Bayside Council, New South Wales, added the 2023 National Award for Local Government in the waste management category to a growing list of accolades. Mayor, Dr Christina Curry, shares the council’s circular economy success story.
The National Awards for Local Government are an annual celebration of local governments that implement initiatives that make a difference to their communities. In June, Bayside Council won the waste management category, beating 537 councils Australia-wide.
Mayor, Dr Christina Curry, says the award is recognition of the progress the council is making in implementing a circular economy.
“Reducing waste is a very high priority for our community and we’re pleased that Bayside Council has been recognised for the progress we are making,” Christina says.
“Our residents are very proud of our beautiful Bayside area and this recognition gives them further endorsement that they live in a great area.
“It’s also a significant achievement and acknowledgment of all the hard work that staff have put in over a long period of time. It gives us additional motivation to keep focused, inspired, and motivated on what we are trying to achieve.”
In 2018, Bayside designed and introduced the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy (WARR) 2030 with a focus on shifting away from the traditional status quo linear economy of take, make, use, and dispose.
Christina says studies at the time indicated that the council’s landfill would be full by 2030, and so the goal was to achieve a circular economy model that anticipates, designs, procures, and promotes for resources to be either safely returned to nature or back into systems where they can be reused or renewed.
“This new model would be less reliant on burying items that are a valuable resource,” she says.
“Bayside Council’s vision is to be an environmental leader. This includes working with residents and commercial businesses in the region to avoid waste and maximise recovery of resources through the actions outlined in this WARR Strategy 2030 and associated action plans to promote responsible citizenship.”
Bayside Council’s circular economy strategy has resulted in many achievements including mandating the use of recycled material in the council’s annual road re-sheeting program, up to 18,000 tonnes of organic material is extracted annually from Bayside’s general waste bins at an advanced treatment facility and used as compost to rehabilitate an old mine site and 22 annual community recycling drop-off events for materials such as mattresses, expanded polystyrene, tyres, and bicycles have been held, resulting in more than 160,000 kilograms of waste diverted from landfill per annum.
Smart, solar-powered mobile surveillance trailers and interactive education mobile vans have assisted in reducing illegal dumping incidences by 10 per cent, and weight of material by 27 per cent per capita. Implementing 80 ‘smart sensor’ beach litter bins over eight kilometres of beachfront has prevented 60,000 kilograms per annum of litter from entering waterways and pollution control devices have helped divert 225,000 kilograms of unwanted material annually from entering waterways.
The strategy has resulted in 13 state environmental awards for the council. Christina attributes the success to a clear vision and a shared sense of purpose.
“We have a clear roadmap and have taken our community with us on our circular economy journey, constantly engaging, and promoting new initiatives and innovations,” she says.
In 2019, Bayside was the first council in New South Wales to trial Reconophalt AC14, an asphalt product designed for heavy use that incorporates recycled materials. It was laid at the Bayside Operations Depot in Bexley that is constantly traversed by heavy fleet, plant, and equipment.
Christina says the work at the depot involved laying nearly 400 tonnes of new asphalt containing recycled material equivalent to 314,558 plastic bags, 25,882 glass bottles and 7142 toner cartridges.
“This roadway has held up extremely well and was our starting point in using recycled material in our road re-sheeting program,” Christina says.
Following the success of the Reconophalt trial, Bayside formed part of a Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) “Paving the Way” initiative to mandate the use of crushed recycled glass into regional and local road re-sheeting programs.
At the time, there was a nationwide issue with the stockpiling of glass that was not been recycled. In its first year, Bayside used 600 tonnes of recycled crush glass (equivalent to three million glass bottles) and 4500 tonnes of recycled asphalt in its re-sheeting program.
In June 2023, the council began trialling the use of recycled rubber from end-of-life car and truck tyres in the asphalt mix on one of its roads. An initial 3600 standard passenger car tyres, or 2400 car and 490 truck tyres combined, will be used in the crumbed rubber asphalt trial project, involving 12 councils in the region.
The performance of each asphalt mix will be monitored over an initial 12-month period.
Christina says the project will generate comprehensive data on the use of recycled rubber-based treatments on local roads and is expected to contribute to the development of crumb rubber asphalt specifications in future projects.
And she says it doesn’t stop there. Bayside will continue to investigate, innovate, and implement initiatives and embrace emerging technologies to achieve its vision and targets.
In 2022, the council created a new Environment and Resilience business unit to address matters such as climate change, biodiversity, and sustainability and this year will update its WARR Strategy to include and align key strategies, initiatives and targets as detailed in the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041.
Christina says anecdotal evidence points to the strategy and awards adding to the sense of pride residents have for the area.
She says face-to-face and social media engagement is always high when the council discusses sustainable waste initiatives or recognises significant milestones and achievements.
And for other council areas looking to introduce circular economy strategies, she has these words of advice:
“A circular economy strategy should be an over-arching roadmap that sets a council’s long-term vision and aspirational targets.
“The annual action plans need clear milestones. They have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) milestones or steps on that circular economy journey. This is a life-time commitment to doing better every year.
“We learnt early on our circular economy journey that we must constantly improve, be agile and adapt to environmental and market conditions. This was particularly important in recent times, dealing with extenuating circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chain issues, and natural disasters, where our community and our business continuity and contingency plans were tested.”