Thousands of tonnes of recycling to be transported interstate after fire at ACT processing facility

Materials Recovery Facility near Canberra had processed 60,000 tonnes of waste a year which will be moved to other capital cities

Thousands of tonnes of waste will have to be transported from the Australian Capital Territory to other metropolitan capitals after a fire at one of the largest recycling centres in Australia.

The fire largely destroyed the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Hume on Monday night – another setback for the nation’s recycling efforts, which have been struggling to keep pace with demand.

The ACT’s city services minister, Chris Steel, said the government was working with facility operator Re.Group to find an alternative location to process the materials interstate.

“They have a number of MRFs in metropolitan capitals in Australia, including Sydney and Adelaide,” he said.

“It will have to be transported probably by truck for processing interstate which is not ideal from a transport emissions point of view.”

One option being considered is Re.Group’s recovery facility in the Sydney suburb of Enfield, but Steel said it was possible multiple facilities would be used.

The Hume site was one of the largest MRFs in Australia and played a significant role in recycling not just for the ACT but also six regional New South Wales councils that sent waste material to be processed.

About 280 tonnes of waste cardboard, aluminium, plastics, paper and glass are now being stored at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre in the Canberrasuburb of Symonston, with some sorting happening on site.

But Steel said a solution would need to be found within coming weeks because there was a limit on how much could be kept in storage at the centre.

The Hume centre processed about 60,000 tonnes of waste a year.

While Steel acknowledged trucking the waste elsewhere was problematic from an emissions perspective, he said that once processed, a lot of the recycled material from the Hume facility had been transported to other states for remanufacturing into other products.

The Hume fire is the latest setback for the recycling sector and follows the collapse of the REDcycle soft plastics recycling program.

The ACT and federal governments are jointly funding construction of a new MRF in the territory, adjacent to the existing centre.

The new centre was due for completion in late 2024 but Steel said it would now need to be expedited.

The ACT government hopes optical sorting technology at the new centre will enable it to eliminate mixed plastics as a waste stream, which was the only portion of the territory’s waste that had been sent overseas before the waste export ban.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Steel said while the cause was still unknown it was a good reminder for households to avoid putting hazardous materials into household waste bins.

“There are hazardous materials that are put into waste that shouldn’t be: batteries, vapes are becoming more common, gas cylinders,” he said.

He said households should check their local council websites for information on where to dispose of these goods safely and for a list of items that can be disposed of in household recycling bins.


Lisa Cox

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
20,000 tonnes of recycling dumped in Victorian landfill during SKM ban
Fears grow that figure could compound into hundreds of thousands of tonnes if the company collapses

Adam Morton Environment editor

22, Jul, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Environmental watchdog charges REDcycle operators over secret soft plastics stockpiles
Environment Protection Authority Victoria charges RG Programs and Services, which faces a possible fine in excess of $165,000

Caitlin Cassidy

23, Dec, 2022 @8:12 AM

Article image
180,000 tonnes of recycling heading to landfill as Victoria's SKM teeters on the brink
The company, which handles about half of the state’s recycling, is in financial crisis and has told local councils it can no longer accept material

Ben Butler

26, Jul, 2019 @7:29 AM

Article image
SKM to be wound up and 280,000 tonnes of recycling could end up in landfill
Firm handling half of Victoria’s recycling hoped buyer’s $40m injection would save it but ‘funds have not been received’

Josh Taylor and Ben Butler

02, Aug, 2019 @2:57 AM

Article image
Recycling industry calls for dollars and action after decision to end exports
Australian Council of Recycling warns 4.5m tonnes of waste could end up in domestic landfill without investment

Sarah Martin and Adam Morton

12, Aug, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Recycling crisis: landowners face millions in clean-up costs after SKM collapse
The company, which was wound up on Friday, stockpiled tens of thousands of tonnes of recycling at rented sites

Ben Butler and Josh Taylor

06, Aug, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Australia urged to invest in recycling manufacturing after Indonesia sends rubbish back
Kickstart the domestic market so Asian countries rejecting Australian waste is no longer a problem, industry suggests

Adam Morton Environment editor

10, Jul, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Waste crisis: Victoria offers businesses $96.5m to process recycling
Premier says overhaul will ‘take responsibility for our waste’ and help fix longstanding problems

Staff and agencies

25, Feb, 2020 @3:00 AM

Article image
Recycling crisis: federal government to push states for solution
Josh Frydenberg will seek agreement at meeting of environment ministers for a national stocktake of recycling

Katharine Murphy and Calla Wahlquist

26, Apr, 2018 @10:00 PM

Article image
Minister flags 'ambitious' recycling targets to kickstart waste market
States will be required to spend agreed portion of procurement budget on recycled materials for public projects

Sarah Martin Chief political correspondent

18, Jul, 2019 @6:00 PM