News

Recycling crisis hits Nillumbik

Update: 14/8/19

ON AUGUST 13, Council released an update regarding the recycling situation in Nillumbik:

Council is working with the State Government’s Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) to find an alternative for the Shire’s recycling. Council has a contract with SKM through the MWRRG. SKM’s closure affects several councils and about half of Victoria’s recycling.

The broader, long-term issue requires a response from all levels of government. At this stage SKM, while temporarily closed, has indicated that it is working to recommence receiving recycling.

Council will continue to collect recycling bins as normal and encourages residents to continue their recycling efforts until this is resolved, it’s important we keep working together to meet the current challenges.

Unfortunately we expect this week’s recycling will be sent to landfill.

The capacity of alternative facilities in the north of Melbourne is limited and the MWRRG is working to find alternative arrangements.

FAQs

Why can’t Council follow Boroondara’s lead and use Visy or another provider for its new recycle facility?

Nillumbik Shire Council is one of five Councils that has a contract with SKM Industries Pty Ltd through the Metropolitan Waste Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG). A separate company, SKM Corporate Pty Ltd, was recently placed into liquidation. SKM Recycling have advised that SKM Industries Pty Ltd is still able to trade.

Notwithstanding current contractual arrangements, the biggest hurdle for alternatives to processing recyclables appears to be the lack of excess capacity in the northern region to be able to process the kerbside recycle materials.  Other Councils appear to be taking advantage of capacity in other regions. The additional transport costs associated with processing outside the northern region is currently being quantified to help assess the value of any alternative arrangements.

Not a single Councillor, staff member or community member wants to put recycling to landfill, it goes against everything we stand for, so you can be assured we are doing everything we can to get through this.

What does council recommend for residents and how can residents help?

Council’s Recycling and Recovery Centre at 290 Yan Yean Road Plenty accepts recycling paper and cardboard, metals (cans, aluminium foil, pots and pans) and e-waste free of charge.

These source-separated materials are sent to dedicated recycling facilities not affected by the SKM closure.

Residents can also help by avoiding and reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place, only placing the recycling bin out for collection once it’s full and taking soft plastics to Coles/Woolworths for recycling through REDcycle.

What are Council’s next steps?

In the immediate term, Council has no choice but to send kerbside recyclables to the landfill.

In order to understand and manage the contract risk, Council is currently having daily interactions with MWRRG given the situation with SKM is fluid.

In the medium term, the best outcome is that the recycling infrastructure currently owned and operated by SKM continues to operate to process municipal kerbside recycling, whether the operator is SKM or another party. This infrastructure is capable of sorting to the level required by markets both locally and overseas.

In the longer term, Nillumbik is participating in process initiated by MWRRG to explore a collaborative contract for recycling.

*******

ON AUGUST 2, the Supreme Court ordered recycling processing business SMK Recycling is now to be liquidated.
This followed a July 25 announcement that the firm would cease accepting Council recycling waste from 33 municipalities, including Nillumbik.
As a result, Nillumbik Council, which has been sending all its material from household recycling bins to SKM, may have to divert this material to landfill until a new solution is found.
Moments after news of SKM’s imminent demise was made public, Nillumbik issued a press release, advising residents of the situation.
The Council have continued to collect recycling bins as normal and encourage residents to continue their recycling efforts.
After the courts announcement, Nillumbik Mayor, Karen Eagan said residents can help by reducing the amount of waste they generate whether its recycling, food or general waste.
“Every effort is being made by Council to find short term, interim and long term solutions, including finding alternative recycling options.
“Like several other councils that are also affected, we’re very concerned about how we’re being forced to send recycling to landfill this week”, she said.
Cr Egan said Council will continue to work with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group and other councils to create sustainable solutions for managing waste.
Nillumbik has been in a long-term collaborative contract with Wyndham, Brimbank, Melbourne and Port Phillip Councils, with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group as contract principal — this contract was not due to expire until 2026.
Cr Egan said the state’s recycling service is a state-wide and long term issue that “requires a stronger response and commitment from all levels of government”.
Apart from the obvious concern of all environmentally-conscious residents that recyclable material is once again going to landfill, there are serious financial aspects to this fiasco which will undoubtedly have a significant effect on Council rates in future years.
Sending this material to landfill comes at a cost, as all Councils have to pay a State Government levy for every tonne of material deposited in landfill — an extra expense that has not been budgeted for.
Additionally, any contract with an alternative collector would come at a significantly higher price than that agreed with SKM.
More worrying is that although we do not know what advance payments, if any, have been made to SKM, we do know that at the last Council meeting on June 25 the existing contract was amended to change the price.
That item on the agenda was held in camera, and despite our enquiries to Council as to whether additional sums over and above the original contract agreement had been paid to SKM in the last month, we are told that “the detail remains confidential”.

