Understanding Your GED

Frequently asked questions about the General Environmental Duty and what it means for your business.

What is the General Environmental Duty (GED)?

On 1 July 2021, new Victorian environment protection laws came into effect. The centerpiece of the new laws is the General Environmental Duty (GED).

The GED is a new approach that focuses on preventing harm from waste and pollution rather than managing impacts after harm has already occurred.

It requires all Victorians to take reasonably practicable steps to reduce harm to human health and the environment as part of any commercial or private activity.

The GED is a preventative duty; it requires all businesses to proactively find and assess risks to human health and the environment and implement suitable control measures.

The laws apply to all businesses operating in Victoria and are accompanied by enhanced powers for EPA to issue stronger sanctions and penalties.

The EPA now has more regulatory powers, more staff and more resources to enforce the GED.  

What are my GED obligations?

All businesses operating in Victoria must comply with the new environment protection laws:

  • You must identify, assess and control risks associated with your activities
  • You must respond to and report pollution incidents
  • You must manage and report contaminated land
  • You must manage waste and ensure its lawful disposal
  • You must cooperate with EPA instructions and inspections

The laws are designed to promote reasonable, practicable cost effective measures to control risks. GED Edge can help you find the balance.

What does EPA guidance mean for my business?

EPA has published a range of general guidance for all businesses, as well as specific guidance for certain industries. This guidance is the best starting point to understand and comply with your GED:

Guidance for assessing and controlling risk

Guidance on determining reasonably practicable

Guidance for noise 

Guidance for air quality

Guidance for storing and managing liquids

Guidance for handling and storing solids  

Guidance for storm water management in the car repair industry 

GED Edge can help you understand what this guidance means for your business.

Do I need an EPA Registration, Permit or Licence?

Under the new environment protection laws, an EPA Registration, Permit or Licence may be required by your business.

A registration is for ‘low-risk’ activities, for example dry cleaners and some temporary waste storage facilities.

A permit is required for ‘medium-risk’ activities, for example certain types of waste transport, treatment and reuse.

A licence is required for ‘higher-risk’, or more complex activities, for example large scale resource recovery and existing EPA licence holders.

GED Edge can assist you navigate the permissions policy framework and obtain the right registration, permit or licence for your business.

How should I now manage contaminated land?

Under the new environment protection laws you must comply with a series of new contaminated land duties even if the contamination occurred before you took control of the land.

The duties include to manage risks to land contamination from your activities, to manage any land contamination that is present or suspected, and to notify EPA of contamination as soon as practicable.

You may be required to monitor and assess background contamination levels to determine your response.

How should I now manage industrial waste?

Under the new environment protection laws you must comply with a series of new waste duties. The duties cover both the transport and destination (lawful place) for the waste and are scaled based on risk.

It is your responsibility to ensure that all industrial waste from your business is taken to a ‘lawful place’, which is authorised to receive that waste.

Additional controls apply to ‘priority waste’ and ‘reportable priority waste’ as determined according to an extensive list of waste codes. For example ‘reportable priority waste’ must be transported only in a permitted vehicle, and EPA must be informed each time the reportable priority waste changes hands (via EPA waste tracker).

Your business may be able to use a lower-burden tool called the ‘declaration of use’ to meet your lawful place duties. This tool is intended to facilitate the safe reuse and recovery of materials from low-risk wastes, without EPA approval, notification or tracking.

What do I do if I've been contacted by EPA?

EPA may contact your business to conduct an inspection or audit, in response to a complaint, or as part of an enforcement action. GED Edge can help you decide what to do next.

GED edge can help you source appropriate legal advice and representation if that is necessary, or liaise and negotiate with EPA on your behalf.

How to have confidence that I am meeting my GED?

The GED creates new obligations for business to proactively manage human health and environmental risks. To meet these obligation, businesses must balance factors such as the likelihood and consequence of harm, and the availability, suitability and cost effectiveness of controls. 

GED Edge can help your business find a sensible balance.