Warrnambool City Council chief executive officer (CEO) Bruce Anson said on top of 3500 tonnes of kerbside recyclables collected by the council each year, the city’s businesses and industry produced 1200 tonnes of recyclable materials each week.
The additional recycling is not handled by the council.
Mr Anson said residential kerbside collections would still occur.
“We’ll be continuing to pick up the rubbish but at this stage this we don’t know where it will go,” he said.
“We don’t know whether you just place it onto land, squash it and process it and stockpile it or whether you place it – and we hope like all hell it doesn’t come to that – into landfill.”
Mr Anson called for the state government to assist councils financially using the landfill levy it’s been collecting, which he said amounted to millions of dollars.
“Nobody wants it to go into landfill but if it does go into landfill, the current cost is $165 a tonne,” he said.
The 3500 tonnes the council deals with each year would put the bill for that option at more than $575,000.
This week Moyne Shire said its recycling contractor had said the cost of disposing of each tonne of recyclables may rise from $40 to $200.
However, one of the main processors, Visy, has said it will stop accepting any recyclables from February 9.
Mr Anson said there was a “mad scramble” happening as the recycling industry and government worked out what to do.
“I don’t think anybody fully appreciated the impact of the Chinese decision,” he said.
He said the state government should make the levy money available to ease the financial burden on councils.
“Whether it’s going into landfill as last resort or whether a recycler will take it with a higher fee, the cost should be borne by the waste management levy local government has been paying to the state government for many years now,” Mr Anson said.
Deakin University hazardous materials lecturer Dr Trevor Thornton told Fairfax Media said the crisis could see the end of the kerbside recycling system.
He said the cost of councils dumping recyclable materials would inevitably result in higher rates being passed on.