EPA shuts down major recycling plants

The Victorian EPA has issued immediate stop orders to two major recycling plants in Melbourne, forcing a number of local councils to divert recyclables to landfill.

The EPA’s CEO, Dr Cathy Wilkinson, said that a number of serious environmental breaches had informed the Authority’s decision.

Dr Wilkinson said that in the event of a fire at either site, large amounts of plastic materials could likely generate significant community impacts from smoke.

"These waste stockpiles could pose a significant risk and challenge for firefighting agencies if ignited. Fire water run off could also enter waterways and have long-lasting impacts on the environment due to the toxic contaminants," Dr Wilkinson said.

The decision by the EPA was made following a major fire at SKM’s Coolaroo site in 2017, with the EPA claiming that SKM has failed to address the underlying issues that lead to the fire.

"Given the Waste Management Policy has been in place for almost 18 months, SKM, and the recycling industry as a whole, has had ample time to meet the requirements of the policy to ensure the safety of local communities,” Dr Wilkinson said.

The Municipal Association of Victoria has urgently called for greater State Government oversight of the recycling industry, following the EPA’s decision.

The MAV’s President, Cr Mary Lalios, said that the decision to shut down the two facilities has left a significant gap in service provision to the Melbourne area.

“We understand the need to ensure community safety due to stockpiling, however a lack of leadership and investment by both federal and state governments over many years has left our recycling industry in a volatile position,” Cr Lalios said.

The announcement by the EPA has seen a number of Melbourne councils divert large portions of their recyclables to landfill.

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