The bigger picture

Earlier this year, SKM was ordered to stop receiving waste at its Coolaroo and Laverton North sites after they failed a waste audit and SKM was fined $16,000 for failing to get its facilities back within regulation within the prescribed timeframe.
SKM has been in an insolvency hearing at the Supreme Court, facing liquidation from creditors, with debts reported to be in the millions.
The recycling company — who has contracts with 33 Councils in Victoria — had warned 400,000 tonnes of recyclables would be sent to landfill each year if the company was to permanently close.
There is genuine concern that this will become the reality.
As the recycling situation has deteriorated during the last month there has been no shortage of blame in the mainstream press.
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio recently labelled SKM as a “rogue operator”.
Victorian Waste Management Association’s Chief Executive Peter Anderson criticised councils for continuing to send recyclables to SKM and of being irresponsible in maintaining their contracts with the company.
SKM pointed the finger at households for contaminating the recyclable rubbish.

Impacted Councils

There are a total of 79 Local Councils in Victoria.
33 Councils across Victoria had contracts with SKM to collect and process their waste.
The other 46 used Visy or similar waste and recycling contractors.

The 33 Councils which have been impacted by the liquidation of SKM are:

  • Melbourne, Port Phillip, Darebin, Nillumbik, Hume, Whittlesea
  • Wyndham, Brimbank, Moonee Valley, Hobsons Bay, Cardinia
  • Booroondara, Stonnington, Knox, Casey, Kingston
  • Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Colac, Otway, Queenscliff, Surf Coast
  • Ballarat, Macedon, Hepburn, Golden Plains, Mildura, West Wimmera,
  • Yarriambiack, Buloke, Hindmarsh, Pyrenees, Glenelg.

At this point in time, all other Councils in Victoria are still able to collect and properly process recycling.

The War on Waste continues

Recycling: increasing costs and new initiatives

OUR ARTICLES on recycling in recent issues of the Diary have met with much interest. Our ongoing look at the issue has garnered feedback from both residents and government alike, but sadly, not the recycling companies themselves.

Local Councils

Increased costs

The separate Manningham and Nillumbik Council meetings on June 25 each made reference to these councils signing deeds of amendment to their contracts with Visy Recycling and SKM Recycling respectively to amend the pricing for delivery of recyclables to these operators.
This comes as a consequence of China’s restrictions on imports of foreign waste, although the specific details in both instances were
confidential and held in closed meetings.

Soft plastics

Manningham does not accept soft plastics in the recycle bin.
Nillumbik Council has confirmed with the Diary that it is accepting soft plastics in a tied bag in the recycle bin, whereas SKM Recycling’s website tells us that no soft plastics are allowed.
We are advised that Nillumbik Shire Council is one of four councils currently participating in a trial project to collect and recycle soft
plastics in kerbside recycling bins.
The remaining Councils that send recycling to SKM do not have this arrangement.
After the bags of soft plastics are collected, they are sorted via manual picking or optical sorting technology, compacted, baled and sent to a plastic recycler either locally or overseas for recycling into a range of items including other soft plastics, street furniture and children’s toys.
This trial is currently being reviewed by the partner councils and Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group in light of data
collected over the past 18 months and the current challenges in Victoria’s recycling industry, and will continue until further notice as the review progresses.

