A lack of state government leadership throughout the recycling crisis has lead to frustration, confusion and a delay in local governments implementing appropriate long-term recycling solutions, a Victorian waste management expert says.
City of Ballarat announced on Thursday residents must keep glass out of their yellow-lidded bins from September 30 because the city's new recycling contractor Australian Paper Recovery cannot process glass.
Instead, residents will be encouraged to take their household glass waste to eight free drop-off zones that will be located around Ballarat, primarily at supermarkets, or put it in their landfill bin as a last resort.
Deakin University lecturer in hazardous materials Dr Trevor Thornton said the state government had not yet released a recycling plan, creating uncertainty and leading councils to implement a number of different recycling solutions.
"I think it is important that what happens is consistent across the state and across the country so we don't have confusion and whatever gets put into place is long-term rather than short-term solutions," he said.
The state government is currently in consultation with local government and industry on a major overhaul of kerbside collection.
A media release from August 27 said the overhaul could include additional household bins to reduce waste and contamination.
It is expected an expression of interest will be released following consultation underway this month to design the new kerbside collection service that will start from 2021.
The potential for a container deposit scheme and developing markets for recycled goods is part of considerations for the circular economy policy that is expected to be released late 2019.
We would love to think we could resolve a way forward on the big picture (with state government support) as soon as possible.Terry Demeo
Mr Demeo said City of Ballarat would be flexible enough to deal with any policy frameworks that are a part of the state government's final plans.
"We have demonstrated our flexibility and desire to find a way for recycling to continue no matter what the policy framework or market situation," he said.
Mr Demeo said council was still in discussion with the state government to secure support for an All Waste Interchange that would act as a local sorting facility for all waste materials.
An All Waste Interchange is part of City of Ballarat's long-term waste management plan that also includes waste to energy, a local recycling facility and new businesses at the Ballarat West Employment Zone that would use recycled materials in products.
"We would love to think we could resolve a way forward on the big picture (with state government support) as soon as possible," he said.
Meanwhile, councils surrounding Ballarat are scrambling to establish their own recycling solutions.
Like City of Ballarat, Pyrenees Shire Council is also working to remove glass from its recycling bins.
Chief executive Jim Nolan said council was finalising the logistics, including arranging community glass deposit locations and exploring the possible introduction of a glass bin to the kerbside recycling system.
"We are aware the state government is currently working on a plan that is likely to see some standardisation of collection and as more information is known about the direction proposed by the state, council will look to review its own implementation," he said.
Moorabool Shire Council is sending kerbside curbside recycling to landfill while continuing to look into options for the future, a council spokesperson said.
Golden Plains Shire Council is also sending its kerbside recycling to landfill and is working to find alternative recycling facilities.
Mayor Cr Owen Sharkey said council had lobbied the state government for a cost-effective, long-term solution for recycling in Victoria, such as building new recycling infrastructure, supporting the uptake of recycled materials, and implementing a container deposit scheme.
"Collectively, Victorian councils have spent millions on waste taxes and it's time for the Victorian Government to invest it in developing a sustainable and viable recycling system," he said.
See a map of the drop off points below. Source: City of Ballarat
Golden Plains Shire Council is also preparing a new Waste Management Strategy 2020-2030 and is encouraging residents to get involved in the discussion on the future of local waste management, including options for garden and/or food waste collections. The community survey is open until October 25.
Many residents have criticised City of Ballarat's decision to take glass out of recycling bins, questioning why they must pay the same money for what they describe as an incomplete waste service.
In response, Mr Demeo said council believed it was no diminishing the service at it will provide a service for co-mingled recycling and glass. An extra bin for glass would increase the cost to the ratepayer and sending all recycling to landfill would increase costs for council.