SKM Recycling Centre Closures
On 12 March 2019, SKM Recycling announced one of their two closed facilities had re-opened in Laverton North. Boroondara citizens are once again able to have their blue bins collected with confidence that the content will be sent to be recycled and not to landfill.
SKM Recycling receives and sorts household and business' recyclables into plastic, paper and glass. Once sorted and bunched, SKM sells this recycled material to "end-users who re-manufacture the recycled material into new product".
In January 2018, China placed a ban on accepting contaminated recycled materials. Before this, China received 65% of Australia's export of household kerbside recycling. Since the ban, Australia has been stock-piling recyclables.
SKM Recycling reportedly receives approximately half of Victoria's kerbside recycling, including that of Boroondara. On 15 February 2019, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issued SKM Recycling notices that required them to stop accepting recyclable waste materials at two of its recycling facilities.
The temporary closure of two SKM Recycling facilities is the result of EPA inspections that revealed safety regulation breaches in regards to stockpiling. Once the sites are compliant, they can resume accepting recyclables. One of the closed sites, Coolaroo, caught fire in 2017 and burned for 11 days, requiring over 100 nearby residents to evacuate due to poor air quality. If ignited, a recyclable stockpile fire has the potential to harm human health and the environment.
Boroondara's recycling collection company Cleanaway delivers its waste to SKM recycling. On Monday 18 February, the City of Boroondara released a statement via Facebook, revealing that recycling materials put out in blue bins during that week would be taken to landfill instead of recycling facility SKM. This online message was posted many hours after Monday morning's bin collection to the frustration of many Boroondara residents who had already put their recycling out for collection. The Council suggested holding on to your recyclables until the next collection day the next week, by which they hoped the matter would be resolved. Recyclables in blue bins in Boroondara continued to be sent to landfill for four weeks.
Despite the lifting of one SKM facility's closure, other councils which are serviced by the other closed facility, such as Darebin Council, are still unable to have their recycling sent for processing. There needs to be a better solution when it comes to what happens to Australia's recycling after it has been sorted. With China no longer taking our processed and sorted recyclables to re-manufacture into new products, Australians should look at ways to re-manufacture materials at home.