Co-mingling and sorting

Whilst welcoming the initiative to start recycling soft plastic, for this writer, who already sorts waste into
landfill (red), recycling (yellow), garden big stuff (green) and food, ash, lawn clippings, leaves into our own compost bin which makes wonderful nourishment for our garden, the need to further segregate soft plastics became somewhat of a logistical problem.
We tried hanging a plastic bag in the kitchen waste cupboard, but there was no room and it got in the way, so we hung it outside by the bins and the contents blew all over the garden in the next gale!
Councils do not sort rubbish; they pick it up and deliver it.
This means that the sorting of rubbish is done either by the householder at one end of the chain or the recycling company at the other.
Recycling companies are noting that the mixing of glass, paper, aluminium, steel, plastic and cardboard into one yellow bin (co-mingling) can cause difficulties.
Co-mingling of multiple classes of recyclable product in the one bin causes cross contamination, e.g. glass gets into paper and plastic.
Asian countries have not actually banned the import of Australian recyclable waste; they have reduced t h e percentage of allowable
contamination to levels which are very difficult and costly to achieve, so this effectively can be regarded as a ban.
And some of the solutions in the pipeline may require us to further segregate our rubbish into yet more bins in the future.
New initiatives such as burning landfill waste to generate power will require an extra sorting process.
Only 50 per cent of red bin (landfill) contents is burnable, so either the householder will be asked to sort it, or the receiver will have to accept the lot, sort it themselves, and take the remainder to landfill.

Recycling companies

The Diary has made every effort to interview SKM Recycling and Visy Recycling, offering to see how the
sorting process works, report on what happens to the sorted materials, and take photos; however, all our efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

Nillumbik Council

Nillumbik Shire Council had put the creation of a domestic recycling scheme on the agenda at the Australian Local Government
Association conference in Canberra in mid-June, and Council hopes it will be supported and added to a national advocacy campaign.
Nillumbik Shire Council Mayor Karen Egan said putting items such as recycling on the national agenda would benefit councils and residents across the country.
“Many councils are facing the same issues and we look forward to working collaboratively to address them and seek support from the Federal Government,” Cr Egan said.
“Nillumbik has led the way when it comes to recycling for so many years and developing a domestic industry would mean we would no longer be reliant on China and other counties.”

Victorian Government

The Legislative Council, the upper house of the Victorian State Parliament, is currently in the process of conducting an inquiry into
Recycling and Waste Management.
Sonja Terpstra MP, State Upper House Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region, visited Warrandyte last month to inspect the new bridge.
She was impressed with the level of community engagement within Warrandyte and was interested in our coverage last month of recycling
matters, as she is a committee member sitting on the current inquiry process which is ongoing as we go to press.
Speaking as the Member for the Eastern Metropolitan Region, Ms. Terpstra noted that of the 12.9 million tonnes of total waste generated by Victorians in 2016–2017, 4.2 million tonnes was sent to landfill and 8.6 million tonnes was diverted from landfill for recycling.
Of this recovered material, 86 per cent remained in Victoria and only 14 per cent was exported overseas.
2.3 million tonnes of the total waste above was attributable to kerbside collections, and 46 per cent of this was diverted for recycling as a State average, although our local councils are doing much better.
Ms. Terpstra noted that Victorians are excellent recyclers — by and large.
She was keen to stress the low percentage, 14 per cent, of recyclables that were exported and felt that recent publicity concerning the policy
change in China made the problem appear larger than it actually was.
However, this did not take away from the fact that community concern still exists about exporting of recycling to other countries, contamination rates and the like.
Ms Terpstra also drew attention to other initiatives being taken by industry including:

  • •A proposal by Australian Paper to proceed with Victoria’s first energy-from-waste project with plans to use kerbside rubbish to
    help power its Maryvale Paper Mill; the scheme is in fact very similar to — but on a much larger scale than — the initiative being
    taken by Manningham Council to convert tree waste to biochar and further development of that technology to produce power,
    as we reported last month.
  • Advanced Circular Polymers’ $20 million advanced plastics recycling facility in Somerton, which received a $500,000 funding
    boost from the Andrews Labor Government and is set to process 70,000 tonnes of plastic each year.
  • The Government has issued a statewide exemption for local councils to remove the administrative barriers to extend their recycling
    collection contracts to June 2021 and look at future shared contracting of recycling services across multiple municipalities,
    which will help local councils save money in management and procurement costs.
  • The Victorian Budget 2019/20 is investing an additional $35 million to strengthen and diversify Victoria’s waste and recycling industry.
  • Lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned across Victoria from November 1, 2019.
  • A complete ban on sending electronic waste to landfill came into effect on July 1.

