As you may be aware, on 14 February the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) ordered recycling processor SKM to stop receiving recyclable material until a number of EPA requirements have been met.
This affects a large number of councils around Melbourne including the City of Boroondara, as our contracted recycling collection company, Cleanaway, uses SKM to dispose of its collections.
To date, Cleanaway has not been able to find an alternative solution for the disposal of recyclables. This means that while they will continue to collect recycle bins, the contents are going to landfill.
This is clearly a very disappointing set of circumstances. Both Council and Cleanaway have been exploring all options to ensure the City’s recyclable material is processed and not sent to landfill. Unfortunately the other two companies who process recyclables in Melbourne do not have capacity to take on additional items.
Neither Council nor Cleanaway are able to stockpile items on behalf of residents due to safety and regulatory limitations.
While the issue is being resolved, residents can help by:
- being mindful when shopping to avoid waste from unnecessary packaging
- saving space in bins by folding boxes and crushing cans and plastic bottles
- waiting until their recycling bin is full before putting it out for collection.
Council will continue to provide updates via the City of Boroondara website and social media channels as more information becomes available.
Frequently asked questions
What has happened?
On Thursday 14 February 2019, The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) ordered recycling processor SKM to stop receiving recyclable material. Two minor works notices were issued and must be fully complied with before SKM are permitted to reopen. As there is a limited number of service providers that can sort co-mingled recycling, this has left many councils in Melbourne, including the City of Boroondara, with no alternative other than to divert material to landfill.
What is Council doing about it?
Council and its collection contractor Cleanaway are investigating all viable options to process the City’s recycling. Due to a lack of capacity in Victoria’s recycling infrastructure, around 30 Councils are unable to access any processing services in the short term, presenting a challenge for Cleanaway and Boroondara to find a solution.
Does this impact collection of my bin?
No. There will be no changes to the collection of your household recycling bin, so it’s critical residents keep sorting and separating recycling as usual so we can divert back to recycling straight away when this issue is resolved. To see when your bin is collected, please visit our Find your bin collection day page.
What can I do to help?
There’s a range of things you can do to help:
- Keep recycling as per usual.
- Flatten your recycling so more fits in your bin and only put the recycling bin out for collection once it is completely full.
- Buy loose produce or take your own reusable mesh, cotton or paper bags.
- Avoid single-use plastics and single-use packaging e.g. bags and clingfilm.
- Don’t buy takeaway hot drinks in a disposable cup. Buy a reusable cup.
- Say no to disposable straws and plastic cutlery.
- Don’t buy bottled water and soft drinks - use your own reusable bottle instead.
- Shop smart - this is the best step we can all take to reduce our overall waste. Consider your choices before and when shopping to avoid producing waste in the first place. Try to reduce and reuse wherever possible.
For more waste reduction tips, see our Top tips to reduce items in your recycling bin.
I don't want my recycling going to landfill, what can I do?
All flexible/soft plastics can be taken to Coles or Woolworths supermarkets for recycling via the REDCycle program.
How long will this situation last?
The EPA is working with SKM to resolve this issue as soon as possible. Unfortunately we cannot give a date for when SKM will reach compliance. Council is monitoring the situation constantly and is in regular contact with Cleanaway, other affected councils, the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the EPA.
How will we know when SKM are taking recycling again?
Council will relay updates to the community promptly via our website and our Facebook page. It is likely the local newspaper will also report on the issue. The EPA have also stated they will publish updates on the SKM situation and confirm on their website when SKM are able to reopen.
Why can't the recycling go to another contractor?
In Victoria there are only three processors of kerbside recycling, including SKM. As SKM normally processes about 55% of all the material, the other two recycling processors simply do not have the capacity to manage the extra demand in the short term.
Can Council collect and store the recycling until SKM opens again?
No, unfortunately. Due to the large quantity of materials being collected (around 375 tonnes a week), it is not legal, possible or safe to do. Council unfortunately does not have the appropriate infrastructure or systems to do so.
Do I still need to sort my rubbish?
Yes, please continue to sort your waste and continue using your recycling bin as usual. As it stands the situation could change very quickly, so we need residents to continue to use the service as usual. Boroondara residents are great recyclers, so we encourage you to continue the practice. Please do not put any other household waste or non-recyclables in your recycling bin.
Why doesn’t Council have a back-up plan for situations such as this?
This issue has affected around 30 Victorian councils. Unfortunately, there are only three locations in Victoria that accept and process recycling materials. All alternative recycling facilities are already running at full capacity.
There are currently no viable options to store materials for recycling at a later date, due to EPA licensing requirements. We are working with the State Government to formulate short, medium and long-term solutions for processing recycling locally.