Macedon Ranges Shire Council has one of the highest rates of diversion from landfill in Victoria. Deputy Mayor Jennifer Anderson shares how the shire’s residents have become waste warriors.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council was one of the first councils in Victoria to introduce the four-bin waste and recycling system in February 2020. Within two years of the roll-out, the council has achieved the highest diversion of resources from landfill of any council in Victoria since the system was introduced – with a 74 per cent diversion rate.
The success of the council’s Four Bin System (Let’s Get Sorted) was recognised at the 2022 Waste Innovation and Recycling Awards, taking out the regional category of Most Outstanding Waste and Resource Recovery Project.
The award is presented to a project that has delivered cost-effective and high-impact success in its targeted field.
Jennifer Anderson, Deputy Mayor of Macedon Ranges Shire Council, says it’s an acknowledgement of the commitment by councillors, council staff and the community to embrace the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“There’s a lot of community champions out there doing it together,” Jennifer says.
“It can be hard work to get your community on board. Other councils have tried stuff and failed but the staff and elected councillors here are really committed to getting as much resource recovery as we can.
“And we’re infinitely blessed by our community. People have embraced the program.”
The Victorian Government is standardising waste and recycling services across the state to improve resource recovery and divert waste from landfill.
The household kerbside service will consist of four colour-coded bins for residents to sort their waste into; yellow for recycling; green for FOGO (food and garden organics); red for general waste, and purple for glass only.
Macedon Ranges Shire was one of the first to transition to the new state system, and one of the first in Australia to introduce a separate kerbside glass bin collection service. Since its implementation, more than 4689 tonnes of glass have been recycled.
Jennifer says education and taking the time to get the service right for the community is key.
“It’s not something you suddenly decide at council and off you go,” she says. “You have to look at your community. Different communities will require different solutions.”
Macedon Ranges Shire is in Central Victoria and known as the home of Hanging Rock, a geological formation immortalised by the historical fiction novel Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The region covers an area of 1748 square kilometres including native forests, farm zones and townships. Without its own landfill in the shire, the council resolved to reduce waste to landfill wherever possible to manage its emissions and protect the environment.
Jennifer says the Let’s Get Sorted program was rolled out slowly across various areas. Community education was at the heart of the program – before, during and after its introduction.
“You can’t just introduce these programs without doing work within the community,” she says.
“It’s also not just set and forget. We’re continually looking at the program. What’s working? What is going wrong and why?”
Council also has a waste educator on staff whose role is to educate and get feedback from the community and maximise its use.
“The education component is really important,” Jennifer says. “You need the community embracing and believing in the project.”
As a result, the council has been able to change its weekly landfill service to fortnightly. Jennifer says a lot of households are only putting landfill bins out for collection once a month. The recycling system has now also been implemented at Hanging Rock Reserve, to encourage visitors to think about how they dispose of waste and will be rolled out to other public parks.
Developing a reputation as a recycling champion, the shire is also part of a national Australian Food and Grocery Council soft plastics collection trial.
The 12-month trial, which started in November 2022, involves residents in the township of Romsey putting soft plastics into a separate bag that is then placed inside their recycling bin for collection.
The collected plastics will be processed to be remade into new plastic products.
In a previous trial, residents could take soft plastics to the council’s transfer stations. Collected soft plastics were then processed into pellets for reuse.
Jennifer says it’s important to search for solutions. It’s no good encouraging the community to recycle more if it hasn’t got a useful next life.
She says the council acknowledges there is always going to be a degree of waste generated that can’t be returned or recycled. It is now looking at options for that residual waste.