Ms Terpstra observed shrewdly that we are spending a great deal of time working on how to get rid of rubbish, but perhaps our focus should include looking into why we are creating it in the first place.
Having just purchased a dashcam for my car which arrived in a plastic bag containing a cardboard box containing polystyrene and no less
than six sealed plastic bags containing things such as simple cables and USB adapters, which did not need to be wrapped, I have to question — do we really need all that packaging?

Repairing our throwaway culture

By JO FRENCH

THE INAUGURAL Warrandyte Repair Café went off with a bang, a snip, a screw and a stitch on Sunday, July 7 at the Mechanics’ Institute Hall.
The initiative of the Warrandyte Mechanics’ and Arts Association is only the third Repair Cafe in Melbourne and follows in the footsteps of the movement that started in Amsterdam.
The event was held from 10:30 to 12:30 and organiser David Tynan was encouraged by the number of visitors and repairers that took part in the event.
“A great turnout,” said David as he gestured to the crew of volunteers around the room that had made the day a success.
Jillian McKinn offered her skills in garment repair and upcycling.
“It’s is a wonderful idea for people to learn to repair,” said Jillian, “I loathe the idea of a throwaway society, and I was delighted to be involved.”
Jillian worked alongside Agnes Stuyfbergen and Denise Farran to help Hazel Rice recover an old faded footstool with bright red Burmese woven fabric.
Agnes’ sewing skills were also put to good use teaching a visitor to darn a woollen jumper.
“I showed her how to do one hole,”
said Agnes, “and then she went home to do more.”
“It’s really exciting, so many people came in with a variety of different things.”
Greg Lawrence was working on a few small mechanical repairs and had a happy customer leave with his pressure pump sprayer working again.
“It’s a great idea — on two fronts — it gets people together and helps people out.”
Brian Prewett and Roger Gray worked together on a few appliances.
“Of the three, we fixed a slow cooker but the vacuum cleaner and toaster were simply worn out,” said Brian.
“The Repair Café suits me,” said Roger, “I like the idea of fixing something rather than trashing it.”
Jock Macneish was also on the scene.
“The repair café is a wonderful device for delaying the terrible moment when I realise I will become old and useless,” he said.
“While I can still fix things, I can delude myself,” he said.
The grin that followed was evidence of the fun and companionship shared over the event, and all participants are looking forward to next month’s event.
The next Repair Café will be held Sunday, August 4.

Where have all the koalas gone?

By SANDI MILLER
Feature image: Sondra Vlasic

ANYONE WHO has lived in the area for any length of time will know the joys of receiving a visit from one of Warrandyte’s koalas.
Sadly, this is an increasingly rare occurrence, and as our nature columnist Glenn Jameson discusses below, the reintroduction and
subsequent drought has been responsible for the boom and bust of the local koala population over the last 20 or so years.
Koalas locally have been a large tourist drawcard, indeed the national value of the koala as a tourism icon has been estimated at over $1 billion.

