicochemical) or acute toxicity properties, present an immediate hazard to people, property or the environment. Types of substances classified as Dangerous Goods include explosives, flammable liquids and gases, corrosives, chemically reactive or acutely (highly) toxic substances. The criteria used to determine whether substances are classified as Dangerous Goods are contained in the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code). The following agricultural chemicals are examples of Dangerous Goods: organophosphorus insecticides, cresols, carbamate pesticides, endosulfan, methyl bromide, phosphine fumigant, and ammonium nitrate.
Environmental hazard – A state of danger to human beings or the environment whether imminent or otherwise resulting from the location, storage or handling of a substance that has toxic, corrosive, flammable, explosive, infectious or otherwise dangerous characteristics.
Hazardous Substances – Those that, following worker exposure, can have an adverse effect on health. Examples of Hazardous Substances include poisons, substances that cause burns or skin and eye irritation, and substances that may cause cancer.
Land owner – Under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 the definition of 'owner' includes occupiers.
Acronyms / abbreviations
- ADG Australian Dangerous Goods Code
- EP Act Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic)
- CaLP Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (Vic)
- EPA Environment Protection Authority
- CMA Catchment Management Authority
- RWMG Regional Waste Management Group
- SEPPs State Environment Protection Policies
Owners and occupiers of land in Victoria have a number of legal obligations for managing farm waste. Inappropriate disposal of farm waste may be an offence under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act) or contravene a local municipal law.
Good waste management on farms is essential to ensure a healthy, safe and productive farming enterprise. Farmers, along with all Victorians, have obligations under legislation to ensure that their wastes do not affect the environment. Inappropriate disposal of wastes can cause contamination, pollution and result in legal liability.
The land owner in Victoria may need to obtain a licence for the disposal of certain waste disposal, or for treatment or storage of waste on the land.
'Clean and green' agriculture is of increasing importance in the marketing of Australian produce, both domestically and overseas. Appropriate management of farm wastes can benefit your farm by preventing contamination of the land water or produce, preventing the spread of diseases which may result in the death of animals or plants and preventing penalties being imposed on the land owner.
The EP Act sets out the principle of the wastes hierarchy. The wastes hierarchy is one of eleven principles of environment protection contained in the EP Act. The principles provide a framework for the Environment Protection Authority's (EPA) decision-making and are intended to benefit the Victorian environment and community. In making decisions, EPA takes all of the principles into account and applies them in an integrated manner.
The wastes hierarchy is in order of preference and provides that land owners should manage waste in accordance with the hierarchy, with avoidance being the most preferred option and disposal being the least. EPA is committed to reducing the amount of waste generated in Victoria and uses the wastes hierarchy in conjunction with the other 10 environment protection principles in the Act to achieve this aim.
This booklet focuses mainly on farm wastes and pollutants that affect waterways and land. You also need to be aware of policies relating to noise and air pollution that affect farming operations.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
Environment Protection Act 1970
The principal Act governing farm waste management in Victoria is the EP Act. The EP Act sets out general offences relating to pollution (including littering) and to causing or permitting an environmental hazard. The EP Act provides for significant fines and penalties for such offences.
For example, a person who is the occupier of land from which waste is discharged, emitted or deposited to the environment without a licence may be liable for an offence under the EP Act.
There are a range of associated regulations, SEPPs, waste management policies and guidelines that are administered and enforced by EPA in order to implement the waste provisions set out in the EP Act.
State Environment Protection Policies (SEPPs)
SEPPs aim to safeguard the environmental values and human activities (beneficial uses) that need protection from the effects of pollution and waste. Relevant SEPPs for farmers include SEPP (Waters of Victoria), SEPP (Groundwaters of Victoria) and SEPP (Prevention and Management of Contamination of Land).
Industrial Waste Regulations
The Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 set out the framework to manage wastes generated from any commercial or industrial activity in Victoria, including wastes generated from primary industries such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
The Regulations aim to assist industry and the farming community to meet the goals of the waste hierarchy. This includes avoiding the generation of waste where possible, reusing, recycling, recovery, and treatment, and as a last resort, containing or disposing of waste materials.
This is achieved by assessing, categorising and classifying industrial wastes, encouraging industry to use waste as a resource, and setting requirements for the transport and management of different industrial waste and the tracking of prescribed industrial waste.
