Drivers of change at Lake Macquarie City Council

Waste Management Review speaks to Dr Alice Howe, Interim Manager Planning and Sustainability at Lake Macquarie City Council, about council’s innovative use of recycled glass, FOGO facility with REMONDIS and its low levels of contamination.

Q. Congratulations on using glass sand in your civil works. Tell us about the process of implementing change at Lake Macquarie City Council (LMCC)?

A. The driver for this change was the untenable situation of ever increasing stockpiles of recycled glass from our kerbside collection service. 

With no obvious external solution on the horizon, we realised we’d have to find a beneficial end use for the material in our own backyard.  

At the same time, one of our contractors began to produce a washed recycled glass sand product in our region. With senior management support, we established a cross-unit team to assess the viability of using this material in our civil works program. Thanks to earlier work by Lismore Council, existing design and regulatory standards, and the cooperation of the manufacturer, we were able to commence trialling the material in our works program.

Q. How do you anticipate glass sand to be used further as council progresses its work in this space? Will the uptake be increased progressively?

A. We want to increase use of the material in our own works program. Our contractor will soon be able to provide commercial quantities of both sand and drainage aggregate substitutes, and is looking to establish a local distribution centre to streamline logistics. 

We’re working with local concrete batching plants to trial recycled glass sand in concrete, and have also amended our development control guidelines so that these materials can be used in private civil works. 

All of this work is being shared with our neighbouring councils and sewer authorities. Our end goal is to beneficially reuse all 12,000 tonnes of glass produced through kerbside collections within the region. 

Dr Alice Howe.

Q. REMONDIS’ new facility with LMCC is an exciting development. What have been the highlights of establishing this project so far?

A. It has been exciting to see the new facility come to life, with state-of-the-art tunnel and mobile aerated floor technology. Our working relationship with REMONDIS has been excellent, particularly as we have been concurrently expanding our landfill on the adjacent site. The official opening was a highlight, with all of our key stakeholders and partners joining us to celebrate the culmination of the project, but the most satisfying event was seeing our first load of food and garden organics (FOGO) received on 30 July.

Q. What are the challenges of rolling out a FOGO service of this size and how do you overcome them?

A. With around 82,000 households in Lake Macquarie, logistics have definitely been a challenge. Just about every part of our organisation had a role to play to deliver the new service, which involves weekly FOGO collection and fortnightly garbage and recycling collection.  

Community engagement was central to our project to ensure residents were aware of the change and understood how to use the new service. There were some concerns about capacity with fortnightly garbage collection, particularly for families with a number of people using nappies. We addressed this with effective engagement, retaining a 240-litre garbage bin, and providing alternative servicing options for households with capacity constraints. To support households making the shift to food in the green bin, we provided every home with a starter kit that included an information pack, bin stickers and a year’s supply of compostable bags. We have also worked hard to get our message across to the whole community by using a wide range of traditional and social media, as well as fact sheets, videos and face-to-face conversations. 

Q. Are there any other waste contractors other than REMONDIS which LMCC is using? Why were they chosen?

A. We go through a rigorous evaluation process to select waste contractors. Mesh Engagement is supporting our community to make the food waste shift. 

In addition to green waste processing by REMONDIS, Solo Resource Recovery collects both our green waste and dry recyclables. IQRenew processes our dry recyclables. Daracon and Kingston are the lead contractors for our landfill and FOGO facilities, respectively. Our waste services are supported by a wide range of other contractors.

Q. What other areas of resource recovery is LMCC hoping to tackle over the coming years?

A. We are keen to close the loop on our dry recyclables. In addition to our work on glass, we are working to develop end markets for paper and plastics within the Hunter. Making sure our development controls support at-source waste separation in residential flats and commercial buildings is a current focus.   

 Q. What waste equipment is council using and how do its capabilities suit your desired applications?

A. The REMONDIS facility uses state-of-the-art in-vessel tunnel composting technology, as well as mobile aerated floor composting. We understand this is the first time these technologies have been combined in Australia.

Q. What have been some of the key achievements of council over the last few years in waste?

A. We successfully introduced our garden waste service in 2013, which enjoys high levels of community support and very low levels of contamination (0.3 per cent). 

Our recycling service also has very low levels of contamination (four per cent). 

We established the first Community Recycling Centre in NSW and receive strong support for chemical clean out events. We’re currently expanding our landfill at Awaba, adjacent to the REMONDIS facility, which will provide enhanced waste separation and recycling. 

Q. Where does LMCC see resource recovery heading for councils into the next 10 years? How do you expect council’s role to evolve?

A. Local government will continue to have a core role in the delivery of resource recovery services for local communities. LMCC aims to achieve its target to divert 75 per cent of waste from landfill for beneficial reuse. 

We’re keen to do this by enhancing local circular economy opportunities with expanded markets for kerbside recyclate such as glass, plastic and paper. 

We would also like to further support our community to avoid waste generation.