In 2004, the then Department of Sustainability and Environment produced a Koala Management Strategy, which outlined the challenges faced by the koala population and the approaches to aid in their preservation.
Major conservation issues for the koala in Victoria were seen as the continuing incremental loss of mature trees through deliberate felling
associated with land development and land-use change, and the declining health of remnant trees in rural landscapes.
The potential for increased frequency of wildfire associated with climate change is also a serious concern for the Koala.
Annual koala counts in Pound Bend occurred from 1998 to 2011, with numbers declining over this period.
This local decline may be caused by dispersion along the river corridor, as individual koalas tend to require a substantial environment to accommodate their dietary needs, or other factors such as the Millennium Drought, urban encroachment or natural attrition.
In light of the Government reviewing the State’s Koala Management Strategy, which seems to have been much more successful than that of New South Wales and Queensland where koala populations are effectively extinct, the Diary sat down with Vivian Amenta, Wildlife Management Coordinator at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
Diary: What has led to the decline in the local koala population?
Vivian: In Victoria, the koala population was reduced to extremely low numbers by the 1920s, when the koala fur trade was finally abolished.
A re-introduction program, begun in 1923 with French Island koalas, has resulted in occupation of almost all suitable koala habitat in the State.
While we do not have statistics for koala numbers in Warrandyte, there is no doubt that numbers would have dropped over the last 20
years, and indeed would have been declining since people first moved into the area.
This is due to habitat fragmentation, removal of their preferred food trees to make way for housing, roads and other infrastructure, and significant numbers being killed directly by cars and dogs.
Though koalas are considered vulnerable in Queensland and New South Wales, in rural areas of Victoria and South Australia,
they are plentiful, and far healthier than their northern counterparts, as the diseases chlamydiosis and koala retrovirus are not nearly as
prevalent.
In fact, in Victoria and South Australia, fertility control and translocation are required to ensure they do not eat themselves out of house and home and end up starving.
Diary: Are there any plans to repopulate the area?
Vivian: Translocation of koalas is only undertaken in areas where their on-going welfare is well-assured.
Unfortunately, the network of roads, the ever-increasing housing density and number of predators (dogs) in Warrandyte and surrounds rules out consideration of repopulation here.
There is also a need to consider the existing population of koalas.
They are territorial, will fight to retain/establish their patch, and if the new comers are displaced, they may try to return “home”, increasing
their chances of road mortality.
This is why the Kinglake translocation undertaken in 2017 was considered ideal.
We only translocate to sites where there are very few or no existing koalas.
At Kinglake we were able to release the koalas deep within the park.
There is only one nearby road and the 400 koalas were able to move in unopposed, as sadly, the existing population had been destroyed in
the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Diary: Are there tips we can give local residents to provide habitat for the animals?
Vivian: Residents can encourage koalas to remain by:
• discouraging harassment by dogs – their own animals and other residents’
• keeping dogs on-leash when in koala habitat
• not letting dogs roam
• being “wildlife aware” when driving
• requesting that speed limits be lowered on local roads, and adhering to the limits
• calling wildlife carers to assist when an animal is sick or injured
• reporting cases of wildlife cruelty (yes people are cruel to koalas) to Council and DELWP
• planting appropriate species of Eucalypts — though there are around 28 species that Victorian koalas will eat, koalas in this part of Victoria prefer manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis), swamp gum (Eucalyptus ovata), blue gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) and
river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
• leaving out shallow bowls of water for koalas in hot weather — koalas get most of their moisture from leaves, but in hot conditions will need additional water.
Diary: What are the ongoing plans for koala management?
Vivian: Victoria is currently in the process of reviewing the Victorian Koala Management Strategy (2004).
Updating the Strategy is an action under DELWP’s Living with Wildlife Action Plan, to ensure the State’s koala populations are secure and
healthy, and to guide their current and future management.
Victoria’s koala population will also benefit from the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity 2037 Plan which aims to improve the extent
and condition of native habitat and secure the greatest possible number of species in the wild.

