Kirk Richardson, Director City Operations, City of Onkaparinga, explains how the council is using recycled glass and soft plastic in the first SA road.
Q. How has waste collection in the City of Onkaparinga evolved over time?
A. Like most councils, we’ve adapted to a three-bin collection system for waste ordinarily going to landfill, mixed recyclables and green organics. Our services have expanded to include managing illegal dumping, collecting hard waste, a green organics drop off service and street sweeping. These have been driven by legislative requirements and community expectations.
We offer a variety of recycling and disposal programs which include hazardous waste events, drop-off services for mobile phones, household lights and batteries, fishing debris recycling bins and a recycling craft store.
Q. Congratulations on having the first SA road to be built with soft plastics and glass. What drove council to identify the need for the material?
A. We’re extremely proud to have worked with Downer Group and resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and Red Group to have the first road in South Australia surfaced with an asphalt mix that included soft plastics and recycled glass.
The fact that we’ve been able to use materials that usually end up in landfill to create this road really highlights the benefits and value-add potential of recycling.
The last 12 months has seen major disruptions in international markets for recyclables and falling commodity prices have significantly increased the cost of providing kerbside recycling.
The current impact for us – the largest metropolitan council in SA – is over $1 million a year.
While this brings significant challenges, it also presents opportunities.
To capitalise on those opportunities, we need to think creatively and look for innovative ways of working – and that’s how this project came about.
Projects like this can reduce our dependence on international markets for recyclables, reduce costs and create local jobs. We’re also generating a new, local demand for recycled products while delivering a core local government service.
Q. How will the road be tested to ensure it remains durable?
A. This new road surfacing material, Reconophalt, has a similar upfront cost to traditional road resurfacing materials.
We expect the product to offer improved strength and resistance to deformation resulting in a longer lasting road surface that’s better able to handle heavy vehicle traffic, and that’ll reduce ongoing maintenance costs.
Being the first road of its type in South Australia, we’ll be working with the Downer Group to monitor the road surface. We’re in the process of looking at our future works programs for opportunities to use the product across our more of our 1350-kilometre sealed road network.
Q. What has been working particularly well over recent years for the council in terms of waste management/recycling services?
A. At Onkaparinga we’re very focused on organisational service reviews and those we’ve undertaken in the waste and recycling space have identified better ways of delivering our services.
One review included bringing previously outsourced services such as illegal dumping collection in-house, resulting in significant savings, increased efficiencies and a more flexible service.
Q. Is there any modern technology the council is using and/or would like to use that would make collection or recycling more efficient?
A. With a population growth of 1.5 per cent per annum and with waste to landfill collection carried out in-house, GPS management has been invaluable to reviewing and improving route efficiencies and planning for future growth.
There’s a growing range of technologies that we have started researching such as radio-frequency identification (RFID). This would give us real-time information on the bins – what property they belong to, whether they have or haven’t been emptied and the weight of the contents.
It would also allow for a more targeted and efficient collection service and the data collected would help guide our future collection planning. While there are several benefits RFID would bring, there’s a lot we’d need to consider given the size of the Onkaparinga region at around 517 square kilometres.
Q. Where do you see waste and resource recovery heading in the future?
A. Together with adjoining councils, the cities of Holdfast Bay and Marion, and the Southern Region Waste Resource Authority, we’re investigating the potential to build a new material recycling facility to sort kerbside mixed recyclables collected throughout the region. A new recycling plant would make us more self-sufficient, create local jobs, attract more businesses to the area and help reduce the costs and issues associated with China’s restrictions on recycling imports.
Q. What qualities do you look for in a successful waste contractor?
A. We look for contractors who are customer focused, have service delivery experience, offer competitive pricing, good ethical/environmental stance and/or processes, and are compliant in regards to work health and safety and the National Heavy Vehicle Law, including Chain of Responsibility laws.
Q. What is council most proud of when it comes to its achievements in waste management?
A. In 2014, we partnered with four Fleurieu Peninsula councils to tender for recyclables processing. The collection volume on offer generated interstate interest and competition for processing into South Australia.
The new processing arrangements achieved through that tender increased the range of materials our residents can recycle through the household collection service.
We’re also really proud of the number of recycling service options offered to our communities and their success.
For the past three years we’ve won the Top Collector Award for South Australia in Mobile Muster’s Local Government Awards, collecting more than 124 kilograms of mobile phone components in 2017-18.