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Recycling crisis grips the city

05 Mar 2019

Recycling crisis grips the city Image

By Kevin Jingga

The City of Melbourne is one of a number of local councils currently searching for answers to address the recycling crisis that is plaguing the nation.

Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna raised the recycling issue with councillors at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on February 19.

Mr Penna asked whether the council was affected and, if so, what solutions it was considering to curb the issue.

Recycling giant SKM has recently stopped accepting material for recycling following a ruling by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) that it could no longer store it due to the risk of a fire.

Since China banned the import of 24 categories of recycled materials from Australia in 2018, local councils have yet to find an alternative solution for recycling besides stockpiling or sending it straight to landfill.

Deputy Lord Mayor and council’s environment portfolio deputy chair Arron Wood said that while the situation was “unacceptable”, all affected councils were still searching for solutions.

“It’s unsatisfactory, it’s unpalatable, and it’s galling that we are in this situation after having the China crisis, after having a state-wide resource recovery infrastructure plan,” Cr Wood told the meeting.

Cr Wood said he hoped that SKM would accept recycling again soon.

“But again we can’t speed that process up or get involved in that process between the EPA and SKM,” he said.

He emphasised that while the “blame game” between councils and the state government would not help find a solution to get kerbside recycling back to being recycled, council was looking to the state for leadership.

“The facts are that we have a landfill levy that all councils are paying, so it is our money that is in the order of $500 million plus,” he said.

“We look forward to working with the state government on getting some of those funds in the market so we can attract some of the bigger guys to come into our market.”

“That may take some seed funding whether that’s development of facilities, further development of market.”

While he said he and his fellow councillors were “shattered” about the situation, he encouraged residents to keep recycling, claiming SKM was optimistic of reopening services in the next seven days.

“They’ve (SKM) said that they are optimistic in opening in the next seven days. We are unsure how that optimism is placed but again that’s with them to work through with the EPA.”

“What we need to do is look at a range of things. We need to stop the waste getting into the stream in the first place, which is the ultimate goal.”

Cr Wood also said it was his understanding that the kerbside recycling going to the landfill had started the week before the meeting. He also confirmed that many councillors were given notice just hours before the EPA’s notice was served.

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