Council adamant kerbside recycling to stay
WHITSUNDAY Regional Council has confirmed it will not scrap its recycling program after south-east Queensland's Ipswich City Council this week suspended its scheme in the wake of China's import ban on recycling.
Adam Hagy, Whitsunday Regional Council Director Customer Experience (including waste management), said council's current Kerbside Recycling practice - for which residents were charged an extra $70 on their rates bill - was sustainable, affordable and would continue into the future.
He also reassured locals that items destined for recycling were being recycled, not being sent to landfill instead.
Ipswich City Council cited that rising levels of contaminated or non-recyclable rubbish in yellow bins were making the system too costly, and declared everything placed in the yellow bins would now go straight to landfill.
The Local Government Association of Queensland said it believed other councils would soon follow suit, although Brisbane, Logan and Gold Coast councils have ruled this out.
Mr Hagy said Whitsunday residents should be praised as the program had been "backed by the actions of our community with low contamination levels which make the practice viable”.
He said other councils had struggled with contamination levels as high as 50 per cent.
"At the end of the day, if we ended up landfilling our recyclables, that comes as a cost too as it takes up valuable landfill space. Recycling is currently the way to go for this council.
"And the more the residents do the right thing, we're able to keep the costs down.”
Recycling contractors take recyclables directly to the Materials Reclamation Facilities in Mackay and Townsville where items are sorted and baled for manufacturing, Mr Hagy said.
"All of our recycling goes directly to the recycling plants, unless a load is badly contaminated and the truck needs to be cleaned.”
He said 814 tonnes of recyclables had been taken to the Mackay and Townsville facilities since the scheme's roll-out last November with almost "non-existent” contamination levels.
Talks of a marginal increase in costs with the Mackay and Townsville facilities would be addressed when he met with them later this month, but he said these were costs "which we can absorb”.
"These materials do take up valuable air space in the landfills, so if they were gong to the landfill it would consume the air space. The landfill cells aren't cheap - they're multi-million dollar projects - so it's in our best interest to make sure this continues.”
He said he believed Australia should be viewing China's decision as an opportunity to create jobs within the manufacturing sector of recyclables.
Councillor Mike Brunker said he was concerned about the effects of China's withdrawal from the global market.
"Had I known the info I know now, I wouldn't have supported the recycling scheme.”
He said a three-year contract which had now been operating for one year with Cleanaway would continue to be honoured.
"There's a contractual arrangement there that no one wants to break, but it will be an issue when it comes up again in two years.”
Cr Brunker said a policy of "zero waste” should be tackled, including addressing excessive packaging for products on supermarket shelves.
"It's got to happen - we can't just keep chucking it all in the dump.”
Coordinator of Boomerang Bags Whitsunday Barb Adamson said the Ipswich decision was about money, not the environment.
Ms Adamson said the cost to Australia of sending recyclables to China was a quarter of the cost of a contractor in Australia doing the same thing.
She said the announcement by Ipswich Council that recyclables would be going to landfill created a mindset where people thought, 'What's the use?'.
"It just makes people want to give up. Why are we doing this when it is all going to landfill? It's hard enough to get people involved as it is. You're already working against people who don't care enough to make the change themselves.”
"We as individuals can change things. Do not think you don't have the power to do that,” she said.