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.
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.