By Kyra Gillespie
Cardinia Shire Council will be sending the municipality’s recycling to landfill following a decision by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to ban one of Victoria’s largest recycling companies from accepting waste at two of its sites.
Alleged failure by recycler SKM Services Pty Ltd to meet the requirements of the Victorian Waste Management Policy has seen the EPA issue the company notices that require it to stop accepting recyclable waste materials at its Coolaroo and Laverton sites.
The EPA said in a written statement that stockpiles at the two sites breached safety regulations – which have been in place since August 2017 following a major fire at the Coolaroo site – which led to the decision to shut down the sites until compliance is reached.
“These waste stockpiles could pose a significant risk and challenge for firefighting agencies if ignited. Fire water run off could also enter waterways and have long-lasting impacts on the environment due to the toxic contaminants,” EPA CEO Dr Wilkinson said.
Cardinia Shire has confirmed that it will divert its recyclable waste to landfill as a result of the shutdown.
“We’ve been working hard alongside the broader industry for alternative short-term solutions and remain focused on maintaining services to ensure the health and well-being of our community throughout this period,” council’s Acting General Manager for Assets and Services, Debbie Tyson said.
“Although in the short term, we’re disappointed we need to divert recyclable materials to landfill while the processor responds to the order. No one wants recyclable material to go to landfill – but our priority must be to protect the health and safety of the community.
“Cardinia Shire Council is one of many affected by this notice, and we are working hard investigating all immediate alternative options as well as long-term solutions to manage recycling services to households.”
Casey Council, who currently takes its recycling to the SKM facility in Hallam to then be transferred to the Laverton site, will temporarily divert recyclable materials to landfill 18 and 19 February to relieve pressure and allow SKM to properly clear their site.
“Rubbish collections will continue as normal and residents should continue to separate recycling material, with council to resume delivering recyclable materials to the facility as soon as it is up and running again,” a City of Casey spokesperson said.
Liberal Gembrook MP Brad Battin said this incident is a result of poor planning by the State Government following China’s decision to stop accepting foreign waste in January last year.
“The Labor State Government has failed in their planning and until now have chosen to ignore the issue,” Mr Battin said.
He said that “whilst the Labor Government have today pointed the finger the Federal Government, the Andrews Government have $500 million [from landfill levies] sitting in their account to combat the issue which they choose to leave untouched.”
“This money should be used for new initiatives and business to get in control of waste before it’s too late.”
According to the July 2018 Victorian Auditor-General’s Report, a significant proportion of the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy (MILL) has remained unspent over many years.
Since 2009, $401 million has been distributed from the fund—48 per cent of the $829 million that has been transferred into it.
However, Bass Labor MP Jordan Crugnale insisted that the Government had invested heavily in the industry since the China policy change, including a $37 million package for the industry to develop new markets.
“The Victorian Government provided immediate assistance to industry and local councils in response to China’s decision in early 2018 to stop importing low quality mixed recyclables,” Ms Crugnale said, citing around $13 million to “help stabilise the recycling sector” which includes “$10m already provided to local councils for immediate relief following China’s import restrictions and the associated increase in costs.”
She said while assistance will be provided to council’s in light of the EPA ban, waste collection is ultimately the responsibility of local government.
“Different councils may choose to put different arrangements in place and may be considering options such as temporarily storing collected material, short-term variations to kerbside collection arrangements and working with other recyclers to take some of the recyclable material.
“As a last resort, some kerbside recycling may be sent to landfill in the short-term, in an effort to manage risk at resource recovery facilities and ensure the safety of nearby communities.
“The recycling industry is a private market, managed through contracts between local councils, businesses and service providers.”