Further information about the categorisation for soil and solid industrial waste can be found in the Industrial Waste Resource Guidelines (IWRG):
- Soil hazard categorisation and management (EPA publication IWRG621)
- Solid industrial waste hazard categorisation and Management (EPA publication IWRG631).
EPA has also recently released a series of Industrial Waste Fact Sheets (EPA publications 1436-1442) for industry sectors generating, transporting and receiving waste soils (fill material), and building and construction waste.
EPA Industrial Waste Resource Guidelines – Farm Waste Management
The Industrial Waste Resource Guidelines support and help to explain the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009. This is a key guideline for Victorian farmers on good practice waste management. Specific examples from this guideline are included in the table on pages 9-13 of this booklet.
Roles and responsibilities
The Victorian Government regulates waste management across the state. Under the EP Act, it is an offence to cause land, air, water or noise pollution – including through the inappropriate disposal of farm wastes. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) administers and enforces the legislation in co-operation with Local Government authorities.
Land owners are responsible for managing waste on their farm in a way that does not adversely affect the environment, amenity or health. Further, they must ensure that waste does not adversely affect commercial agricultural production on neighbouring farms.
Land owners have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of employees and livestock and clean produce for consumers.
The Victorian Government, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) and local Councils each have roles and responsibilities that relate, directly or indirectly, to farm waste issues.
In terms of waste management, the CMAs have a role to maintain and improve the quality of water and condition of rivers and to prevent and reverse land degradation. The role of CMAs is recognised under the State Environment Protection Policies (SEPPs), especially concerning coordinating efforts to manage diffuse pollutants arising from general farming and land management.
Local Councils are also involved in planning issues. Depending on your farm activity, you may require planning approval from your local government authority.
WorkSafe Victoria is responsible for enforcing Victoria's occupational health and safety laws.
Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
This Act establishes a framework for the integration and co-ordination of catchments in Victoria and to encourage the involvement of landholders and other community members in catchment management. The broad aim is to conserve the environment.
CMAs develop strategies and plans which may be incorporated into a planning scheme under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or into a SEPP under the EP Act.
The first step by a land owner within a catchment is to ascertain the existence and status of the strategy or any plans.
Dangerous Goods Act 1985
Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Interim Regulations 2011
The Dangerous Goods Act regulates the manufacturing, storage, transfer, transport, sale, purchase and use of dangerous goods.
The Dangerous Goods Act seeks to ensure that adequate precautions are taken against any explosions, leakages or spillages of dangerous goods, and to allocate responsibilities to land owners and occupiers to ensure the health and safety of all persons.
Liability for a land owner, or occupier of the land, may arise where the goods are held, or where an employer of workers who handle or have contact with dangerous goods.
The dangerous goods legislation establishes nine classes of dangerous goods according to their common hazardous properties. A number of classes have sub-classes. The duties vary according to the class of goods and some exemptions apply if small amounts are handled. (See the Chemical Management booklet for more information).
The Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Interim Regulations 2011 are due to expire on 1 December 2012. Contact WorkSafe Victoria for further information.
Codes of Practice
Management of dairy effluent: 2008 DairyGains Victorian Guidelines
DairyGains (Dairy, Government and Industry Nutrient Strategy) is an on-farm dairy effluent project with the key aims of improving effluent management into the long term, so to minimise environmental impacts and increase nutrient efficiency. The Guidelines are an important tool for farmers, industry service providers and government agencies in understanding best practice for on-farm dairy effluent management.
Code of Practice Piggeries 1992
The Code of Practice – Piggeries is the current code for all piggery developments in Victoria. It specifies minimum standards that apply to new piggeries, or where there are substantial modifications to existing piggeries. It is designed to assist local Councils, pig producers and planning authorities in the proper establishment and operation of new piggeries or where there are major modifications to existing piggeries.
The Code also covers emission to air from buildings, effluent collection system within all pig buildings, effluent collection system outside all pig buildings (but within the piggery compound), noise and waste water (which also includes slurries) or solids that are discharged off the premises and subsequently re-used (e.g. to irrigate a neighbour's property).
Code for Cattle Feedlots 1995
The Code for Cattle Feedlots is a State planning document and is incorporated into all planning schemes in Victoria.
