Leading the recycling revolution: Moyne Shire Council

A year after state-wide disruptions to Victoria’s recycling industry, a small municipality in the state’s south west has quietly taken matters into its own hands, Annette Cannon, Moyne Shire Council Waste Education Officer explains. 

Moyne Shire Council was among the first in Australia to introduce a four-bin waste collection system as part of a long-term solution to the recycling crisis.

Weeks before the Victorian Government announced plans to roll out a state-wide, four-bin system from 2021, Moyne Shire had already taken delivery of its first glass recycling collection.

The council took the bold decision to introduce a fourth bin for glass in September 2019, at a time when just a handful of municipalities were considering the idea.

Just 16 weeks later, the first kerbside glass recycling collection took place across Moyne Shire in early February 2020.

Moyne Shire Mayor Daniel Meade said glass accounted for about 40 per cent of recyclables in Council’s kerbside collections.

“China’s 2018 ban on importing a range of recyclable materials sent our waste management industry into a tailspin,” he said.

“Like a lot of other councils, we were forced to send all recyclables into landfill from about July 2019. Our council and our community decided we just couldn’t sit by and allow that to continue to happen.”

Aside from the serious environmental implications, Mr Meade said the cost of sending recyclable materials to landfill could not be sustained.

Moyne Shire, which takes in coastal Port Fairy and extends inland to the townships of Macarthur, Hawkesdale and back to the Great Ocean Road at Peterborough, has a track record for leadership in waste management.

It has provided a food and organic waste collection service since 2009, many years ahead of other municipalities. This includes provision of a benchtop caddy for food waste.

A NEW REGIME

Under Moyne Shire’s new four-bin regime, glass is collected monthly, recycling and FOGO fortnightly and landfill collected weekly.

In the first month over 40 tonnes of glass was collected with a less than five per-cent contamination rate. This is equivalent to more than 195,000 glass bottles.

Moyne Shire’s initial plan was to conduct a trial within the township of Koroit. However, with mounting concern over the re-routing of recyclables into landfill, council moved quickly to implement a more universal solution.

The formal council decision in September 2019 to implement a Shire-wide, four-bin collection service triggered a frenetic round of contract negotiations with new recycling suppliers.

Under the revised contract, recyclables are now processed by Australian Paper Recovery at Truganina, near Melbourne. Australian Paper Recovery can process recyclables that are not contaminated by glass.

Glass is processed locally for use as a substitute for sand in road construction. The contents of green FOGO bins are still composted for use as mulch across the Shire, while contents of red-lidded bins are directed to landfill.

BETTER4MOYNE

Community engagement and education proved to be key to the program’s early success.

A change in processor has meant that only certain plastics can be placed into the yellow recycling bin. Polyethylene terephthalate (marked with the recycling symbol 1) and high density polyethylene (recycling symbol 2) are both permissible. All other plastics must now be placed into the red bin destined for landfill.

A branded campaign, Better4Moyne, was developed to comprehensively engage with and educate the community about this and all other aspects of council’s new waste management regime.

Activities included regional media articles, frequent website and social media updates, letters to all residents, FAQ sheets, posters displayed in public spaces and displays of the new, purple-lidded bins in high traffic public spaces, including outside local supermarkets.

Council also created displays at regional community events, and officers spoke directly with numerous business and community groups.

A new Kerbside Waste Management Collection Guide was published detailing how to use the four-bin system. Together with a collection calendar, a hard copy of the guide was delivered to all residents with their new, purple-lidded bins.

WIN/WIN SOLUTION FOR DELIVERY LOGISTICS

The logistics of delivering 6000 new glass recycling bins across Moyne Shire’s 5500 square kilometres in time for the first collection was council’s next challenge.

The solution proved to be an innovative ‘win/win’ solution for both council and community.

Eight community groups were engaged to work with council to simultaneously hand deliver the new purple-lidded bins to each household.

These included the Koroit Cricket Club, MacArthur Men’s Shed, Woorndoo Mortlake Football Netball Club, Woorndoo Cricket Club, Nirranda Football Netball Club, Panmure Football Netball Club, Grassmere Primary School Parent and Friends and Port Fairy Football Netball Club.

Those groups received $5 for each bin delivered, creating a new fundraising stream for the groups.

MONITORING OUR SUCCESS

A rigorous inspection regime is an important facet of Moyne Shire’s new waste management program.

Kerbside inspections provide intelligence about recycling behaviour and contamination levels, while also presenting opportunity for more community education.

Where glass or recycling bins are found to be contaminated by incorrect items, a ‘bin reject’ sticker with a hand-written explanation to the householder is placed on the bin. The contents may or may not be collected, depending on the type of contamination.

