Tim Cummins, Coordinator Recycling and Waste Management Bayside City Council, explains the challenges and opportunities for waste in the south-east Melbourne local government area.
Q. What are some of the challenges surrounding collection and recycling, particularly with a large municipality such as Bayside?
A. The biggest challenge is the current situation with recycling following the introduction of China’s National Sword policy and higher standards for recyclables.
This is placing considerable pressure on recycling processors with higher costs potentially being passed onto councils and ratepayers.
With so many differing stories in the media about this situation, it also has the potential to confuse residents and cause them to change their recycling behaviours.
We are encouraging Bayside residents to continue to do the right thing and keep separating household waste and recycling while also emphasising the importance of avoiding waste in the first place.
Q. How do some of the landfill closures in the south-east impact on the City of Bayside?
A. The closures are creating increased pressure on the remaining landfills as well as requiring our collection contractors to travel greater distances to dispose of waste. This is potentially increasing delays in truck turnaround due to more traffic. The closures highlight the importance of reducing our reliance to landfill by increasing diversion and investigating alternative waste treatment.
Q. Which bin system do you use and why?
A. Bayside City Council uses a two bin system with an optional third – one for domestic waste, one for recycling and an optional green organics bin with a one-off charge. Domestic waste is collected weekly, while recycling and green organics are collected each alternate fortnight.
Q. What has been working particularly well over recent years for the council in terms of waste management/recycling services?
A. We changed from two bulk clearances of hard waste per year to a book on demand service in 2012. This was well received by residents and works really well. We’ve also introduced recycling stations at our Corporate Centre in Sandringham and at the Beaumaris Library where residents can dispose of globes, fluoro tubes, mobile phones, chargers and different types of e-waste, as well as soft plastics.
Q. How do you ensure what is recyclable is clear to residents?
A. Bayside residents have a great record when it comes to recycling with relatively low contamination levels. But there is always room to improve and our environmental sustainability team is constantly developing new programs such as our successful ‘Don’t Feed the Bin’ campaign focused on reducing the amount of food waste going into the domestic waste bin.
We are also working to create awareness within the community about waste avoidance. This includes encouraging residents to change their purchasing behaviours, such as avoiding products with excessive packaging, saying no to plastic bags and only purchasing what you need. All of this can have an impact on what goes into the bin. Whenever residents are unclear on anything in regards to waste or recycling, they can always refer to our website or contact us and someone is always willing to assist.
Q. Is there any modern technology the council is utilising and/or would like to use that would make collection more efficient?
A. We are always looking at ways to make collections more efficient and work closely with our contractors to explore any improvements. Vehicle tracking has proved to be useful, particularly for identifying any trends
or possible missed clearance.
Q. Where do you see waste and resource recovery heading in the future in Melbourne?
A. The future has to include looking for alternative waste treatments and trying to move away from reliance on landfill by exploring more sustainable options. This includes investigating technologies that have proved successful in treating municipal waste overseas and adopting them for Australian conditions and markets.
A positive outcome of the current challenges in recycling is an increased focus on replacing the current single use model with a more circular economy – prioritising recycled material products nationally, which is currently not always the case. We need state and Commonwealth governments to take an active role in this.
Q. What do you look for in a successful tender and how do you go about it?
A. Bayside City Council’s procurement decisions and initiatives are based on clear and transparent evidence, informed economic, financial and environmental and social considerations.
Q. What are the main opportunities for the City of Bayside for increasing diversion of materials from landfill/increased resource recovery?
A. We are looking at the possibility of expanding our existing green organics collection service to incorporate food organics. Our bin audits have shown that significant quantities of food waste are going into the general waste bin and ending up in landfill. With the introduction of a food organics and garden organics (FOGO) service, we can divert a large proportion of this food waste from landfill.
We will also continue to run education programs to promote sustainable purchasing behaviours and waste avoidance to reduce the amount of waste our community creates in the first place.
Q. How does the council manage to keep costs down while meeting waste management targets?
A. We work closely with our contractors to manage services within agreed contracts to get the best result for residents, while also working to meet our waste management targets and sustainability objectives.