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Beyond the significant environmental impact, waste — primarily plastic waste — is a fire risk when allowed to sit in piles at recycling firms. Since October 2018, there have been 10 fires at waste facilities in Victoria. Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, including action for a healthy planet and people. Take action on these issues are more here.

Another Melbourne recycling facility has this week been ordered to stop accepting rubbish, a measure set to fuel the waste management crisis currently engulfing the Australian state of Victoria.

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) informed Phoenix Environmental Group Monday that it must halt the collection of additional garbage at its plant in Coolaroo over concerns the increasing mass of waste could be a fire risk. This is now the third time the EPA has prohibited the group from receiving waste.

“The company has failed for a third time to keep its stockpiles in check,” stockpile taskforce manager at EPA Danny Childs told the Australian Associated Press. “If it fails to comply with the EPA notice, it faces a fine of up to $49,566 AUD plus a further fine of $8,261 for each day the offense continues.”

The group, which treats construction garbage, must clear the heaps and pass an EPA inspection before resuming business.

The halt of Phoenix Environmental Group is the latest development in the state’s waste crisis.

It comes just days following the liquidation of leading waste firm SKM Recycling — which was turned over after being reported insolvent by the Victorian Supreme Court.

The facility had already stopped accepting curbside waste earlier this year, which resulted in at least 15 local councils being forced to dump recyclable paper, glass, and cans into landfills. 

The City of Melbourne, which had a contract with the recycling facility, now dumps 45 tons of recycling into landfill each day.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the city is working to “fast track” its waste strategy to deal with the worsening crisis. 

We want to stop recyclables going to landfill as soon as possible and deliver long-term improvements for our residents and businesses,” Capp said in a media release. “We are going to increase the number of shared waste hubs for businesses in the central city and work with businesses to reduce the amount of waste they produce. We know that what works in our laneways will be different to what’s required for large apartment block and other residential areas.”

"Ultimately we need to encourage everyone to reduce the amount of waste they’re producing in the first instance,” she said. 

Melbourne is also working, Capp added, to establish a “new large-scale recycling center,” while the government of Victoria is investing $37 million to develop a Recycling Industry Strategic Plan to suitably respond to the crisis.

The mounting piles of recyclable materials at facilities across the state is a direct result of China’s decision to stop importing Australia’s waste. Beyond China’s new standards, local waste management bodies have placed blame on a lack of open dialogue and waste mismanagement by state and federal governments. 

Australia produces around 67 million tons of waste per year — and the figure is only increasing. 

Half of the nation’s waste is recycled, while around 4 million tons are exported to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. In May, Malaysia announced it would send 3,000 tons of rubbish back to its original home nations, including Australia.

China previously accepted 1.3 million tons of Australia’s waste.


Defend the Planet

Yet Another Recycling Facility Has Been Ordered to Close Amid Victorian Waste Crisis

By Madeleine Keck