Apple isle processing: City of Hobart’s waste strategy

Waste Management Review speaks to Jeff Holmes, Cleansing and Solid Waste Policy Coordinator, about the opportunities for the City of Hobart with a comprehensive waste strategy and digital recycling database.

Q. What are some of the challenges surrounding collection and recycling, particularly with Hobart’s growing population?

A. Currently, the greatest challenge is identifying local and national markets for recycling and material reuse.

Tasmania’s geography means there are significant costs and emissions associated with transporting materials off the island for processing, and the further material has to go to get to market, the worse it gets.  

Hobart has its challenges associated with collection of material from built up areas with large numbers of multi-unit developments where kerbside space is limited, and roadways are narrow.

Q. Which bin system do you use and why?  

A. The standard residential council service is a weekly 120-litre waste bin, a fortnightly 240-litre recycling bin and a fortnightly 240-litre garden waste bin. The smaller waste bin encourages residents to think about the items being placed in the bin to avoid filling it with recyclable materials. The collection of recycling and garden waste occurs on alternative fortnights, which provides the residents with continuity of collections.

Q. What has been working particularly well over recent years for the council in terms of waste management/recycling services? 

A. The development of the City’s Waste Management Strategy 2015-2030 has provided structure and direction to waste management in Hobart. It details and prioritises over 90 actions to reduce waste and aims for zero waste to landfill by 2030.  

Under the strategy, the city has increased the level of waste auditing and data collection, allowing programs to be developed for targeted waste types. Following audits showing the amount of garden waste in residential bins and ultimately landfill, the city introduced a kerbside garden waste collection service in 2015 which has been a great success, removing around two kilograms from the average waste bin with virtually no contamination.

Q. How do you ensure what is recyclable is clear to residents?

A. The people of Hobart have historically been very good recyclers. Typically the contamination rate is around 4 or 5 per cent which compares very favourably to the national averages. People know about the usual items like paper, metal, cardboard, but the difficulty is keeping residents informed about what is recyclable and what isn’t and that comes from the increasing and changing range of plastic packaging. It is important to make sure information is correct and up to date.  

We are developing a comprehensive searchable database for residents to obtain detailed recycling and recovery information for around 300 products, which will help alleviate any confusion over product recyclability.

Q. Is there any modern technology the council is utilising and/or would like to use that would make collection more efficient?

A. The city has a dual-pact rear loader collection vehicle that has a split compactor that enables collection of two separate waste streams at once. Its main function is to service the public litter bins in the city, where it can empty the public waste and recycling bins in one visit, significantly reducing travel times and reducing fuel usage and emissions.  

The city is about to install two underground waste and recycling compactors in the commercial business district (CBD) area – an Australian first of its kind. The units will remove many bins from the laneways in the CBD and improve collection efficiencies for the city and around 100 businesses.

Q. Many states like QLD, Victoria and NSW have waste strategies in addition to statewide infrastructure plans. Does council believe either of these plans would help drive waste diversion in Tasmania?

A. A dedicated and adequately resourced waste strategy and infrastructure plan would certainly assist in driving waste diversion in Tasmania. However, it needs to be coupled with a waste levy to ensure the plans can be implemented at a level that generates substantial outcomes and incentivises recycling programs over waste disposal.  

The state government is taking on board the issues affecting the waste industry presently and looking to explore waste management priorities for Tasmania. The city has developed its own Waste Management Strategy and is also working with the 11 other southern Tasmanian councils to develop a waste infrastructure plan.

Q. How do you see waste management evolving in Tasmania and how do you keep pace with change?

A. Waste management has been evolving for some time, and the community expectations that materials are recovered and recycled is constantly increasing. Hobart residents want avenues to recycle – they are not tolerating the continuation of materials being landfilled. We need to keep finding sustainable solutions to enable this to happen, which can be tricky on a small island state.  

Advancements in technology will present themselves in the field, widening the range of recycling programs, but design process must also change, to design out obsolescence, incorporate recyclable product and ensure recyclability of products at the end of their life.

Q. How does council manage to keep costs down while managing waste management targets? 

A. The city recognises that most recycling programs cost money. However tapping into initiatives such as federal product stewardship programs, like paint, help to reduce the financial burden. 

Finding efficiencies in services, such as using a split compaction vehicle, have created significant resource savings that can offset the cost of other recycling programs. We also have a differential pricing structure at our Waste Management Centre, which rewards customers as they can deliver clean separated recyclable material at around half the rate of landfill. This reduces our expense in sorting material for recycling at the site, creating efficiencies and also more recycling and waste diversion.

This article was published in the December 2018 issue of Waste Management Review.