The impact of poor waste management

Penrith City Council’s Joshua Romeo tells Waste Management Review about the impacts poor waste collection infrastructure have on the community and council.

How does high density development affect waste collection infrastructure and what are the key considerations developers need to include during the conceptual design process of new dwellings?

Joshua Romeo, Senior Waste Planning Officer at Sydney’s Penrith City Council, wanted to examine these questions in his research of the social benefits of improved waste management across a local government area (LGA).

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As a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning student, Joshua recently completed a thesis titled Reconfiguring Residential Waste for Urban Consolidation: Evaluating the Amenity Outcomes of Planning Policy for Integrated On-site Waste Collection Systems within Penrith LGA. The thesis examined three areas, including a visual analysis of poor waste collection infrastructure, the impacts kerbside presentation has upon urban consolidation and a conceptual cost comparison of two waste collection systems within a high density dwelling (kerbside presentation vs integrated on-site collection).

Building upon the thesis, Joshua conducted a cost benefit analysis in collaboration with Western Sydney University. The analysis examined the increased costs imposed to council through poor waste collection infrastructure and its subsequent impacts upon amenity and house prices.

Joshua says the provisions relating to waste collection infrastructure within the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) and Local Environment Plans (LEPs) provide limited regulatory guidance.

The provision of waste infrastructure is required solely through council’s Development Control Plans (DCPs). Penrith City Council recently updated its DCP with development-specific controls for sub-divisions, multi-unit dwellings and residential flat buildings, supported by guideline documents. It is important to note that unlike SEPPs and LEPs, DCPs are not statutory documents when contested within a court room, resulting in the need for amended state planning policy for waste infrastructure to support urban consolidation. The calculations used within the research were determined using economic and social theories, while seeking to develop a conceptual waste disamenity value for poor waste infrastructure.

The first part of the study looked at the increased costs placed upon council through poor waste infrastructure. To provide accurate calculations, Penrith City Council performed its analysis over a 30-year timeframe, factoring in inflation (1.175 per cent) and all figures discounted back (seven per cent).

Joshua says that as waste contracts are typically for 10 years, poor infrastructure requires renegotiations for smaller collection vehicles, runners, implementation of collect and return (communal bins stored within a bin bay and serviced on-site by councils contractors), and other collection services. This has resulted in additional annual costs of $99,000 and a present value of $2.1 million over 30 years.

Building repairs, which are included in the renegotiation figures, are additional operational costs imposed when heavy rigid vehicles operate out of their design specifications. This is the movement of trucks down single service lanes damaging gutters, eaves and clotheslines during collection arm movements.

Penrith City Council currently employs two full time waste rangers who investigate reports of illegal dumping across the local government area. For this study, it was assumed that 60 per cent of their workload was caused by poor waste infrastructure, resulting in an annual cost of $70,000 and a present value of $1.75 million. Educational material to raise awareness of poor infrastructure was also calculated at a cost of $118,000 per annum. In total, poor waste collection infrastructure was shown to result in an additional cost to council of about $296,000 per annum, with a present value of about $6.5 million observed over 30 years.

AMENITY IMPACTS

The next part of Joshua’s analysis looked at the costs attributed to the amenity outcomes of poor waste collection infrastructure. The study used a series of economic theories related to an individual’s willingness to pay for improved waste infrastructure. The study revealed individuals were willing to pay an additional $135.02 per year for increased waste infrastructure than that which was currently provided.

Using a study which examined the Hedonic Price Model, an economic concept that finds price is determined by the internal and external characteristics of goods being sold, Joshua’s research revealed property prices increase between two to nine per cent due to street trees and subsequent kerb appeal. If you remove these amenities through the implementation of kerbside bin presentation, it will result in a respective devaluation.

He says households suffer when waste is not considered during urban consolidation.

When single detached dwellings are replaced with townhouses, the lot-to-bin ratio increases from one-to-two to one-to-12 for a standard six-dwelling townhouse development. The available frontage doesn’t increase, only the number of bins presented kerbside, not to mention the increased demand placed upon on-street parking, street trees and other obstructions limiting available kerbside area.

Joshua says one of the challenges of integrating innovative waste collection infrastructure within new developments is for waste staff and developers to align in their vernacular, having worked extensively within the urban design, masterplan and development application processes.

“Developers are inherently strategic and legislation focused, while waste staff are more operational minded, so it’s a way to bridge the gap through the implementation of a coherent vernacular,” Joshua says.

Joshua says this facilitates the development application process, while implementing innovative waste collection infrastructure within developments.

HIGHER DENSITY LIVING

Another part of the research explored the amenity impacts poor waste collection infrastructure has upon the transition towards higher density developments. This used a recently approved residential flat building to measure the transition from kerbside bin presentation to integrated on-site waste collection infrastructure.

The research looked at Penrith City Council’s old development control plan waste provisions for a case study to examine kerbside bin presentation. The six-storey residential flat building comprised 103 dwellings and the building was allocated 104 240-litre bins collected three times weekly. It required 104 metres of space for kerbside presentation.

A literature analysis allowed the development of a conceptual calculation to quantify the monetary impacts poor waste infrastructure has upon a dwelling’s value. Through the use of three disamenity factors, including visual, odour and noise, a waste disamenity factor of 4.93 per cent was determined. Based on an average unit price of $470,000, the conceptual disamenity value was calculated at $23,171 per dwelling or $2,386,613 for the entire development.

This was then contrasted to an integrated on-site waste collection solution for the 103 dwelling development. Through the analysis of the developments construction costs totalling $21 million, the total floor area required to accommodate on-site waste infrastructure was calculated at 396.8 square metres, or 3.48 per cent of the total floor area. This revealed a conceptual cost of $730,844 to implement on-site infrastructure.

The two values associated with each collection system highlights the conceptual cost of $730,844 to integrate on-site infrastructure outweighs the conceptual disamenity loss of $2,386,613 for the entire development observed due to poor infrastructure.    

While values of improved waste infrastructure may differ across councils, Joshua says he identified information asymmetries between the developer and buyers.

Buyers have limited information regarding the waste management processes, while developers are aware of the developments existing infrastructure. He says this results in uninformed buyers paying a higher price than informed buyers.

“One idea is to adjust local environmental plans and development control plans so that improved practice is legally binding by developers. However, development pressure means this is unlikely to occur,” Joshua says.

Environmental bonds could be considered for developments, which could be contingent upon the developer putting more focus into investigating the possible environmental impacts and to alleviate any agreed upon uncertainties, resulting in a reduced bond.