Recycling woes stack up, with $1 million cost to south-west councils

Looking for answers: Moyne Shire director of sustainable development Oliver Moles is concerned about where our recycling will end up now that China will no longer accept it. Picture: Christine Ansorge
Looking for answers: Moyne Shire director of sustainable development Oliver Moles is concerned about where our recycling will end up now that China will no longer accept it. Picture: Christine Ansorge

A recycling crisis could leave waste collected from south-west kerbs with nowhere to go within a fortnight as a “blockage” in the international market hits.

Moyne Shire appealed to the state and federal governments to act, saying China restricting its importation of recycled materials such as steel, aluminium, paper and plastics was putting the market on the verge of collapse.

The cost of managing recycling materials could increase by more than $1 million for Warrnambool, Corangamite and Moyne, estimates show.

Warnambool City Council collects 3500 tonnes of recycled materials each year, while Corangamite collects 1635 tonnes and Moyne 1268 tonnes. Moyne Shire said it had been advised the cost of disposing of each tonne may rise from $40 to $200.

All three councils deal with contractors who pass the recycled waste onto bigger processors such as Visy.

It is understood that recycling giant Visy told at least two council contractors last week it would stop accepting recyclable material from February 9 because it could no longer find anyone to sell it to.

Moyne Shire sustainable development director Oliver Moles said the council tried to “get on the front foot” by contacting federal and state leaders so a solution to the national problem could be found.

“If costs keep barrelling out of control we’re going to require federal and state governments to assist us in dealing with this issue,” he said.

Mr Moles said if waste had nowhere to go, there was a chance councils would be forced to explore putting recycling into landfill, but Moyne Shire was doing everything it could to avoid that possibility because it was “environmentally and socially” the wrong thing.

“Clearly the community would say ‘we don’t want that’,” he said.

Mr Moles said China had upped its standards, which meant Australia may have to improve the way it processed materials prior to export.

“All change comes at a cost,” Mr Moles said.

Warrnambool City Council CEO Bruce Anson said the issue was a serious concern, and he called for the state government to assist local governments financially.

Corangamite Shire sustainable development director Ian Gibb said the council was investigating, and the focus would be to ensure residents continued to receive a recyclables collection.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio will meet with businesses this week to find out what has happened and she said she would be discussing the issue with local government.

“I will be seeking assurances from all relevant parties to ensure this will have no impact on Victorians,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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