Municipal Association of Victoria boss defends councils on management of recycling systems

By Shannon Jenkins

July 16, 2019

Picture: Getty Images

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has called on all levels of government to work with industry and explore collaborative procurement opportunities to strengthen the recycling system.

It comes after the Victorian Waste Management Association’s chief executive Peter Anderson criticised councils for continuing to send recyclables to SKM — the company responsible for shutting down the state’s recycling system in February.

Anderson accused Victorian councils of being irresponsible in maintaining their contracts with the company.

But MAV President Cr Coral Ross disagrees with putting the blame on councils. She says the current “crisis” has come from SKM’s failure to manage its business interests and communicate with its customers, and points to the need for greater oversight and regulation of the industry.

“The current situation has little to do with council contracts and a lot to do with an industry player not meeting its obligations, and not operating with accountability and transparency,” she said on Monday.

“In the immediate short term, we need the state to work with industry to bolster sorting capacity at various facilities so that we don’t lurch from one crisis to the next.

“Our focus remains on building partnerships between all levels of government, industry, businesses and the community to deliver solutions and actions that strengthen our recycling system.”

In March, MAV released an action plan identifying solutions and actions needed by all levels of government to “stabilise and strengthen Victoria’s waste and resource system”.

At the Federal level, they suggest the introduction of mandatory product stewardship for all waste-generating products to prompt designers and manufacturers to create products that produce less waste.

The Commonwealth should regulate or ban production and importation of hard-to-recycle materials, standardise package labelling and adopt a certification system for use of recycled content, according to MAV.

While they acknowledge the state’s efforts in finding longer-term solutions, MAV points out that Victoria currently has three large recycling providers. They argue the state should consider how it can improve transparency and accountability of industry, particularly through greater oversight and regulation.

They encourage councils to investigate collaborative procurement opportunities with the state government for kerbside recycling, as collaborative procurement has the potential to facilitate new private investment in the recycling system in the future.

Ross says councils should use data to guide their decisions.

“Councils also seek access to data on Victoria’s recycling facilities, such as their processing and storage capacity, and their markets for recycled materials to help to inform contract decision-making,” she said.

“Collection of this data requires stronger independent oversight of the recycling industry – so they operate with more transparency and accountability – rather than relying on the word of individual operators.

“We all have a role to play. First and foremost we must avoid generating waste. Then we need to reduce, reuse and recycle – in that order – rather than just focus on recycling.”

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