Ending waste and toxic pollution

We all need clean air to breathe, water to drink and safe neighbourhoods to live in.

But waste and toxic pollution are causing serious and sometimes hidden threats to our health and environment.

From factories to power plants, industrial agriculture, traffic, waste-to-energy facilities, fires, gas refineries, micro-plastics and chemical contamination – waste and pollution are all around us.

EJA lawyers and our partners successfully fought for solid environment protection laws in Victoria.

Now we're leveraging these laws to protect communities from the serious harm of waste and pollution.

What are we doing?

Compelling the EPA to uphold environmental protections

We have laws and an EPA to protect our health, air and water from pollution – so we're making sure the government follows through on its commitment to hold polluters accountable

Keep our air and water safe by forcing industry to limit their pollution

Companies have a 'general environment duty' to minimise all risks of harm. We're partnering with community groups to make sure this duty is upheld and enforced – and challenging violations in court.

Helping communities use the law to challenge waste and pollution problems

Community members now have legal rights to challenge pollution problems in Victoria – and we're helping them run targeted public-interest legal challenges to have the biggest impact.  

"It's sobering to see the serious harmful impacts of pollution on our health and ecosystems.

For a viable future on this planet, the UN says humanity must urgently address a triple planetary crisis of interlinked issues – climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution."

— Elke Nicholson, EJA lawyer

Leveraging the law to protect human health and our environment from pollution

Victoria has an Environment Protection Act to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that grows our food.

But good laws are only effective at preventing pollution when they're enforced.

Right now, in Victoria, we're not seeing any indication of a downward trajectory or pressure on pollution and waste risks. The new laws rely heavily on self-enforcement and are doing little to address the systemic causes of our pollution problems.

We think these laws are a solid base – but now need to be meaningfully enforced.

So we're partnering with communities to investigate and take legal action on a range of pollution and waste issues.

Almost a decade ago, EJA lawyers worked tirelessly to improve Victoria's Environment Protection Act – often called the "EP Act."

This important law defines how the Environment Protection Authority (or EPA) works with community and industry to minimise risks to human health and our environment from pollution and waste.

Back then it was almost 50 years since any improvements had been made to those laws.

A key intention of the law reform was to increase the ability of communities to use the law to protect their health and environment.

We advocated hard at the time, bombarding the Victorian government with suggestions to make the law better at addressing pollution. And it worked!

The Act was overhauled in 2017, and now features some important legal mechanisms, like:

  • An overarching "General Environmental Duty"
  • An amended licensing scheme
  • The right for everyday people to enforce the law if the EPA isn't doing its job properly (aka extended third party standing provisions)

Fast forward to today – and the EPA is still working out how this new law can and should be implemented.

In Victoria, we're not seeing any indication of a downward trajectory or pressure on pollution and waste risks.

The new laws rely heavily on self-enforcement and are doing little to address the systemic causes of our pollution problems.

Pollution and waste are complex, wicked, interlocked problems that are deeply entrenched in consumerism, poor chemical regulation, in transport, agriculture, industry – every facet of life.

We're focused on having the biggest impact – running legal interventions and court cases at key leverage points to disrupt the systems fuelling waste and pollution and transform how companies operate.

The General Environmental Duty and environment protection principles in these laws are beautiful – now we're working for them to be meaningfully enforced.

We constantly pressure governments and the EPA to enforce environment protection laws and make good decisions.

We constantly pressure companies to do better – or risk litigation.

Each time Victoria's environment protection laws are properly applied, it sends a clear signal to industry that they need to step up and clean up.

Explore more of EJA's game-changing legal work

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Make a difference

The challenges we face are vast.

The time to push for large-scale system change is now.