On a noisy industrial site in north Wendouree, the City of Ballarat's recycling contingency plan was in full swing on Tuesday.
Following months of uncertainty over the future of SKM, the council's recycling contractor, a regular shuttle of recycling trucks were arriving, with workers separating the materials they dumped.
SKM closed its doors a week before its corporate entity officially went into insolvency. With no immediate sign of an investor picking up the company's existing infrastructure through the liquidation process, the alternative kicked into place.
Terry Demeo, the council's director of infrastructure and environment, said the recycling stockpiles were full and action needed to be taken.
"We are lucky to have some really committed contractors helping us," Mr Demeo told The Courier.
With 10 people brought in to help in the manual sorting process, Mr Demeo said that the extra costs were "significant" but that council had begun the process in the hope to keep as much material out of landfill as possible.
We were just lucky we had a big empty shed with a sorting station that we were able to mobilise and modify pretty quickly for the City of Ballarat.Jon Kennedy, Vic Waste Solutions
So far, the City of Ballarat has not sent any kerbside recycling to landfill although other councils including Geelong, Moorabool, Golden Shire and several Melbourne municipalities have been forced to do so following SKM's closure.
Jon Kennedy, whose company Vic Waste Solutions is hosting the sorting area, said they were happy to help the council out.
He said he hoped around 80 per cent of the material would be salvageable, and that they were measuring how effective the process was.
"We were just lucky we had a big empty shed with a sorting station that we were able to mobilise and modify pretty quickly for the City of Ballarat," he said.
He said the products - such as aluminium, steel, paper, cardboard and glass - would be going as close to home as possible. "Everything we can, we're trying to keep it as local as we can."
Ballarat Regional Industries (BRI), a not-for-profit organisation also based in Wendouree that employs around 160 workers with disabilities, is involved in the process.
They will sell on the paper and cardboard that is rescued, shipping it on to Melbourne or for export.
BRI manager Andrew Clarke said while the market for cardboard recycling had dipped noticeably recently, it was a good opportunity. "It creates more employment - and for people with disabilities," he told The Courier.
RESIDENTS URGED TO TAKE CARE RECYCLING
Mr Kennedy meanwhile urged households to make sure their recycling was as clean as possible - for example, washing milk bottles out - to make sure as much of the material as possible avoids landfill.
That was also the message from the Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh, who urged residents to continue to take care with their recycling.
She said the operation was a "small scale and very basic version" of what the council hoped to do at the All-Waste Interchange and that the main goal at the moment was to get support from the state government.
This is not a long-term solution. We need a facility that is operational as soon as possible.The Mayor Samantha McIntosh
"This is not a long-term solution," she said. "We need a facility that is operational as soon as possible."
The federal government today announced a $20 million push to reduce landfill and create jobs, and stop recycling waste from being exported. The state in the meantime committed $11.3 million to help councils deal with the challenges in the recycling industry, including $6.6 million directly for municipalities who have contracts with SKM.
A state government spokesperson said that councils would be advised on how the money is distributed over the coming days, with the amount varying from council to council. "Businesses will need to demonstrate the costs they've incurred to get the money back."
The Municipal Association of Victoria yesterday put the costs of the recycling crisis for the 33 councils that have held contracts with SKM at $42million in the past 18 months.
In the meantime, Mr Demeo said he was in daily contact with the state government and the hope remained that SKM's facilities would be put back into action.
"Time will tell," he said.
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