Inspections during the first glass recycling collection showed relatively low levels of contamination. The primary concern was lids not being removed from glass bottles and jars.

External consultants will be engaged in the near future to conduct detailed kerbside audits. The results will help to evaluation the success of the new, four-bin system and will also inform ongoing community education messaging.

A LONG-TERM SOLUTION

The Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry into Recycling and Waste Management, tabled in November 2019, noted in part that one of the key ways to reduce contamination was by reducing glass in co-mingled recycling bins.

It called for greater source separation as a key measure for the long-term sustainability of Victoria’s waste management system.

Mr Meade said that as an early adopter of glass separation in Victoria and, indeed, the nation, Moyne Shire Council was playing an important leadership role.

“We hope other municipalities can learn from our experiences here at Moyne and ultimately follow suit,” he said.

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Expanding kerbside in Macedon

Shane Walden, Macedon Ranges Shire Council Director of assets and operations, explains the process that led to council’s 2020 introduction of kerbside glass and organics collections.

Q. What are some of the challenges surrounding collection and recycling in the Macedon Ranges?

A. Macedon Ranges Shire Council has experienced the same challenges faced by many Victorian councils during the current recycling crisis. The reduced capacity for processing of commingled recycling and fluctuating commodities markets have made it difficult to find a long-term, sustainable solution for managing the shire’s kerbside recycling material. Community sentiment towards recycling has been low, which has made it particularly challenging to keep bin contamination down, particularly in the recycling stream. It is more important than ever to continue to educate the community and reinforce the message that, with their help, we can continue to recycle.

Q. How is council going to manage the expansion of its kerbside organics collection to include food organics?

A. Council will be implementing the FOGO service in several stages. The first stage involves expanding the existing garden waste service to include food organics. The service will start in February 2020, and cover the major townships of Gisborne, Kyneton, Romsey, Riddells Creek, Macedon, Woodend and Lancefield.

In January 2020, FOGO bins, kitchen caddies, compostable liners and information packs were delivered to all shire residents receiving the service. The second stage will see the remaining townships of Malmsbury, Tylden, Monegeeta, Bullengarook and Darraweit Guim receive the FOGO service in 2021. The third stage will see the introduction the service to the remaining areas of the shire by 2025.

Q. How will food organics collection improve resource recovery in the shire?

A. Audits of residents’ kerbside bins were conducted and found that almost one third of the content of the general waste bins was food waste. This highlighted a significant improvement opportunity and helped to build a strong case for a full food organics collection service. The new FOGO service will divert more than 2300 tonnes of food waste and 3000 tonnes of garden waste from landfill. Food and garden waste will be composted for use in agriculture and local parks and gardens.

Q. Council is also introducing a separate, glass-only bin collection service: why did you choose to endorse this?

A. Following the 2018 recycling crisis, council began to investigate possible solutions to improve the value and ongoing stability of its commingled recycling service. A major opportunity highlighted by council was the potential separation of glass from the commingled recycling.

The closure of SKM’s recycling facilities in 2019 put further pressure on council to take action to ensure the long-term sustainability of its recycling service. Discussions were held with council’s collection contractor Four Seasons Waste and recycling company Australian Paper Recovery (APR), which operates a glassless materials recovery facility in Truganina, Melbourne. APR’s materials recovery process separates commingled recycling into separate materials streams for reprocessing locally in Victoria; however, they do not accept glass.

A glass collection trial was also undertaken in the town of Lancefield between August 2019 and January 2020 to assess the viability of a separate, glass-only collection service. Council staff audited both the recycling and glass-only material at regular intervals throughout the trial to assess the uptake of the glass-only bin and to track the progress of the trial. The audit results showed that the provision of a kerbside glass service in Lancefield saw 98.8 per cent of glass diverted from the commingled recycling bin into the glass-only bin. Consequently, the glass content of the commingled recycling bins reduced from more than 30 per cent down to approximately one per cent by weight over the six-month trial. Council conducted an options analysis and impact assessment informed by the successful findings from the trial and market capability analysis, and the decision was confirmed to introduce a shire-wide glass-only collection service.

Q. How will glass kerbside collections be rolled out?

A. Glass-only bins (purple lid) were delivered to shire residents in January 2020, concurrently with FOGO bin deliveries. There will be a collection every four weeks from February 2020.

A continued communication and education campaign has been a key part of the rollout, to ensure the community is aware of the service changes and understands the reasons for the changes. The reaction of the community to the glass-only and FOGO services has been largely positive, with many residents pleased that council is taking positive steps to address the recycling issues we are currently facing.

This article was published in the March edition of Waste Management Review. 

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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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