Another Victorian recycling plant shuts

Some of recycling giant SKM's plants have been shut down amid fears of stockpiles catching alight.
Some of recycling giant SKM's plants have been shut down amid fears of stockpiles catching alight.

Recycling from Geelong and surrounding areas will be sent to landfill as another recycling plant shuts because it has reached capacity.

The SKM plant at Geelong temporarily closed at 5pm on Wednesday because the facility was full, the City of Greater Geelong announced.

"While this is an unfortunate situation, protecting community health and safety is the number one priority," the council's city services director Guy Wilson-Browne said.

Stockpiling of plastics had increased at the Geelong site since the closure of the SKM plant at Laverton, the council said.

As an "interim measure" recyclable waste will go to landfill until the Laverton site could receive materials.

"It is more important than ever to dispose-off your waste and recycling responsibly and where possible, reduce your overall waste as much as possible," Mr Wilson Browne said.

The Geelong plant is the third of SKM's plants to close with the Environmental Protection Authority shutting its plants at Laverton and Coolaroo amid fears recycling stockpiles could catch fire.

A fire at the Coolaroo plant in 2017 sent toxic smoke across Melbourne and forced residents to flee their homes.

The recycling giant collects about half of the state's kerbside recycling.

The plants are being monitored daily, EPA Victoria chief Cathy Wilkinson said on Wednesday, but added the resumption of operations is up to the company.

She told ABC Radio they had been given the green light "the moment they are compliant with waste guidelines".

"They need their stockpiles in reasonable sizes, with good separation distances, so that if one pile catches alight it doesn't transfer to the next one so our fire agencies can get in safely.

"As soon as they tell us they're compliant, we will go and inspect, and they can continue to operate."

Calls to SKM continued to go unanswered as political pressure mounted amid the recycling hold-up.

Australian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson blamed inaction from Canberra for the recycling headache.

"Several years ago ... major stakeholders across the waste industry called for urgent action, immediate funding and federal government leadership, if this crisis was to be avoided," he said in a statement.

"This Government has chosen to sit on its hands, and almost two years later the states are now sending their recycled waste to landfill.

"The system is failing, the industry is in crisis and the federal government still has no plan after all these years."

Victoria's Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said SKM needed to explain why it was hoarding the material.

Dr Wilkinson confirmed the EPA, along with fire authorities, have started a "stockpiling task force" which includes the constant monitoring - sometimes using drones - of recycling plants.

The federal government continues to work on a national waste plan.

Australian Associated Press