Recycling Issue facing Victorian Councils

row of recycling bins

What is the issue?

China’s recent change in policy has imposed restrictions on the importation of unsorted, dirty or contaminated plastics and mixed paper and cardboard. The policy most directly impacts kerbside recycling services, as recyclables from households are usually on-sold in a mixed form.

While much of Australia’s recyclable material is processed in Australia, significant quantities are exported to China for processing...

China's decision has thrown Australia's recycling industry into crisis, placing may council household recycling collections in jeopardy.

Since the ban was introduced, Council has worked tirelessly to secure this essential service for its residents.

In early March, Council secured the future of its household recycling service with a service provider despite the volatility and uncertainty in the market with recycling collected as usual into the future.

Kerbside recycling is an essential service for our community and Council is  relieved that it will continue in Monash without any interruption.

Unfortunately, other communities across Victoria do not have that certainty.

However this has come at a significant cost. The China ban has resulted in recycling companies no longer offering a rebate to Victorian councils as they have in the past. Instead, recycling companies will now charge a fee for processing household recycling.  Monash Council was previously receiving a rebate each year from our contractor for household recycling.  From March 2018, we are now required to pay to maintain the collection service.

This is an unexpected net cost to Council of $1.5 million per year. As the Council with the lowest rates in Victoria, we have only limited choices in how we can fund such an unexpected shortfall.  There are essentially two options:

1.      we could cut Council services by $1.5 million; or

2.      we could seek to increase rates and charges by $1.5 million.

We know that the core services we provide are important to most residents and we do not think that cutting these services to raise funds is the best way of funding the shortfall.

 What is Council doing?

Council is seeking a small variation to Council’s rate cap to raise the extra funds needed.  

If approved by the state government, this would mean that instead of a rate increase of 2.25% in the 2018/19 financial year, rates would be increased by 3.5%. 

The cost to ratepayers would be around $20-$23 a year, including a pensioner discount.  Council is still to decide on the pensioner discount, but we know that a strong majority of the Monash community believe that supporting our pensioners is important.

In order to make a variation to the rate cap, we need approval from the Essential Services Commission (ESC) which we have sought. It may take some time before we hear from the ESC about their decision.

If the request for a variation in the rate cap is unsuccessful, Council will consider introducing a limited waste charge to meet these increased costs. This charge will only be used to recoup the increased recycling costs.

We are determined to press Victoria’s recycling industry to do much more to improve its efficient processing of recycling to maximise the environmental benefits of reuse. 

We are also actively encouraging the state and federal governments to do more on product stewardship standards to reduce packaging volumes .

Please keep recycling with the confidence that it is being properly processed and not going to landfill.

We will continue to keep you informed about this issue.

You can read our media release here:

Council locks in recycling service

The Municipal Association of Victoria's media release on the State Government's support package:

Recycling support package welcomed (pdf, 154KB)

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Last updated: 14 March 2018