Recycling will resume as normal in Ballarat and surrounding regions with the re-opening of SKM Recycling plants, but waste management leaders say focus now needs to turn to creating long-term local recycling solutions.
The Environmental Protection Authority announced SKM's Laverton North site regained compliance on Tuesday and was able to resume accepting recyclable waste materials.
SKM's South Geelong plant, where City of Ballarat, Pyrenees Shire Council and Golden Plains Shire council send their recyclable material, resumed operation on Wednesday.
City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said recycling had resumed on Wednesday after two weeks of stockpiling at a local facility. Approximately 200 tonne of recycling which had been stored will be delivered to SKM over the next few weeks.
We think there is certainly a need to build greater capacity in Victoria's recycling system to allow for a bit more flexibility but also to have more modern facilities that are more capable of sorting to a higher standard.La Vergne Lehmann
Golden Plains Shire confirmed kerbside recycling would return to normal processing from Thursday and would no longer be diverted to landfill.
Each council has urged residents to continue to separate recycling and waste into the correct bins to avoid contamination.
Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group chief executive La Vergne Lehmann said while it was a relief normal recycling processes had resumed, it was important authorities focused on long-term solutions to prevent another crisis.
Ms Lehmann told The Courier she had applied for government funding to develop a business case for a materials recycling facility in Ballarat.
"The issues over the past few weeks have shown need for a business case," she said.
"We think there is certainly a need to build greater capacity in Victoria's recycling system to allow for a bit more flexibility but also to have more modern facilities that are more capable of sorting to a higher standard.
"We will be looking at ongoing opportunities with new business and economic development. This gives us more ammunition to say this is a really good idea for Ballarat and the surrounding region."
The recent crisis began when EPA issued SKM's Laverton North and Coolaroo sites with a remedial notice on February 15 which required them to cease accepting recyclable materials.
The risk posed by stockpiles at the site in the event of a fire sparked the temporary shutdowns. The Courier understands the Geelong South site was not issued with an EPA notice, but was temporarily closed to avoid one.
The EPA allowed the Laverton North site to reopen on Tuesday after it was found it be compliant again - operators had taken action to reduce the amount of stockpiled waste and increased separation distances.
Cr McIntosh said a local solution to recycling was a part of City of Ballarat's long-term plan, with $5 million already committed to the construction of an All Waste Interchange at the Ballarat West Employment Zone.
The All Waste Interchange would become the collection point for all waste and recycling, and could include a material recovery facility to take recyclables out of household rubbish.
The plan does not include the establishment of a materials recycling facility, but will be investigated by a Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group business case.
"We believe as a council there is much more responsible ways of managing our waste and we have the appropriate land and opportunity to plan for a more long term solution locally," Cr McIntosh said.
"We believe our waste needs to be managed holistically with a number of solutions. We need to look at how to reduce to start with, to recycle and teach our community to do the best they can so there is less rubbish being collected.
"The next step is that there is appropriate sorting in the best possible manner and what we can’t sort would go into a waste to energy project."
Cr McIntosh confirmed City of Ballarat is continuing to discuss a waste to energy plant in Ballarat with Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) under a non-binding heads of agreement.
Meanwhile, SKM Recycling's Coolaroo site remains non-compliant and will not be able to accept recycling waste until compliance has been confirmed by the EPA, according to an EPA statement on Tuesday.
EPA chief executive Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the authority would continue to inspect the Laverton site to ensure it remains compliant with outdoor storage requirements.
If you are unsure about recycling, information on items that can be included in recycling bins can be found on Sustainability Victoria's website.