A replacement for the ACT’s recycling facility, destroyed in a blaze caused by batteries on Boxing Day last year, is not expected to be up and running until mid-2026.
Tender documents reveal the ACT Government is seeking “interim arrangements” for the Territory’s recycling processing while it establishes a new site to take the place of the Hume Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).
The fire at the Hume facility took three days to extinguish, by which time it had gutted the shed and destroyed “the state-of-the-art systems and equipment” used to sort through more than 60,000 tonnes of waste from Canberra’s recycling bins every year.
“The destruction of this facility is a significant setback for recycling in the ACT but also for six councils in NSW which send their material here to be processed,” Minister for City Services Chris Steel said at the time. He called the damaged facility a “total write-off”.
The destroyed Hume MRF is still currently used to sort materials collected from the ACT’s Container Deposit Scheme, as well as other recyclables, before they are loaded onto trucks to be processed interstate.
The damaged site is expected to close in June 2024, at which point the interim transfer site in the ACT will be required. The length of the contract is anticipated to be two years, with two six-month extension options, meaning the new facility will likely not be operational until at least June 2026.
“Since the fire, the Territory has activated the business continuity plans and the ACT’s recycling materials are received at the site of the former MRF on Block 12, Section 25 Hume and transported to interstate materials recovery facilities for processing,” the ACT Tenders website reads.
“The Territory is expediting the new MRF by undertaking a single-stage procurement process to ensure the facility is built as soon as possible. The new MRF is intended to be located on the former MRF site.
“Until the new MRF is operational, this RFP seeks an interim solution for recycling services to continue essential recycling services with a market-tested, value-for-money outcome.”
New local waste processing facilities were already on the cards, but the fire has significantly pushed back the expected opening dates. Once operational, the new Hume MRF has an increased processing capacity of up to about 115,000 tonnes a year to provide for the future growth of Canberra.
The cost of the new facility is expected to be $23 million from the Federal and ACT governments.
According to the ACT Government’s most recent audit of Canberrans’ waste disposal habits, the average household in the Territory throws out 2.6 kilograms of co-mingled recycling per week, which makes up about 25 per cent of the total 10.3 kg of waste produced.
The tender documents state the minimum annual volume of delivered material in the ACT to be processed for the interim site will be 40,500 tonnes, and third-party material from NSW can expand the expected volume to 63,000 tonnes.