Local councils across Victoria have been forced to dump tons of recyclables into landfills.
More than 30 councils, including Melbourne, Port Phillip, Hume, and Wyndham, have been impacted after the Environment Protection Authority forbade various large recycling stations from receiving additional recyclables over fears the increasing mass is a fire risk.
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The backlog of materials is a direct result of China's decision to stop accepting Australia’s exported recyclables under new standards on imported waste and a lack of local management solutions in Victoria.
"Port Phillip remains open to alternatives to landfill diversion but, at the moment, there is, unfortunately, no other viable option,” Port Phillip Mayor Dick Gross told the Age. “Recycling bins will continue to be emptied by us at the scheduled times with this waste transported to landfill.”
Protesters have dumped their rubbish on State Parliament demanding action on Victoria’s waste crisis. Residents are furious that Melbourne councils are being forced to send recycling to landfill. The full story tonight in #7NewsMelb#Liveat6pic.twitter.com/yIPsGtmonw— Peter Mitchell (@Peter_Mitchell7) March 19, 2019
Australia currently produces around 64 million tons of waste a year. Around half is recycled, with 4 million tons exported to countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. China previously received 1.3 million tons of Australia’s recyclable waste.
Various waste management bodies — including the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association (WMRR) — have blamed state and federal governments for failing to appropriately use landfill levy revenue from ratepayers to establish a domestic market for recyclables.
"There is simply no excuse for the lack of action in driving demand for recycled material in Australia,” CEO of WMRR Gayle Sloan stated. “Industry has long known that Australia required processing and reprocessing infrastructure as well as long-term solutions to avoid lurching from crisis to crisis.”
Executive Officer of Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Mark Smith told Global Citizen open dialogue between federal, state, and local governments and the waste management sector was desperately needed.
"There has been a lot of change in the sector over the past few decades. Governments roles and understanding of how it regulates and how it works with the industry has not caught up,” Smith told Global Citizen. “The VMWA — with the support of the environment minister of Victoria — will seek to coordinate round table meetings with key industry players in coming weeks. This way, businesses can directly tell ministers the waste management challenges they are facing.”
He added: “At the moment that information passes through government agencies and departments, which are locked into framing information back that aligns with government policies and may not fully capture what’s actually happening in the sector.”
Environment Minister of Victoria Lily D’Ambrosio announced the government will invest $37 million to develop a Recycling Industry Strategic Plan in an effort to “move to a more efficient and resilient recycling system.”