Vic recycling woes 'disrespectful': group

Rick Goodman
Protesters rubbish the Victorian parliament over the breakdown in the state's recycling system

Waste warriors have strewn bottles, cans and boxes across the steps of the Victorian parliament to tell authorities to get serious about the state's recycling "crisis".

About 30 activists turned up for the protest in Melbourne on Tuesday, some dressed as bottles or cans and others holding signs as they stood behind their display of used containers.

Victorian councils are being forced to send tonnes of reusable waste to local landfill since China stopped taking it and several recycling plants have been shut down.

Transform Waste campaign coordinator Anine Cummins said Victorians were fed up with the situation, and it was disrespectful to people who wanted to do the right thing, only to see their recycling buried.

"We've been good, sorting our recycling for years," Ms Cummins said.

"But now our recycling is being sent to landfill, causing tonnes of it to end up in rubbish and costing our councils thousands of dollars.

"Our recycling system has broken down."

She said this was "not a big shock" given that China said it was going to stop taking our recycling more than a year ago.

Transform Waste, an initiative of Friends of the Earth, is calling for long-term solutions, including a container deposit scheme, a plastic bag ban, a phase-out of single-use plastics and on-shore recycling, the latter of which is supported by the state sustainability fund.

Ms Cummins was exasperated Victoria didn't have a container deposit scheme, which gives cash back for bottle recycling, like South Australia, NSW and Queensland.

"Victoria, the 'Sweden of Australia', doesn't have a container deposit scheme," she joked. "It's time to get on with this."

Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said the government was working to address the challenges of the recycling industry, and there was no overnight fix.

"That's why we're exploring further actions to create a more stable and productive recycling sector," she said.

"Many of the changes we're implementing will take time - such as infrastructure and equipment upgrades and activities to diversify the market.

"They're about putting the whole sector on a strong footing, so it can continue to thrive, support jobs and improve our environment long-term."

She said a ban on single-use shopping bags will come in November 2019, while the government continues to monitor container deposit schemes in other jurisdictions.

Many councils have been sending recyclables to landfill since three plants operated by SKM Services Pty Ltd were closed amid fears stockpiled items posed a fire hazard.

The shutdown left the sector in limbo because SKM was responsible for collecting about half of Victoria's kerbside recycling.

One of the company's plants at Laverton North was allowed to resume accepting materials, but the other two remain shut.