Local Councils are responsible for implementing the Code on a specific feedlot development. The department provides executive support to the Victorian Feedlot Committee who administrates the code within the state.
The Code covers water supply catchment in which feedlots are prohibited and also provides details of a waste management plan. Further, the design and operational requirements cover odour and noise along with waste storage, treatment and use.
Code for Broiler Farms 2009
The Code provides a basis for the planning, design, assessment, approval, construction, operation and management of broiler farms in Victoria. It seeks to present an appropriate balance between the operational needs of the broiler farm industry and the protection of the environment, particularly the air environment for people who live near broiler farms.
Under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 a planning permit is required for all broiler farm development. Compliance with the Code is applicable and mandatory for the establishment of all new broiler farms and expansion of existing broiler farm.
Legislation and the farmer
Key questions for farmers about waste management
Consider the following questions. If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, look through the table on the following pages for more information or phone EPA Victoria (see Further Information).
- Do you run an enterprise that generates industrial waste?
- Do you carry out intensive agricultural industries?
- Do you discharge waste into surface waters, or dry creek beds that could form part of a waterway?
- Do you ensure that chemicals are used, stored and disposed of in a way that minimises environmental risks, particularly their possible impact on surface water?
- Do you protect and rehabilitate aquatic, riparian and coastal vegetation?
- Do you ensure that applying chemicals to your land complies with the law and best practice?
- Do you accept any wastes onto your land e.g. Construction and Demolition, or Commercial and Industrial?
- Do you accept soils from other farms or industrial sites onto your land which may contain chemicals, weeds or building wastes like bricks and concrete?
- Do you generate waste oils or discard oil filters that could be reused or recycled?
- Do you have a rubbish dump on your farm where you put household or industrial/farm wastes?
- Do you burn wastes on your farm?
- How do you dispose of solid waste? (e.g. tyres or tree and plant waste)
- How do you dispose of animal waste?
- How do you dispose of dead stock?
- Do you ensure that surface waters and their aquatic ecosystems are free of substances that might pose a threat to beneficial uses?
- On your property is there any sign of adverse health impacts, fish kills, algae blooms, excessive growth of aquatic plants, sedimentation, loss of biodiversity and environmental flows, objectionable odours, presence of oil and similar discharges into surface water?
- Do you minimise runoff of pollutants?
- Is any waste deposited on your land in accordance with relevant policies and guidelines?
- Do you take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of groundwater?
Farm activity or situation
On-farm obligations or implications
Chemical management and storage
Application of chemicals or waste to land
Empty chemical drums and used containers
Chemicals(unwanted or excess)
Oil and oil filters
Scrap metals/ used wire
Masonry – concrete, bricks and tiles
Soils (fill material)
Silage/feed wrapping and hay band/twine
Tree and plant waste
Waste and animal health issues
For information on waste management on farms in Victoria phone EPA on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842), and your query will be directed to one of the following EPA offices:
- EPA head office (Melbourne)
- EPA Southern Metro (Dandenong office)
- EPA Gippsland (Traralgon office)
- EPA North East (Wangaratta office)
- EPA North West (Bendigo office)
- EPA South West (Geelong office)
A range of useful publications is available at: www.epa.vic.gov.au/publications/, including EPA's Industrial Waste Resource Guidelines – Farm Waste Management (EPA publication IWRG641 – June 2009)
For the contact details of your Regional Waste Management Group, go to the website of the Association of Victorian Regional Waste Management Groups: www.vicregions.asn.au
Planet Ark's Recycling Near You website: www.recyclingnearyou.com.au
To find your local Council's website, go to the website of the Municipal Association of Victoria: www.mav.asn.au
Customer Service Centre: 136 186
Department of Human Services: 1300 650 172 or www.dhs.vic.gov.au
Recycling and disposal services:
DrumMUSTER (to recycle empty chemical containers): www.drummuster.com.au or (02) 6230 6712
Chemclear (collection and disposal service for obsolete agricultural and veterinary chemicals): www.chemclear.com.au or 1800 008 182
Plasback – Silage Wrap Recycling (a product stewardship program from Tapex): (03) 9361 8100 or email@example.com.
Sustainability Victoria: 1800 353 233 or www.sustainability.vic.gov.au
ISBN 978-1-74264-484-4 (print)
ISBN 978-1-74264-485-1 (online)
This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.
Contact us for more information.