The story of the boom and bust of the koala

By GLENN JAMESON

MY MATERNAL Grandmother was an English World War One, war bride, marrying my grandfather an Australian soldier after he was
discharged from the army suffering chronic “trench feet” from wet and muddy trenches at the Somme.
Grandmother owned a pair of gloves made from koala fur, her pride and joy, bringing them on the honeymoon voyage to Australia.
As peace spread across Europe, a war continued on koalas with an estimated eight million koalas killed between 1888 and 1927 for the fur
trade, their waterproof pelts shipped to London, the United States and Canada to line coats and make hats and gloves.
By 1924, the koala population had gone bust; they were extinct in South Australia, severely depleted in New South Wales, and estimates for
Victoria were as low as 500 animals.
The economic bust of the 1930s depression was a difficult time for Nana who had the task of bringing up a family of six by herself as
Grandfather had died, never quite recovering from the war.
By this time, the koala population on the Victorian mainland was thought to be confined to a few remnant populations in South Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula.
Citizens concerned at the survival of the koala in Victoria during the 1930s captured individuals and placed them on Phillip Island and
French Island where they were secure and able to breed up.
Koalas had been extinct from Warrandyte for decades when in 1985, government agencies released 30 adult and eight juvenile koalas at
Pound Bend.
The following year there was another release of a similar number.
Phillip and French Islands had provided security to enable koalas to boom and breed up large numbers but now they were outstripping their habitat.
However, the koala boom was from an isolated, in-bred population, with a very low genetic diversity and this population is now the source of most of the Victorian koala populations — with the exception of unique Strzelecki Ranges wild populations, which are genetically intact and diverse.
The release was incredibly successful and by 1995 koalas were generally found everywhere in the Middle Yarra area where there was suitable habitat, especially in Warrandyte State Park, the population had even spread to private property.
In Dreaming Stories, Wurundjeri legends associate Koobor (koala) with drought.
Although they may kill koala for food, the skin may not be removed, or bones broken, until after koala is cooked.
Should anyone disobey this law, it is said that the spirit of the dead koala will cause such a severe drought that everyone except the koalas will die of thirst.
In 1997 the Millennium Drought started, the climatic version of “boom or bust”, and our local koala population went bust.
The koala diet is very restricted, there is only a few species of eucalypt leaves which they can eat.
The leaves they can eat also need to have a minimum moisture level of 45 per cent to provide them with enough water so that they do not have to drink water.
The success of the 1985 koala release allowed koala’s to fill all available niches in local habitats, but the Millennium Drought reduced the leaf moisture content below 45 per cent and koalas began falling out of trees.
In the local wildlife refuge, 52 died in care and 102 were euthanized, the population dropping dramatically.
“Boom and bust” is the breeding dynamic many Australian mammals employ to overcome one of the most erratic and variable climates
in the world; breeding prolifically during productive high levels of rainfall, which allows populations to safely diminish (bust) during
periods of drought and then expand again (boom) when the rains return, Australian mammals are genetically pre-determined to
manage their population and habitat in conjunction with this climate cycle.
B u t , as successful as the translocation program operating from the Islands has been, the lack of genetic diversity has produced
behaviour traits which do not assist in survival.
For example, not changing food trees every night, thereby killing feed trees and breeding during droughts, strategies other genetically intact and diverse koala populations avoid doing.
The good news is koalas are still in the landscape — but at highly reduced numbers and fighting for survival.
I have not seen one since 2005.
On the mainland, the amount of viable habitat available remains a limited island in a sea of urbanisation, farmland and unsuitable bushlands.
The hotter and drier our climate becomes with Global Warming the more precipitous their future becomes.
My Grandmother — a war bride and then a war widow — never needed her koala skin gloves in the hot Australian climate, but she
did need the sanctuary which her children provided for her in later years.
Something we may not be able to provide for koalas locally, as the climate warms.

 

 

VEC Representational Review of Manningham begins


THE VICTORIAN Electoral Commission (VEC) has begun its representational review of Manningham City Council.

Between now and October, members of the public will have their opportunity to have their say on the representational structure of Manningham Council.

The review will examine the following aspects of Council’s structure:

  • The number of councillors.
  • Whether the council should remain subdivided into wards.
  • The number of wards, their boundaries and the number of councillors per ward.

Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately says these reviews are an important way to ensure voters are represented fairly within the council structure.

“The opportunity to have your say doesn’t come around too often, so it’s important to have a broad range of community members contributing to the shape of their local democracy.

“If you are interested in the future electoral structure of your local area, I encourage you to get involved.

“Public submissions are a vital part of the review process, providing valuable local knowledge and perspectives,” he said.

Submission for the preliminary report will be accepted between Wednesday, June 26 and 5pm, Wednesday, July 24.

Information on how to submit can be found on the VEC website or will be listed in the July edition of the Diary.

On Monday, June 24, the VEC will be holding a public information session at the Manningham Civic Centre from 7pm.

Members of the public who wish to find out more before the purpose of this review and its processes are encouraged to attend.

National recycling problems deepen

AT A TIME when problems with weekly recycling collections have escalated beyond local council level to State and Federal Government, the Diary is still unable to find out exactly where the material we put in to our recycling bins ends up.

For this writer, and I suspect many of our readers, despite Councils’ best efforts to educate us, it has always been a problem understanding exactly what we can and what we can’t put in our recycling bin.

Different councils have different rules, some packaging carries a numbered recycling logo yet Councils say that some of these cannot be recycled, stuff that is obviously plastic such as coat hangers are not to be recycled, glass bottles are OK but drinking glasses and window glass are not.

We are told to put “soft plastics” into another plastic bag (Nillumbik only) but their recycling company tells us that nothing is to be inside plastic bags, and is that black tray that your BBQ meat came on made out of recyclable plastic or polystyrene?

