Difficult compromises needed for a better future

Difficult compromises needed for a better future

The Victorian Waste Management Association is asking State and Local Government to extend hours of domestic collection due to changing waste volumes during stay at home orders across the region, writes Executive Officer Alex Serpo.

Stumbling out of bed at 6am each morning, I ask myself, how did we end up here? Melbourne, one of the world’s most liveable cities, is now locked down under an 9pm curfew.

Personally, it feels like a prison sentence, but given that lives are at risk, I’m grateful to the public servants and health care workers who have worked tirelessly to bring this terrible virus under control.

COVID-19 demonstrates there are difficult compromises to life, but by doing something difficult we can prevent dire outcomes.

In the case of waste transportation, there are compromises that need to be made.

One of these important compromises is putting safety ahead of noise. Currently local governments impose curfews on waste collection.

That means domestic and commercial waste collection services can only occur within a permitted time frame, under local law.

Typical curfews are 7am until 10pm. Unfortunately, these hours are also when school children, workers and pedestrians are also busiest, with the morning hours especially challenging.

As waste collection vehicles visit almost every household and business at least once per week, they face safety obstacles on every street.

Waste companies have gone to extensive effort to make collection trucks safer, through driver training and onboard technology.

However, the simple reality is that more cars, bicycles and pedestrians on the road means a higher chance of accident.

This has been amplified during COVID-19 when people are working from home – and their cars are occupying streets which would typically be less congested.

Luckily, during the COVID period, most local government (but not all) have offered waste trucks earlier access, extending access hours from 7am to 5am. This small relaxation has given drivers and collection companies a lot of breathing space.

Did you notice the change in your street? If not, it shows the earlier access hours have not significantly affected community amenity.

Indeed, street sweepers may have already been working your street well outside these hours.

However, these access hours make a big difference to waste collection companies.

Being able to put trucks on the road when there are no school children makes waste collection vastly safer.

It also creates a more flexible working environment for drivers, as drivers that start earlier can finish earlier, allowing them to take care of parental or personal duties in the afternoon.

Noise is still an important consideration for fleet managers, and noise from waste vehicles can be reduced over time with better systems.

Separated glass collection will help – as the yellow bin will only contain paper, metals and plastics.

Glass can be collected less frequently, because it is non-putrescible. Electric waste collection vehicles can also reduce noise.

For this reason, the VWMA is asking state and local government to extend access hours to 5am across all Victorian local government areas, during and past the COVID curfews.

There are difficult compromises to life, but by doing something difficult can we prevent dire outcomes.

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

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