THE Municipal Association of Victoria is concerned that China’s ban on certain types of recycling material could see residents facing a rate increase above the state-imposed rate cap.
Chief executive Rob Spence said he had met with councils, recyclers, collectors, Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio, the Treasurer’s office and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in an effort to help broker a resolution.
China has banned imports of Australian paper and plastic waste from the start of this year, forcing many councils including Horsham, Ararat and Northern Grampians to search for alternative storage.
Waste contractors have stopped accepting recyclable material because it cannot find anyone to sell it to.
“This week has seen further developments in the recycling industry resulting from China’s ban on the importation of certain materials,” Mr Spence said.
“While rural councils have been the most directly affected to date, it has become clear that the impacts will be statewide, with significant cost implications likely for all councils and ratepayers.
“A number of rural councils are already having to consider costly short-term arrangements in order for their recycling services to continue beyond this week.
“With Victoria’s three recycling companies positioning for a statewide price adjustment, we are seeking an outcome that would enable recycling services to continue without a significant cost of living impact on Victorian residents.”
Mr Spence said council waste charges were excluded from the state rate cap. He said any price adjustment by recyclers was unbudgeted and would need to be passed to households through waste charges that appeared on rates notices.
Councils without a waste charge will have to seek an exemption from the Essential Services Commission.
Mr Spence said the cost implications being discussed by recyclers represented a rate increase for affected rural councils of between 1.1 per cent and 2.5 per cent on top of the 2.25 per cent state rate cap, with a similar cost impact expected for metropolitan councils.
“The current situation is a perfect storm resulting from a crash in commodity prices, an increase in recyclable materials collected, and more than a decade of underinvesting Sustainability Fund money by successive state governments into our waste and resource recovery industry, amongst other factors,” he said.
“We are calling on the Victorian Government to provide assistance to councils until June 30 so that councils are not forced to pull funding from other essential services or send recyclable material to landfill.
“Significant investment in the recycling industry is also essential to help strengthen our system, and protect jobs and the environment. The Sstate’s landfill levy income held in the Sustainability Fund should be urgently allocated for these purposes.
“This is a complex issue that requires cooperation and collaboration between all three levels of government, industry and the community.”
While talks between government, councils, recyclers and collectors continued, Mr Spence urged households to continue recycling.
“Follow your council’s instructions about what goes into your recycling bin. Also be mindful of your consumption choices, and buy products with recycled content to help close the recycling loop,” he said.