The War on Waste continues
by DAVID HOGG
9th July 2019
Recycling: increasing costs and new initiatives
OUR ARTICLES on recycling in recent issues of the Diary have met with much interest. Our ongoing look at the issue has garnered feedback from both residents and government alike, but sadly, not the recycling companies themselves.
The separate Manningham and Nillumbik Council meetings on June 25 each made reference to these councils signing deeds of amendment to their contracts with Visy Recycling and SKM Recycling respectively to amend the pricing for delivery of recyclables to these operators.
This comes as a consequence of China’s restrictions on imports of foreign waste, although the specific details in both instances were
confidential and held in closed meetings.
Manningham does not accept soft plastics in the recycle bin.
Nillumbik Council has confirmed with the Diary that it is accepting soft plastics in a tied bag in the recycle bin, whereas SKM Recycling’s website tells us that no soft plastics are allowed.
We are advised that Nillumbik Shire Council is one of four councils currently participating in a trial project to collect and recycle soft
plastics in kerbside recycling bins.
The remaining Councils that send recycling to SKM do not have this arrangement.
After the bags of soft plastics are collected, they are sorted via manual picking or optical sorting technology, compacted, baled and sent to a plastic recycler either locally or overseas for recycling into a range of items including other soft plastics, street furniture and children’s toys.
This trial is currently being reviewed by the partner councils and Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group in light of data
collected over the past 18 months and the current challenges in Victoria’s recycling industry, and will continue until further notice as the review progresses.
Co-mingling and sorting
Whilst welcoming the initiative to start recycling soft plastic, for this writer, who already sorts waste into
landfill (red), recycling (yellow), garden big stuff (green) and food, ash, lawn clippings, leaves into our own compost bin which makes wonderful nourishment for our garden, the need to further segregate soft plastics became somewhat of a logistical problem.
We tried hanging a plastic bag in the kitchen waste cupboard, but there was no room and it got in the way, so we hung it outside by the bins and the contents blew all over the garden in the next gale!
Councils do not sort rubbish; they pick it up and deliver it.
This means that the sorting of rubbish is done either by the householder at one end of the chain or the recycling company at the other.
Recycling companies are noting that the mixing of glass, paper, aluminium, steel, plastic and cardboard into one yellow bin (co-mingling) can cause difficulties.
Co-mingling of multiple classes of recyclable product in the one bin causes cross contamination, e.g. glass gets into paper and plastic.
Asian countries have not actually banned the import of Australian recyclable waste; they have reduced t h e percentage of allowable
contamination to levels which are very difficult and costly to achieve, so this effectively can be regarded as a ban.
And some of the solutions in the pipeline may require us to further segregate our rubbish into yet more bins in the future.
New initiatives such as burning landfill waste to generate power will require an extra sorting process.
Only 50 per cent of red bin (landfill) contents is burnable, so either the householder will be asked to sort it, or the receiver will have to accept the lot, sort it themselves, and take the remainder to landfill.
The Diary has made every effort to interview SKM Recycling and Visy Recycling, offering to see how the
sorting process works, report on what happens to the sorted materials, and take photos; however, all our efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
Nillumbik Shire Council had put the creation of a domestic recycling scheme on the agenda at the Australian Local Government
Association conference in Canberra in mid-June, and Council hopes it will be supported and added to a national advocacy campaign.
Nillumbik Shire Council Mayor Karen Egan said putting items such as recycling on the national agenda would benefit councils and residents across the country.
“Many councils are facing the same issues and we look forward to working collaboratively to address them and seek support from the Federal Government,” Cr Egan said.
“Nillumbik has led the way when it comes to recycling for so many years and developing a domestic industry would mean we would no longer be reliant on China and other counties.”
The Legislative Council, the upper house of the Victorian State Parliament, is currently in the process of conducting an inquiry into
Recycling and Waste Management.
Sonja Terpstra MP, State Upper House Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region, visited Warrandyte last month to inspect the new bridge.
She was impressed with the level of community engagement within Warrandyte and was interested in our coverage last month of recycling
matters, as she is a committee member sitting on the current inquiry process which is ongoing as we go to press.
