By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong’s recycling contractor has been found to owe more than $1.4 million to store recyclable plastics in off-site shipping containers since the end of the China export deal.
Polytrade, with facilities in Hallam and Dandenong, is contracted to accept Greater Dandenong’s recyclables until 2023.
On 28 September, Victorian County Court judge Edward Woodward found against Polytrade in its contractual dispute with Clayton storage firm TT Import & Export.
Polytrade’s director Louie Cheng told the court that up until 2018, most mixed plastics and other recyclables were sent unsorted in bulk to China, Judge Woodward noted.
Since China stopped the exports, about 260 shipping containers full of recyclables were instead stored by agreement at TT’s premises.
At the time, Polytrade was still taking delivery of up to 500 tonnes of material a day at its Dandenong plant.
About 6 per cent of it was mixed plastics.
In late 2019, a “tense” dispute brewed when TT proposed a fee hike or to return the shipping containers to Polytrade.
The recycler had cash flow problems, resisted the fee hike and claimed it had no space for the containers at its sites.
As the dispute dragged for a few months, Polytrade owed $350,000 of overdue payments to TT.
Out of frustration, TT’s director Tony Tang ordered a shipping container delivered across Polytrade’s driveway in Hallam.
He wrote to Polytrade that he would start charging 15 per cent interest. “And how come you always ask ‘WHY’ like baby.”
In the meantime, Polytrade sought back particular containers, which TT was unable to deliver.
Judge Woodward ordered Polytrade owed TT unpaid storage and cartage fees of more than $976,000 as at 22 June 2020.
He found Polytrade also owed further hire payments of $481,000.
In February this year, Greater Dandenong Council stood by Polytrade after it and its owners was accused of underpaying five refugees on visas in Dandenong and Hallam nearly $200,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is prosecuting the matter in the Federal Court.