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Cleanaway on track to reopen former SKM sites by end of 2019

Cleanaway is aiming to reopen three former SKM sites in Victoria by the end of the year, which should alleviate some of the strain on 15 councils that are still sending recyclable material to landfill following the closure of several SKM Recycling sites.

In August, SKM Recycling was placed into receivership leaving dozens of councils with no option but to send recyclable material to landfill.

While 19 out of 33 impacted councils are now diverting this material from landfill, 14 councils are still believed to be sending valuable material to landfill.

In October, Cleanaway Waste Management, which was owed $60m by SKM, agreed to purchase SKM Recycling facilities for $66 million. The company also committed to employing SKM’s former staff in Victoria.

Cleanaway officially took ownership of the SKM assets on November 1; and the Cleanaway Laverton MRF in Victoria and the Cleanaway Derwent Park MRF in Tasmania both began operating and accepting recycling that day.

On November 20, Cleanaway head of post collections Clete Elms told Inside Waste that the MRF at Coolaroo should be operational by the end of November and the transfer stations in Hallam and Geelong will be operational by early December.

Since the appointment of receivers and managers in August, significant progress has been made in clearing waste stockpiles from the sites, repairing plant and equipment and bringing the sites to required safety, environmental and operational standards.

“It’s essential that safety upgrades and some minor civil work is completed to ensure regulatory compliance at the sites,” Elms said.

Clete Elms from Cleanaway

A Victorian government spokesperson said these challenges didn’t emerge overnight and won’t be fixed overnight.

“It will take time, planning and coordination across all levels of government.

“We’re supporting local councils, investing in infrastructure and working to grow stronger domestic markets to build a better recycling sector,” the spokesperson said.

Although there are still more than a dozen councils ­– mostly regional – sending waste to landfill, measures have been taken by the Victorian government to alleviate some of the strain on councils.

The state government provided a $10 million loan to KordaMentha, appointed receivers and managers of the closed SKM facilities, to help clear waste stockpiles and fund essential maintenance work to get the former SKM plants up and running again and meeting safety standards.

The loan helped to reopen the Laverton North site quickly. Seven councils are now sending their recyclables to that facility for processing.

In order to manage ongoing challenges, Elms said that councils should work collaboratively with their contractors to understand what options are available.

“Cleanaway will have capacity to take on more recycling from the start of December when the Cleanaway Coolaroo MRF becomes operational.”

Elms also advised residents to focus first and foremost on reducing the waste they produce and reusing material wherever possible.

“For material that cannot be reused, keep up with your efforts of sorting recyclables as it is important that when services are restored we can process material without it being contaminated.”

According to the state government councils that have been able to find a solution to divert recyclates from landfill are the Boroondara, Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Kingston, Knox, Melbourne, Moonee Valley, Mornington Peninsular, Nillumbik, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Ballarat, Colac Otway, Hepburn and Pyrenees councils.

Although, the Victorian government spokesperson said that there may be other councils that are back up and running that the state government is not aware of yet.