Speaking as the Member for the Eastern Metropolitan Region, Ms. Terpstra noted that of the 12.9 million tonnes of total waste generated by Victorians in 2016–2017, 4.2 million tonnes was sent to landfill and 8.6 million tonnes was diverted from landfill for recycling.
Of this recovered material, 86 per cent remained in Victoria and only 14 per cent was exported overseas.
2.3 million tonnes of the total waste above was attributable to kerbside collections, and 46 per cent of this was diverted for recycling as a State average, although our local councils are doing much better.
Ms. Terpstra noted that Victorians are excellent recyclers — by and large.
She was keen to stress the low percentage, 14 per cent, of recyclables that were exported and felt that recent publicity concerning the policy
change in China made the problem appear larger than it actually was.
However, this did not take away from the fact that community concern still exists about exporting of recycling to other countries, contamination rates and the like.
Ms Terpstra also drew attention to other initiatives being taken by industry including:
- •A proposal by Australian Paper to proceed with Victoria’s first energy-from-waste project with plans to use kerbside rubbish to
help power its Maryvale Paper Mill; the scheme is in fact very similar to — but on a much larger scale than — the initiative being
taken by Manningham Council to convert tree waste to biochar and further development of that technology to produce power,
as we reported last month.
- Advanced Circular Polymers’ $20 million advanced plastics recycling facility in Somerton, which received a $500,000 funding
boost from the Andrews Labor Government and is set to process 70,000 tonnes of plastic each year.
- The Government has issued a statewide exemption for local councils to remove the administrative barriers to extend their recycling
collection contracts to June 2021 and look at future shared contracting of recycling services across multiple municipalities,
which will help local councils save money in management and procurement costs.
- The Victorian Budget 2019/20 is investing an additional $35 million to strengthen and diversify Victoria’s waste and recycling industry.
- Lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned across Victoria from November 1, 2019.
- A complete ban on sending electronic waste to landfill came into effect on July 1.
Ms Terpstra observed shrewdly that we are spending a great deal of time working on how to get rid of rubbish, but perhaps our focus should include looking into why we are creating it in the first place.
Having just purchased a dashcam for my car which arrived in a plastic bag containing a cardboard box containing polystyrene and no less
than six sealed plastic bags containing things such as simple cables and USB adapters, which did not need to be wrapped, I have to question — do we really need all that packaging?
Repairing our throwaway culture
By JO FRENCH
THE INAUGURAL Warrandyte Repair Café went off with a bang, a snip, a screw and a stitch on Sunday, July 7 at the Mechanics’ Institute Hall.
The initiative of the Warrandyte Mechanics’ and Arts Association is only the third Repair Cafe in Melbourne and follows in the footsteps of the movement that started in Amsterdam.
The event was held from 10:30 to 12:30 and organiser David Tynan was encouraged by the number of visitors and repairers that took part in the event.
“A great turnout,” said David as he gestured to the crew of volunteers around the room that had made the day a success.
Jillian McKinn offered her skills in garment repair and upcycling.
“It’s is a wonderful idea for people to learn to repair,” said Jillian, “I loathe the idea of a throwaway society, and I was delighted to be involved.”
Jillian worked alongside Agnes Stuyfbergen and Denise Farran to help Hazel Rice recover an old faded footstool with bright red Burmese woven fabric.
Agnes’ sewing skills were also put to good use teaching a visitor to darn a woollen jumper.
“I showed her how to do one hole,”
said Agnes, “and then she went home to do more.”
“It’s really exciting, so many people came in with a variety of different things.”
Greg Lawrence was working on a few small mechanical repairs and had a happy customer leave with his pressure pump sprayer working again.
“It’s a great idea — on two fronts — it gets people together and helps people out.”
Brian Prewett and Roger Gray worked together on a few appliances.
“Of the three, we fixed a slow cooker but the vacuum cleaner and toaster were simply worn out,” said Brian.
“The Repair Café suits me,” said Roger, “I like the idea of fixing something rather than trashing it.”
Jock Macneish was also on the scene.
“The repair café is a wonderful device for delaying the terrible moment when I realise I will become old and useless,” he said.
“While I can still fix things, I can delude myself,” he said.
The grin that followed was evidence of the fun and companionship shared over the event, and all participants are looking forward to next month’s event.
The next Repair Café will be held Sunday, August 4.