National

Melbourne recycling plant boss faces court

By AAP Newswire

The director of a firm that collects about half of Victoria's kerbside recycling has faced court charged over a 2017 waste facility fire which allegedly caused harmful pollution.

SKM Services Pty Ltd director Robert Italiano, 46, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with five counts of breaching the Environment Protection Act following the blaze at the Coolaroo site in the city's north.

The fire started on July 13, 2017 and took 11 days to be extinguished. Hundreds of nearby homes and businesses were evacuated due to toxic smoke and ash.

Court documents describe smoke generated by the fire as "noxious or offensive to the senses of human beings", allegedly resulting in "substantial risk of a serious threat to public health" and pollution of the atmosphere.

During the brief hearing, Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg said he found the prosecution case difficult to understand.

"Are the charges based upon the substances described as toxic substances that are being stockpiled at the recycling depot or are they based upon ensuring fires don't break out or both?" he asked.

"It's not a complex case ... it literally is a fire started in materials stored on the premises and the result of the burning of that fire was atmospheric pollution," the prosecutor replied.

She said the type of waste, amount and how long it has been stockpiled were all elements of the prosecution.

The matter was adjourned until August 14 for further committal mention.

More than 30 local councils currently have contracts with SKM, making up about 50 per cent of kerbside recyclables.

Within the past week the company has been banned from accepting recyclable waste at another of its Melbourne plants at Laverton North.

The state's environmental watchdog had previously ordered the company to reduce the site's stockpiles of waste. Instead, they allegedly increased, sparking the ban.