Buying it back: City of Charles Sturt

Fiona Jenkins, City of Charles Sturt Waste and Sustainability Coordinator, highlights the council’s recent decision to prioritise products made from recycled material.

Q: How has council been affected by recent waste and recycling sector instability?

A: All councils have been impacted by the changes heralded by the introduction of China’s National Sword policy and the City of Charles Sturt is no different. These impacts include increased yellow lidded bin recycling costs and rising uncertainty on the future operation of the recycling sector generally.

Q: Why did the City of Charles Sturt choose to sign the Local Government Association of South Australia’s (LGA) Procurement Pilot Project memorandum of understanding?

A: Charles Sturt is seeking opportunities to support South Australian recycling businesses, which we see as critical to the future
of recycling for our residents. Our residents produce 10,000 tonnes of recyclable material each year through our kerbside recycling bins. Doing our bit and buying recycled products back is the best way to ensure this industry survives and thrives in the post China Sword era.

We see the LGA Procurement Pilot Project as a key part of this, as it solidifies our commitment to #buyingitback and makes it clear to everyone that we are serious about the future of recycling in our region.

Q: What is council’s action plan for prioritising recycled content through procurement?

A: Briefings with staff involved in the procurement of materials, for example those working in infrastructure, have already commenced.

The briefings will be ongoing throughout the project to ensure high awareness of the availability and benefits of recycled products.

A new requirement has also been introduced for staff to report on their purchase of recycled products. This immediately increases the visibility of recycled product procurement across the organisation and addresses the old adage ‘you cannot manage what you haven’t measured.’

A target has been set for the purchase of recycled plastic for 2019-20, while targets for a wider range of recycled product purchases will be established from 2020-21.

Additionally, recycled product purchases will be publicly reported against by council each year through our annual report.

Q: What effect will the new procurement process have on Charles Sturt residents?

A: Residents are unlikely to be aware we purchase recycled products in many cases because a road made from recycled materials looks and performs in much the same way as a road made from new/raw materials. However, council will promote some key examples to help draw attention to the benefits of our purchases as the program progresses.
Q: How does the LGA Pilot Project fit in with council’s wider waste and recycling plan?

A: We have a strong commitment to recycling and have recently announced we will be jointly establishing our own materials recovery facility (MRF) with the City of Port Adelaide Enfield. As part of that decision, both councils have reinforced the importance of finding local markets for recycled materials produced by the new MRF. We have a view to use this as an opportunity to support and accelerate the establishment and growth of South Australia’s circular economy.

Given the principles established by both councils, the LGA Circular Economy Procurement Project strongly supports our publicly stated values and objectives as leaders in the development of the circular economy in western Adelaide.

Q: Why did Charles Sturt decide to partner with another council for the MRF?

A: The two councils combined account for 20,000 tonnes of kerbside recyclable material each year. By combining our tonnes, we can establish a facility with sufficient operational efficiencies, while retaining additional plant capacity to accept additional material from other councils at a later date if required.

The MRF operation will be administered through a new regional subsidiary, in the same way other regional waste authorities currently operate across Adelaide, such as the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority, Southern Region Waste Resource Authority and East Waste.

Each council will hold a 50 per cent stake in the new body.

Q: How will the MRF affect recycling services in the city?

A: The new MRF will place our kerbside recycling service on a more stable footing, but from a resident’s perspective, little will change. It will accept the same range of materials we currently accept in kerbside recycling bins.

The main difference will be that both councils will be in a position to know and influence where their recyclable material is sent for processing. This provides an opportunity to help create grow the circular economy by selling recyclable material to local recycling companies.

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Lifting laneway recovery: the City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne talks to Waste Management Review about the city’s Draft Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy and recycling initiatives in the CBD.

Q. What were some of the key factors influencing the development of the City of Melbourne’s Draft Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030?

A. The circular economy concept underpins our Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 (WRRS), which was endorsed by council 16 July 2019.

The strategy outlines an ambitious plan to transition to a 90 per cent waste from landfill diversion rate, reduce truck movements, improve public amenity and reinvigorate our recycling sector.

Q. What are the key ingredients that go into making an organics trial a success?

A. With food making up 50 per cent of household waste in our municipality, finding a solution for discarded food scraps is a key component of the WRRS.

Our residents discarded an estimated 12,000 tonnes of food waste in 2016–17, and through our engagement with the community, we know people want a solution to avoid food going to landfill.

Later in the year we will look at a food and organic waste collection trial, to determine how collection services could work for residents with kerbside bins.

A third bin for organic waste would be rolled out and collected weekly, building on an earlier trial in 2017.

The trial will help us design an effective waste collection service for the whole municipality in the future.

Q. How has the Degraves Street Recycling Facility helped boost food diversion for businesses?

A. The Degraves Facility is a boutique response to the high-density café demographic, and is strategically located due to the high volume of businesses in the area.

By creating a local recycling hub, the City of Melbourne has boosted amenity by limiting the amount of rubbish bins on the street and reducing truck movements.

In 2013, none of the 100 businesses surrounding Degraves Street were recycling. The facility now hosts a food waste processor, a cardboard baler and co-mingled recycling bins.

Each week, 2.5 tonnes of organic waste is processed by the Orca and diverted from landfill.

The Orca uses aerobic digestion to break down the food waste, turning it into water that then goes safely into the sewer.

Q. How is the City of Melbourne addressing challenges such as population growth, high density collection, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?

A. Ensuring Melbourne maintains its status of one of the world’s most liveable cities – as the daily population grows from 911,000 to 1.4 million by 2036 – is one of our biggest challenges and is therefore central to all our strategic plans.   

The WRRS seeks to streamline the waste system and reduce congestion on roads and footpaths, where some of our bins are stored.

To action this, we will introduce more shared waste hubs for businesses in the central city, and remove some commercial bins from the public realm.

We also want to expand the network of five communal waste compactors and recycling hubs in central city laneways, which currently take waste from more than 300 businesses. We can dramatically reduce the number of bins lining our laneways and the number of trucks on our streets by creating more central waste drop-off points.

Reducing the impact of waste is central to the city’s commitment to taking action on climate change, and will help us reach the key target of avoiding 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Q. What are the challenges and opportunities to boost City of Melbourne’s 25 per cent recycling rate?

A. Household waste makes up around five per cent of the total waste in Melbourne. Residents recycle only 25 per cent of their waste, which is low compared to the Victorian average of 45 per cent.

This is mostly due to a lack of organics recycling, with food waste representing half of household waste sent to landfill. Residents discarded an estimated 12,000 tonnes of food waste in 2016–17.

We already have a number of initiatives to cut down on waste to landfill, such as offering our residents and businesses discounted worm farms and compost bins.

As for commingled kerbside recycling, at the moment we are one of 30 councils looking for an alternate solution following the closure of SKM Recycling sites.

Kerbside recycling will be taken to a landfill facility until other arrangements can be made.

We are disappointed with this outcome and expect our residents will feel similarly.

We don’t want people to lose their good recycling habits while this is happening. In fact, we’d like people to increase their knowledge of what can be recycled and minimise contamination as much as possible. [comments published in early August].

Q. Where do you see waste and resource recovery heading?

A. At present, the biggest challenge is the recycling sector. In the future we would like to see a robust, local recycling industry that is supported by an increase in the amount of recycled product used in future infrastructure projects throughout Victoria

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