Recycling issues piling up
Household recycling is not happening as most people expect, and authorities are scrambling to respond.
The ABC’s 4 Corners this week revealed hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass are being stockpiled and landfilled instead of being recycled.
The practice could be in breach of EPA rules in some states, with recycling plant operators saying their industry has become “unsustainable” with “no viable market” for the nation’s waste.
At the heart of the story is a recycling company called Polytrade, which has opened the door on the widespread dumping of recyclable goods in an effort to raise awareness about the issues the industry faces.
“We are back in the dark age and we don't know what to do. We are receiving more and more glass with nowhere to go,” Polytrade Rydalmere manager Nathan Ung told Four Corners.
“The predicament at the moment is there's no viable market anymore, there's nowhere for the glass to go.”
Companies are doing nothing because it is cheaper to import new glass bottles than to recycle them.
The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has limits on the amounts of material that can be stockpiled, but Polytrade says the regulator is aware of the stockpiling issue and has done nothing.
The ABC has also published leaked audio appearing to show the NSW EPA's director of waste management, chief regulator Steve Beaman, joking about the lack of regulation on the dumping of glass in Queensland.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is seeking urgent talks with the Premier of New South Wales over the dumping.
Angry residents have raised their voices about the duping of the ACT’s glass outside of Canberra.
“We're dumbfounded because we're receiving glass every day, we don't know what to do with it,” Mr Ung said.
“We're forced to stockpile it, and yet there's an EPA regulation that there's a stockpile ruling that we can't stockpile to a certain amount.”
Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) president Grant Musgrove likened the situation to the decline of the mining industry.
“We have government inaction plus a perfect storm with low commodity prices,” he said.
“You've got governments taking landfill levy and not allocating it for their intended purpose.
“Regulations that aren't strong enough to give support to legitimate operators, good operators.
“We don't have the support for those.
“Some governments are very responsive and are doing everything they can, and some governments are caught napping or simply hope it would all go away.”
Mr Musgrove said that in Victoria, “hundreds of millions of dollars being raised as revenue from the landfill levy” was being used “to prop up a state government budget”.