Alex Fraser Group is calling on Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene following a decision by Kingston City Council to deny an application to extend the life of its recycling operations.
Earlier this year, Alex Fraser called on Kingston City Council to extend its operating permit for its glass and construction and demolition recycling site as one million tonnes of recyclables risks going to landfill.
This week, Kingston Council voted to reject an application by Alex Fraser to extend its operations.
Alex Fraser’s permit ends in 2023 and the company had applied to the council for permission to stay until 2038.
Situated in the Melbourne’s south-east near Clayton, the 22-hectare facility recycles up to one million tonnes of waste each year and turns it into VicRoads approved, high quality, sustainable construction materials. It is a key component of the company’s network of sites surrounding Melbourne.
The site is set to increase its recycling by 200 million bottles per year, including glass from Kingston kerbside collections.
“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,” Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said.
Mr Murphy said kerbside recycling will be further disrupted, with recyclable glass at risk of being stockpiled or 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. A major metropolitan quarry would need to be established to counter the material shortfall.”
At the beginning of September, Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley said the council received an application at the beginning of September which seeks to extend operations at the Alex Fraser site in Kingston’s green wedge.
“In 2015, Kingston Council welcomed protections for Kingston’s green wedge that were introduced by the Victorian Planning Minister that would ensure existing waste operations would cease at the end of their current permits and that no new operations would be allowed,” Ms Oxley said.
“Council wrote to the Planning Minister in April 2015 calling on the government to help Alex Fraser find an alternative site to ensure its long-term success while ensuring the end of waste-related activities in the green wedge. Invest Victoria has been working with Alex Fraser to identify suitable alternative sites.
“Council strongly supports the recycling sector and has a range of successful recycling business operating outside the green wedge within its industrial zoned areas.”
Mr Murphy said it is appalling that Kingston City Council voted on this application without any consideration of Victoria’s environment, resource recovery or waste policies. He added there was also no consideration of the state’s recycling crisis and resource shortage, or the site’s impeccable history.
Alex Fraser also put forward a Community Benefits Package, giving the Kingston community ownership of 22 hectares of land, along with $7.5 million for local sports and recreation facilities – which was ignored by council.
“While some councillors clearly understood the broader impacts, and voted to support this extension, this council decision smacks of hypocrisy. Kingston City Council claims it is committed to the environment, however this outcome undermines the community’s recycling effort, and will increase carbon emissions.”
He said Kingston City Council has shown it does not care about the impact their decision will have on the local community or state of Victoria.
“The Victorian Government needs to intervene now and ensure this critical facility continues,” Mr Murphy said.
Alex Fraser 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 said 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.
In a statement on Tuesday, Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley said that in approving Planning Scheme Amendment C143 in 2015, the Victorian Planning Minister explicitly recognised that waste transfer and recycling facilities were not suitable for green wedge areas. She added this meant an outlaw of any new operators while allowing existing operators until the end of their permit to move on.
“Council recognises that Alex Fraser can play a strong role in Victoria’s recycling crisis, but Kingston’s green wedge is simply the wrong place for an industrial waste facility as the area transitions to our long-held vision for a Chain of Parks,” said Cr Oxley.
“The company has known for four years they would need to find a new location, and the Victorian Government has been working with them to find alternatives. They still have another four years to find a suitable site that will ensure both the company’s long-term success and an end to waste-related activities in the green wedge.”
Victorian Waste Management Association CEO Peter Anderson described the 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,” Mr 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.”