Shock over recycling gap at Whitsunday businesses
RECYCLING programs in the Whitsundays have drawn criticism after a visitor to the region was shocked to find it was not compulsory for commercial businesses to recycle their waste.
Daniel Rechnitzer first arrived in the Whitsundays for a sailing escape three months ago.
Coronavirus restrictions meant Mr Rechnitzer and his family had to stay on dry land and so they took up temporary residence in one of the region’s apartments.
During his stay, Mr Rechnitzer was shocked to find out the apartment he was staying in did not have recycling facilities.
“Living in a hotel, you’re going shopping, you’re buying groceries, you’re buying water in a big 10L jug,” he said.
“You’re living as a family and you go to throw it out and there’s no recycle bin.
“Whether you’re on your own or a family of four, we’re all going through a tonne of rubbish.”
Mr Rechnitzer contacted Whitsunday Regional Council about the lack of recycling facilities and was told the council is not responsible for recycling in the private sector and that hotels could “opt out” of recycling programs.
“I just had to accept that there was no recycling there, but every day (we were throwing out) bottles, plastic, packets, cardboard and it’s heartbreaking because all this is going into landfill,” he said.
Council’s manager of waste services David De Jager confirmed that it was up to the discretion of the private sector whether they would recycle waste.
“Our main focus is on our households,” he said.
“For hotels, for the commercial sector, council doesn’t compete in that space.
“If it comes to a commercial (agreement) then that commercial premises needs to knock on the door of a commercial operator.”
Mr De Jager said the council usually referred commercial businesses to JJ Richards or Cleanaway, the same companies council contracts for kerbside recycling programs, if they wanted more information on private recycling agreements.
As a visitor to the region, Mr Rechnitzer was shocked that the Whitsundays did not have a broader recycling program in the commercial sector with the reef as its backyard.
Whitsunday Conservation Council spokeswoman Jessa Lloyd echoed these concerns, saying the Whitsundays should push to be a leader in waste reduction.
“If we’re looking at creating a sustainable Whitsundays, we need to look at our own backyard and what we’re doing in processing our own waste and look at what everyone else in other communities are doing,” she said.
“It’s not just the reef in our backyard, we’ve got some beautiful wetland environments and waterways.
“I think the Whitsundays is perfectly positioned to showcase the green way of living to visitors.”
Ms Lloyd believed this would provide economic as well as environmental benefits, through to attracting more visitors and diversifying the region’s economic pillars through innovation in the processing of waste.
While the council is not able to dictate whether private premises recycle, Mr De Jager said plans were under way for an expansion of the council’s recycling programs.
“We have some areas within our local government area that don’t receive a kerbside service,” he said.
“In many respects it would be a case of contractors not being able to get into those areas.
“Our collection contract comes up for renewal in 12 months’ time and we’re currently busy with a request for tender.
“As part of drafting that documentation we will then have clauses in our new contract going forward that will then assist us with addressing that and expanding our services out where possible to those areas that don’t currently have a service.”
In the past financial year, 1524 tonnes of raw material from Whitsunday households was sent to the recycling facilities in Townsville and Mackay.
This brings the region’s diversion rate, or waste diverted from landfill, to about 20 per cent, which is above the regional target.
Mr De Jager hoped Whitsunday residents would continue to embrace recycling as well as new programs introduced by the council including a new service to dispose of fluorescent globes.
“I think recycling is really, really important for an area like this,” he said.
“As a council we need to be seen to be doing something, and I think kerbside recycling is an excellent start towards a greater percentage of resource recovery across all of the waste streams across the region.”