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SKM ordered to stop accepting waste amid fire concerns

SKM Recycling has been ordered by the Victorian EPA to stop accepting waste at two of its sites – Coolaroo and Laverton, amid concerns that stockpiled plastic has become a fire hazard, according to The Age.

The company’s plants are used by councils across Victoria including Hume, Macedon Ranges, Brimbank, Wyndham and Hobsons Bay. About 5,000 tonnes of recycling is sent to the Coolaroo and Laverton North plants each week.

The Coolaroo recycling plant was the site of three fires in 2017, including a major blaze in July which covered parts of the northern suburbs in acrid smoke and forced Dallas residents out of their homes and burned for 11 days.

Following the July fire, the Victorian government’s Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce inspected the Coolaroo site 47 times, resulting in the EPA issuing 12 notices relating to clean-up on the site, stormwater issues and stockpile configuration.

Environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio told The Age that badly managed rubbish stockpiles posed an unacceptable fire risk.

“We are working on contingency plans with councils so there is no disruption to kerbside recycling collection – so Victorians should keep recycling as normal and do what they can to minimise waste,” D’Ambrosio said.

According to EPA chief executive Cathy Wilkinson, fire water run-off could enter waterways if waste stockpiles caught fire.

“Officers recently inspected SKM’s Coolaroo and Laverton North sites and observed large stockpiles of combustible recyclable materials from kerbside collections stored without appropriate separation between stockpiles, buildings or the premises’ boundaries,” Wilkinson said.

“EPA has determined that these stockpiles are in breach of the waste management policy that has been in place since August 2017.

“As the regulator, EPA’s view is that SKM has fallen short of meeting the requirements of the policy, which is completely unacceptable and poses a real risk to local communities.

“EPA has also determined that SKM has not taken reasonable steps to manage and store combustible recyclable waste materials at these facilities in a manner that minimises the risks of harm to human health and the environment from fire.”

SKM is unable to accept waste until the EPA has confirmed the sites are compliant with the waste management policy. D’Ambrosio said the government was assisting councils with contingency plans to avoid disruption to kerbside recycling collections.