The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) is calling for consideration to be given to greater State Government oversight of the recycling industry amid today’s notice by the Environment Protection Authority to stop two Melbourne sites from receiving recyclable materials.
Cr Mary Lalios said it was disappointing that councils only found out that two major materials recovery facilities servicing significant areas of Melbourne were going to shut down just hours before it happened.
“We understand the need to ensure community safety due to stockpiling, however a lack of leadership and investment by both federal and state governments over many years has left our recycling industry in a volatile position.
“Victorian councils have contracts in place with third party collectors or recyclers who pick up recycling from kerbside bins and transport the material to private recycling facilities.
“We are not aware of any instances where recycling is being disposed of in landfill by contractors. However given the two facility closures announced today, councils will have to investigate alternative arrangements including contingencies with other contractors.
“As a last resort, some contractors may need to consider landfill as a short-term solution until other arrangements are in place.
“This is a frustrating situation that, at least in part, is due to more than a decade of underinvestment of landfill levy revenue by successive state governments. The scale of this latest challenge demonstrates the need for stronger State action.
“More than half a billion dollars is held in the Sustainability Fund and we urge the State to prioritise its reinvestment into waste and resource recovery initiatives that can help to stabilise the industry,” she said.
SKM currently receives 50 per cent of Victoria’s kerbside recycling across three facilities, two of which have received shutdown notices by the EPA.
Cr Lalios said that as we head into more turbulence for our recycling sector, it was vital for communities, industry and governments to continue the focus on avoiding waste generation.
“Now more than ever we need consumers to make smart choices that minimise waste and avoid unnecessary packaging – and we need producers to do the same. Government education and information campaigns have a key role to play to achieve behavioural change.
“Australia must also set firm targets and deadlines to implement a circular economy, where everyone prioritises reduce, reuse and recycle – in that order.
“The Federal Government has a lead role to play. Mandatory product stewardship schemes should be put in place for all products that generate waste, to influence and encourage designers and manufacturers to create products that generate no or minimal waste.
“Despite last year’s near collapse of our recycling system, the National Waste Policy update signed off by Ministers in December has left us with a policy that has no targets or timeframes.
“We need to see all levels of government working together to ensure we have a sustainable waste and resource recovery industry in Australia,” she said.