It all gets much too difficult and I was slightly in sympathy with a non-politically-correct neighbour who told me, “I’ve never understood it; I just put everything into the green bin because it gets collected weekly and I don’t have to bother sorting it”.

But now even when we do get it right, we have to ask whether it actually gets converted into something useful or gets stockpiled or sent to landfill or, at worst case, left in a disused warehouse until it catches fire!

One of the problems is that the so-called recycling companies do precious little recycling themselves.

Their function is to collect the refuse from the local council, sort it, and then “make it available” to other companies, some of whom may be subsidiaries who do recycle the material, or they may export the material for processing overseas.

Local councils are very helpful in providing information; recycling companies are not.

Nillumbik

Nillumbik residents are some of Victoria’s best recyclers, consistently achieving at least 65 per cent diversion from landfill, compared to the State average of 46 per cent.

Nillumbik is one of five councils in a collaborative contract with recycling processor SKM Recycling, administered by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group on behalf of the councils.

This contract requires SKM to manage kerbside recycling in an environmentally responsible way.

Nillumbik delivers approximately 7,000 tonnes of kerbside recycling to SKM annually.

Of all the material collected in the Yellow Bin, the big hitters are glass, at 27.96 per cent, paper at 23.41 per cent and cardboard at 17.66 per cent.

Whereas soft plastics come in at 1.48 per cent and Tetra Pak (or liquid paperboard) at a low 0.45 per cent.

It is expected that SKM will sort, bale and sell this material through local and overseas markets for processing into new products.

According to SKM’s website, more than 60 per cent of materials remain in Australia for use in local industries.

In regards to whether any materials are being stockpiled, Council has not been notified of any non-conformance since SKM’s Laverton North and Coolaroo sites re-opened in March.

Residents can find out what to recycle or how to dispose of something correctly on Nillumbik Council’s website.

SKM Recycling has not responded to the Diary’s emails or phone calls.

In the recently adopted 2019/20 budget, ratepayers will see an increase of around 3.5 per cent in charges for waste and recycling collection, bringing the standard waste charge to $263.40.

Manningham

Manningham have a similar arrangement to Nillumbik, but their contract is with Visy Recycling.

Visy would appear to have associated companies who produce PET plastic food containers and it would seem that their clients can select the inclusion of varying amounts of recycled content.

But as with all the “recycling” companies their website concentrates a great deal on “collecting” and “sorting” the waste and “recovering” the material but has very little to say on how it is reprocessed and what is actually produced from the material and where.

Our calls to Visy to find out about all of this fell on deaf ears, but Manningham Council were helpful in providing the Diary with the contact details of their person there.

However, despite numerous emails and phone calls, no-one at Visy has responded to us or returned our calls.

In the draft 2019/20 budget adopted in principle by Council in April with a final decision occurring at the June 25 Ordinary Council Meeting, Manningham ratepayers will see a domestic waste service charge increase of 2.25 per cent.

State Government

In February 2018, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio chipped in $13 million to help the Councils manage their recyclable rubbish, after China had refused to accept further plastic waste.

This was a stop-gap measure in the 2018/19 Budget.

In late May of this year, Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings announced that Infrastructure Victoria should look at what is needed to develop waste-to-energy projects and resource recovery from organic waste.

It comes at the same time as Malaysia announced that it would be returning plastic waste to Australia and after the earlier discovery of a dozen illegal waste sites in Melbourne’s north as well as toxic factory fires involving waste stockpiles at Campbellfield, West Footscray and Coolaroo.

Federal Government

The Australian Government has announced the appointment of an Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management.

The new Assistant Minister, Trevor Evans, was appointed on May 26 as part of Scott Morrison’s new cabinet.

Evans said he is humbled to have been sworn in as the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management and was looking forward to the challenges ahead and working as a strong advocate for protecting Australia’s environment.

No more time to waste

With the recycling industry now in a deepening crisis, it is time for government — at all levels – to come up with a plan, and hopefully some sort of standardisation across councils and packaging, so that we all know what can go into any yellow bin in Australia and have confidence that it will be properly recycled.

It is clear from the 2019/20 Budget that a solution to the recycling crisis has not been found.

Maybe it is time for the community to handle this problem on a local level.