Recycling, waste and green waste collection suspended for Macedon Ranges Shire by contractor Wheelie Waste

UPDATE: 2.30pm Macedon Ranges Shire confirmed it did not pay Wheelie Waste to resume suspended waste collection services, but had in February agreed to pay additional costs incurred by the company following China’s import ban on plastics.

China’s decision has increased costs for waste collectors, who are being charged more by recycling companies to accept that waste – costs some council’s had agreed to pay.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s director of assets and operations Dale Thornton said 3500 bins in Macedon and Mount Macedon were not collected yesterday, but services would return to normal by March 13.

UPDATE: 2.15pm Mount Alexander Shire has confirmed it has pursued waste collection contractor Wheelie Waste for breach of contract following the company’s decision to suspended collection services on Wednesday.

Wheelie Waste made the decision in protest of the state government’s lack of detail regarding a rebate to address the increased cost of recycling, which followed China’s decision to ban imports of certain plastics from January 1.

The Victorian recycling industry has been in free fall since China’s ban took effect.

The result has been increased costs for waste collectors, who are being charged more by recycling companies to accept that waste. 

One of those waste collectors, Wheelie Waste, suspended services for Macedon Ranges and Mount Alexander Shires on Wednesday.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands the state government spoke with Wheelie Waste on Wednesday and gave it assurances the $13 million support package to Victorian councils announced in February will be forthcoming.

Mount Alexander Shire Council’s acting director of sustainable development Rebecca Stockfeld said the shire was “incredibly disappointed they (Wheelie Waste) suspended their service with no notice and trust they will not do this again”.

The shire confirmed it has pursued waste collection contractor Wheelie Waste for breach of contract following the suspension of services, but refused to detail the commercial arrangement it has with the company.

In the meantime, Wheelie Waste would resume collecting waste for the shire, clearing the backlog of bins, which was around 350, Ms Stockfeld said.

Wheelie Waste spokesman David Rako on Wednesday pointed the finger firmly at the councils, which he said were refusing to pay the company's extra costs for collecting recycling. He told Fairfax Media the crisis could lead to the collapse of the entire bin-collection industry.

"Financially, bin collectors are pretty close to hitting the wall," he said.

"Wheelie Waste are significantly out of pocket."

UPDATE: 10.00am Waste collection services in the Mount Alexander and Macedon Ranges Shires have resumed after a bizarre 24-hour suspension of services from Wheelie Waste.

The contractor is believed to have made the decision in protest of the state government’s lack of detail regarding a rebate to address the increased cost of recycling.

The finer details of the rebate and the financial support package announced by the state government last month remain unclear. 

It is also unclear whether Wheelie Waste was in breach of contract for its decision on Wednesday, or how an agreement was reached to end the suspension.

Both shires have been contacted for clarification.

UPDATE, THURSDAY, 7.00am Macedon Ranges Shire Council, one of two central Victorian shires to have its waste services suspended, has given its contractor until 9am on Thursday to resume its service.

The council had its waste, recycling and green waste collection services cut off on Wednesday by contractor Wheelie Waste, an unconsulted move it says was in response to the state government’s lack of detail regarding a rebate to address the increased cost of recycling.

The state government recently announced a $13 million support package to Victorian councils impacted by China’s important ban but details of a rebate or how and when the money will be distributed are unclear.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s director of assets and operations Dale Thornton said if services did not resume by 9am council would consider putting in place alternative arrangements to ensure the service continued.

Wheelie Waste spokesman David Rako pointed the finger firmly at the councils, which he said were refusing to pay the company's extra costs for collecting recycling. He told Fairfax Media the crisis could lead to the collapse of the entire bin-collection industry.

"Financially, bin collectors are pretty close to hitting the wall," he said.

"Wheelie Waste are significantly out of pocket."

The extra cost of recycling stems from Visy, whom Wheelie Waste is a subcontractor for, announcing it will stop receiving recyclable materials from some contractors in Victoria in February.

The move was a response to China banning imports of Australian paper and plastic waste from January 1. 

Visy will only take the material if Wheelie Waste pays it about $60 a tonne, a cost Wheelie Waste is trying to pass on to councils.

UPDATE, WEDNESDAY 1:20pm  Mount Alexander Shire, in becoming the second central Victorian shire to have its waste services suspended, says contractor Wheelie Waste made the decision in protest to the state government’s lack of detail regarding a rebate to address increased recycling costs.

The state government recently announced a $13 million support package to Victorian councils impacted by China’s important ban but details of a rebate remain unclear.

The shire’s rubbish and recycling contractor Wheelie Waste on Wednesday informed the council it has suspended services.

Mount Alexander Shire Council acting director of sustainable development Rebecca Stockfeld described the company’s decision as “extremely disappointing for residents, who quite rightly expect to have their bins collected”.

“We have been working with Wheelie Waste to avoid this happening and we are very disappointed they are taking such a drastic step with no notice,” she said.

Ms Stockfeld encouraged residents to keep out their bins as they hoped to resolve the situation quickly.

“Be assured that while your bins may not be collected today we are certainly doing all we can to ensure the collection starts again as soon as possible,” she said.

“We are in contact with other local councils in a similar position, and will continue to work with the state government and industry to resolve this as soon as possible.”

EARLIER Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s waste, recycling and green waste collection services have been compromised after its contractor Wheelie Waste suspended the services on Wednesday morning.

A statement from the shire said: “Council staff are working with Wheelie Waste and the government to work out arrangements going forward.”

“Residents should continue to use and put out their bins. We are working to ensure services resume as soon as possible.”

Wheelie Waste is a contractor for multinational company Visy, who sent shockwaves through Victoria’s recycling industry last month, announcing it will stop receiving recyclable materials from some contractors in Victoria in February.

The move – a response to China banning imports of Australian paper and plastic waste from January 1 – threatened kerbside recycling collection services for numerous regional councils, including Mount Alexander and Buloke shires.

The state government recently announced a $13 million support package to Victorian councils impacted by China’s important ban. 

In announcing the financial injection, the government said assistance will be provided until June 30 and councils will be required to meet any increase in recycling costs from July 1 onwards.

Environment, energy and and climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “The government is aware of the issue and encourages councils and industry to resolve this immediately to restore services.”

“Recycling is a matter for councils - but we’ve already stepped in with a $13m package to help those affected by China’s new import rules.”

Wheelie Waste collects waste and recycling for Mount Alexander Shire Council, which is understood to be implicated. The shire was contacted for comment.

Wheelie Waste was also contacted for comment, however the company said no one would be available on Wednesday.