Council grapples with our household waste

February 21, 2008

"I have no doubt that people step out of their air conditioned houses, put out their one milk bottle in the yellow recycling bin and think they’re saving the planet," General Manager, Max Eastcott said at the recent Community Services and Planning Committee meeting.

Whatever people’s view of it, recycling is very much an issue for the 21st century and Gwydir Council is grappling with that reality along with the other issue of disposing of household waste.

Roger McGrath, Environmental and Social Services Director, reported that waste management and recycling are big ticket items in the Gwydir Council’s budget. Council has budgeted $727,235 for operational expenditure on waste management in 2007 –2008 and it was suggested by Mr McGrath that the budget would be $1million in 2 year’s time.

There are currently eight landfill sites in the Shire which are kept in order by one full time employee. Council collects the garbage in Warialda, Warialda Rail, Gravesend and North Star while there is a contractor in Bin-gara, whose contract runs to November 2008. The sites are unmanned and open 24 hours a day. It was suggested that this may have to change, given the need for greater control over the dumping of waste.

Recycling is very costly, with the tyre stockpile being a major headache on its own. In the past, a mobile shredder visited Council’s garbage tips to deal with tyres. To dispose of the current stockpile within the shire, would cost in excess of $120,000. There is also the problem of rogue tyre disposal, where tyres are dumped at unmanned tips at no cost, instead of taking them to authorised disposal depots, the fee for which has already been paid by the purchaser of the tyre, thus making a profit for the "dumper" of nearly $4 per tyre.

Mr McGrath said that if we can continue with the present landfill sites, we will save money. To set up a new landfill site would be very expensive, if indeed, a new site could be found, given that neighbouring holdings will be loud in their protests. "There is however, a need to recycle to extend the life of the fills. Without recycling, they will fill up much quicker." Mr McGrath said.

The cost of collection and disposal of recyclable and waste material is significant and increasing. In addition, receivers of recyclable materials are demanding a higher and higher standard of product. The cancellation of the Lions’ glass recycling business is evidence of this.

Mayor Caskey said that "the net benefit over and above the energy we expend, is a romantic notion for our small community to recycle. I would like to see Council walk away from recycling." The point was made that the community is ignorant about the costs of recycling. Mr McGrath said "If you ask the community, they will all want recycling. If you try to go backwards, that would be a very unpopular move." Cr Wearne suggested that there is a need to bring this issue to the attention of the community.

There was a suggestion from the General Manager, Max East-cott, that maybe we should concentrate on recycling all waste that can be turned into soil.

Cr Tremain suggested a worm farm, from which the "worm juice" could be sold.

The point was made that composting is a good way to dispose of grass clippings, garden waste, food scraps, cardboard and paper, but it is essential to stop contamination with plastic.

Mr McGrath told the committee meeting that Bundarra tip has limited opening hours, is manned and spotless. He proposed a system whereby (at a manned tip), if you’ve sorted your rubbish so that it can be placed in the appropriate areas, there is no charge. If your garbage has not been sorted, there will be a charge. In Armidale, Council is looking at collecting all food scraps.

Recycling plastic is a difficult issue. Glen Pereira, Environmental Manager, said "There is no market for the product at the moment, therefore it has no value." This means that there will be no "net benefit" which Mayor Caskey is looking for. Cr Gordon said he could see a time when Council will be forced to recycle waste (without regard to the economics).

It was agreed at the meeting that there is a need for the government to involve itself in recycling. Deposits on containers legislation was suggested. The government could also move on the overuse of packaging which is very evident at our local landfills.

Cr Tremain asserted that the community needs education and guidance on costing of the various options. A consensus seemed to be reached at the meeting that composting green waste, shredded paper and cardboard with cooperation from the public, could be a starting point for more effective recycling at the local level. The Community Services and Planning Committee recommended to Council "That a costed options paper be prepared as the basis for a process of community consultation and education of the issues."

Compliments of The Bingara Advocate