• The aftermath of the 2017 fire at Coolaroo. (Image: Emergency Management Victoria)
    The aftermath of the 2017 fire at Coolaroo. (Image: Emergency Management Victoria)

Several Melbourne councils have been forced to divert their recyclable waste to landfill following the temporary closure of waste management company SKM’s Coolaroo and Laverton North sites.

Five councils – Port Phillip, Boroondara, Brimbank, Casey and Cardinia – have had to dump their last recyclables collection, while Whittlesea asked its residents not to put their yellow bins out for another fortnight.

The Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) ordered SKM to stop receiving waste at those sites after finding improper storage of waste materials following the 2017 fire at Coolaroo, said Dr Cathy Wilkinson, CEO of the EPA.

"EPA has determined that these stockpiles are in breach of the Waste Management Policy that has been in place since August 2017 following a major fire at the Coolaroo site. As the regulator, EPA’s view is that SKM has fallen short of meeting the requirements of the policy, which is completely unacceptable and poses a real risk to local communities," said Wilkinson.

"EPA has also determined that SKM has not taken reasonable steps to manage and store combustible recyclable waste materials at these facilities in a manner that minimises the risks of harm to human health and the environment from fire.

"Given the Waste Management Policy has been in place for almost 18 months, SKM, and the recycling industry as a whole, has had ample time to meet the requirements of the policy to ensure the safety of local communities," she said.

Dick Gross, mayor of Port Phillip, said the council was disappointed at the need to divert, and hoped the situation would be resolved soon.

“Port Phillip remains open to alternatives to landfill diversion but, at the moment, there is unfortunately no other viable option.

“We are continuing to meet frequently with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG), along with four other councils whose group contract with SKM is managed by the MWRRG. The MWRRG is seeking clarification from SKM on a revised reopening timeline,” he said.

Australia’s recycling industry has been under pressure since China’s decision to ban foreign waste imports in January last year.

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