Controversial recycling business SKM – which handles around 60 per cent of Victoria's waste – is to be liquidated, with fears the move could lead to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste heading straight to landfill.
The Supreme Court has ordered the company to be wound up, agreeing to an application by a dozen creditors, amidst debts thought to total tens of millions of dollars, saying it was “in the public interest” for the company to close.
Owned by the Italiano family, SKM has long been disliked by Victoria's political leaders, with premier Daniel Andrews saying it had “a shady history” and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio calling the company “cowboys”.
The winding up leaves around 30 Victorian councils and others in Tasmania serviced by SKM in waste limboland. The fate of the waste handled by SKM is a cause for concern. Other Victorian recyclers are thought to be able to handle around 40 per cent of the 300,000 tonnes that SKM catered for annually, which leaves around 180,000 tonnes with nowhere to go, except to landfill.
On top of that SKM collects around 100,000 tonnes of waste from Tasmanian councils, which now has nowhere to go, and it also operates in Sydney.
The Victorian government has been in talks with SKM's main competitors Visy and Polytrade, who will increase their recycling capacity by adding shifts. However, the cost will be borne by the ratepayer.
Other recyclers are stepping forward in Victoria, including Harry Wang, who opened his new $20m plastics recycling plant Advanced Circular Polymers – built with the help of a state government grant – last month.
SKM's business model collapsed when China, then other Asian countries, stopped taking Australian waste. The company enjoyed supercharged growth for two decades by going to councils and, rather than charging them to to take their waste, offered to pay them for it.
The company has been issued with numerous bans on accepting waste over repeated violations of regulations.