‘Hope’ for recycling solution as south-west mayors speak up

Talks between the region’s main recycling contractor and the state government have resumed, with Wheelie Waste general manager Chris Philp calling discussions “positive”.

Mr Philp, who spoke out late last week after talks broke down over a recycling crisis in part sparked by a policy change in China, said he was hopeful after meeting with representatives from the premier and treasurer’s offices.

“Collections are continuing at this point, and recycling is currently being stockpiled,” he said.

“However, storage will reach maximum levels by the end of the week.”

Mr Philp said further meetings were scheduled with the treasurer and environment minister tomorrow.

“We’ve certainly expressed our concerns that time is running out and have requested some clear direction by the end of tomorrow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Warrnambool, Moyne and Corangamite mayors have come together to ask the state government to resolve the issue, which is likely to cost councils more than $1 million and has created uncertainty about where recyclables will go in the short term.

Warrnambool Mayor Robert Anderson said the events in recent weeks were beyond the control of local government.

“Councils entered into contracts for the collection of waste and the processing of recyclable materials and these contracts can now not be met,” Cr Anderson said.

“If recyclable material cannot go to a processor of these materials it will end up in landfill.”

Moyne Mayor Mick Wolfe said the state government had the capacity to make a difference, and pointed to financial assistance for council through a landfill levy it collects.

“The time has come for the proceeds of the state government levy to be deployed in the manner for which it was intended – the sustainable management of waste,” he said.

“Alternatively, the state government could suspend the landfill levy charge for all municipal waste streams to offset the increasing costs.”

Corangamite Mayor Jo Beard said very little of the money collected through the levy had been returned to the region. She said the community’s recycling habits had come a long way, with a positive effect on the environment.

“The best thing we can all do is keep separating our recyclables until this issue is resolved,” she said.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has been playing a role in talks, and CEO Rob Spence said the change in China highlighted the need for market development in the local recycling industry.

“We need to see a greater quantity of landfill levy funds reinvested to support innovation in waste management and resource recovery,” he said.

“Victoria’s three recycling companies appear to be positioning for a statewide price adjustment. Our primary concern is to ensure a fair deal for Victorian ratepayers.”

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the issue was in the realm of local government.

“While recycling is a matter for local councils, we nevertheless are discussing and working with the MAV and industry on this important issue, to ensure that confidence in Victoria’s recycling program is maintained,” she said.