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Recycler urges Victorian Government to intervene after application rejection

Alex Fraser Group has called on the Victorian Government to intervene after the City of Kingston denied its application to extend the life of the Clarinda Recycling Facility, in Melbourne’s south-east.

On 25 November, the Kingston City Council voted down an application by Alex Fraser Group to extend the operating permit for its glass and construction and demolition (C&D) recycling site in Clarinda, near Clayton in Melbourne’s south-east. The permit ends in 2023 and the company had applied to the council for permission to stay until 2038.

The 22ha facility recycles and transforms up to one million tonnes of glass and C&D waste each year into VicRoads-approved, high quality, sustainable construction materials. It is a key component of Alex Fraser Group’s network of sites surrounding Melbourne.

The site is set to increase its recycling by 200 million bottles per year, including glass from the City of Kingston’s own kerbside collections.

Alex Fraser Group’s managing director Peter Murphy warned in October that if the Clarinda Recycling Facility was to close, it would be “equivalent to the loss of a major quarry in terms of resource availability” and could mean the state of Victoria would have to establish “a new major metro quarry to offset the shortfall of one million tonnes of materials”.

After the council’s rejection of Alex Fraser Group’s extension application, Murphy said it was appalling that the City of Kingston voted against it without due consideration of Victoria’s broader environment, resource recovery or waste policies. He added there was also no consideration of the state’s recycling crisis and resource shortage, or the Clarinda Recycling Site’s compliant operating history.

“If the Victorian Government allows the Clarinda Recycling Facility to be shut down by Kingston City Council, it will be disastrous for the state’s recycling capacity, and for Victoria’s infrastructure program,” Murphy said.

He warned there would also be further disruptions to kerbside recycling, with recyclable glass at risk of being stockpiled or sent directly to landfill.

“This decision by Kingston City Council will also cut off the supply of construction materials urgently needed for Victoria’s ‘Big Build’ – driving up costs, increasing trucks on south-eastern roads and blowing out construction timelines of major projects.”

Murphy also expressed his disappointment that the City of Kingston ignored Alex Fraser’s proposal for a Community Benefits Package, giving the Kingston community ownership of 22ha of land, along with $7.5 million for local sports and recreation facilities.

“While some councillors clearly understood the broader impacts, and voted to support this extension, this council decision smacks of hypocrisy,” Murphy said. “Kingston City Council claims it is committed to the environment, however this outcome undermines the community’s recycling effort, and will increase carbon emissions.

“The Victorian Government needs to intervene now and ensure this critical facility continues,” Murphy said.

Appeal avenues

As reported by Waste Management Review, Alex Fraser Group now has the option of appealing the council’s decision to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or to refer it to the planning minister.

A spokesperson for the Victorian Government told WMR the government recognises the important contribution Alex Fraser makes to the recycling sector but also the concerns of local residents.

“The planning minister will consider any formal request for assistance on its merits if and when it’s received,” the spokesperson said.

Alex Fraser Group received support from the Victorian Waste Management Association, whose CEO Peter Anderson described the City of Kingston’s decision as socially irresponsible.

“We stand in lock-step with Alex Fraser Group’s calls for Premier Andrews and Minister D’Ambrosio to intervene on a decision that will only worsen Victoria’s recycling crisis, not to mention impact jobs and undermine what little confidence is left in the sector,” Anderson said.

“When you think of the flow on effects of this decision in terms of additional truck movements to transport waste to landfill and sand from far-reaching quarries it’s hard to think of a more environmentally irresponsible decision.

“At a time when councils are waxing lyrical about climate emergencies, we have with the City of Kingston a council that has squibbed an opportunity to reduce emissions, reduce waste sent to landfill and recycle millions of tonnes of waste, and instead put their own interest ahead of the environment.”

His thoughts were echoed by Tim Piper, the head of the Waste Industry Alliance, who described the decision as “remarkably short-sighted”. Piper, who is also the Victorian head of the Australian Industry Group, called on the Victorian Government to “recognise the impact of Kingston Council’s decision and decisively act to prevent it happening”.

“The Victorian economy needs many recycling sites, especially given the State Government’s new waste policies,” Piper said. “The Government is looking to develop a closed loop economy in Victoria. All current sites, including this one, will be important parts of the system.”

Brian Hauser, the Victorian and Tasmanian state director of Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), told Quarry that while the CCAA continues to work closely with the Victorian Government to ensure the delivery of key construction materials to support affordable infrastructure for Victoria’s “Big Build”, it was regrettable the state’s complex and slow approvals process for the release of extractive materials was also impacting on “secondary and recycled materials, as illustrated by the recent Kingston City Council decision for the Alex Fraser Group”.

“CCAA were pleased to work with the government to release the nation’s first Helping Victoria Grow; Extractive Resources Strategy last year,” Hauser said. “Central to the strategy is the requirement to consider more diverse sources of construction materials in the context of a move to a circular economy.

“To achieve this, the government holds the levers around managing appropriate planning decisions, fit for purpose specifications and sustainable procurement.  Victoria needs stronger state government leadership to secure these vital resources for state-shaping infrastructure to benefit all. Parochial and NIMBY local council decisions are not in the spirit of wider community benefits.”

More reading

Kingston City Council denies extension of Clarinda site

Potential shutdown equivalent to loss of a major quarry

Helping Victoria Grow: Extractive Resources Strategy

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