A waste and recycling crisis in the Australian state of Victoria appears to be worsening week by week. Last week, one of the state’s major recyclers, SKM Recycling, was ordered into liquidation and this week Phoenix Environmental Group has been banned by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) from accepting rubbish at its Coolaroo facility.
SKM was contracted to process recyclables for more than 30 councils and started to run into difficulty when China imposed its ban on waste imports. With a throughput of 400,000 tonnes of recyclable material each year, SKM soon started accumulating stockpiles of waste. In July, the EPA ordered SKM to cease receiving materials at its Laverton North site, following concerns it had exceeded safe limits. The company’s difficulties have been spiralling, culminating in the Supreme Court appointing a liquidator and ordering the company to be wound up after it was unable to show it could repay debts of A$5.5 million.
The desperation to dispose of the rapidly growing stockpiles of waste has hit a new low just this week with the reported discovery that Phoenix Environmental Group was operating a massive illegal dump at an Altona warehouse and attempting to use an industrial incinerator to dispose of around 6,000 cubic metres of recyclable plastic in an alleged bid to escape enforcement action by the local council and the Environment Protection Authority.
Unsurprisingly, Victoria’s waste management system is under great strain, with at least 15 councils reportedly forced to dump paper, glass and cans in landfill until alternative processors can be found.