Waste Management Review speaks with Banana Shire Council’s Dr Keith Halford and Des Mackellar about their plans to drive regional investment through industrial resource recovery.
Named after a large bullock called Banana in the 19th century, Banana Shire is resource rich and steeped in agricultural and mining heritage.
Situated in Central Queensland, the Shire is sparsely populated, with 15,000 people spread over a 28,550-kilometre squared landmass.
Banana Shire Council maintains eight waste transfer stations and three landfills. Of the 11 sites, eight are unmanned, creating significant illegal dumping issues for council.
Historically, the shire has also had limited access to recycling, which in turn has put stress on its landfill sites.
Over the last year, however, council has started taking a proactive approach, with a suite of new initiatives set to transform waste management and resource recovery in the region.
Developments include biosolid and green waste processing systems, and the introduction of paper and cardboard kerbside collection, which will be rolled out over the next 12 months.
These initiatives have largely been spearheaded by council’s Environment and Planning Manager Dr Keith Halford and Principal Environment and Land Management Officer Des Mackellar.
To support these developments, the pair have forged a collaborative partnership with waste management software provider Mandalay Technologies, working together to implement an authenticated site access service to provide auditable, controlled entry to sites previously unattended.
The service, which operates through Mandalay’s Resident Access Control program, will deliver automated and approved entry to unmanned facilities using unique resident codes, as well as reporting tools to analyse collected data.
According to Mackellar, the partnership is the result of discussions council was having around its current systems in relation to landfill sites and reporting obligations.
Through those conversations, council identified that its existing software program was insufficient.
“During those discussions Mandalay’s name was tossed around, and part of our thinking was to reach out with an idea of securing our sites and also getting a better software package that would flow into our reporting obligations,” Mackellar says.
After initial engagement, he and Halford went to Mandalay’s head office in Brisbane.
“They presented a package to us based on what our vision was, and we’ve now come up with this unique system, which is brilliant,” Mackellar says.
He adds that the integrated system is the first of its kind in Australia.
Mandalay’s Resident Access Control product, which is an extension product of its Resident Product Suite, manages access to unmanned sites, while capturing and processing vehicle movements.
This enables council to keep waste sites secure and provide near real-time access permissions to customers from pre-allocated geographic areas, which in turn works to prevent unauthorised illegal dumping on site.
As part of the system upgrade, Banana Shire has successfully integrated Mandalay’s weighbridge software at its landfill site, which Mackellar explains has been running successfully for three months.
“The hardware for our unmanned transfer stations is being manufactured at the moment, as well as the considerable amount of peripheral infrastructure and power supply.”
In addition to the security benefits of the Resident Access Control program, Halford highlights the system’s ability to segregate and track waste behaviour per person, household, street, suburb and township.
“That allows us to get more meaningful information on the behaviours of residents and how we can change those behaviours though education,” he says.
“It also allows us to enforce the rules of council by limiting the amount of commercial dumping onsite and ensuring people aren’t abusing the system, which is facilitated through security mechanisms in the program.”
Halford adds that the data capture functionalities of Mandalay’s system will enable better future decision making.
“We don’t want to just follow what everyone else is doing,” he says.
“We want to be innovative, think outside the square, and contribute to a more regional response to waste.”
Mandalay has a similarly innovative mindset, Halford says.
He explains that the team has been exceptionally proactive and easy to work with.
“We don’t have to tell them what to do, they come to us with ideas and solutions, which is fantastic. That’s what you’re looking for from a business partner.”
Neville Ferrier, Banana Shire Council Mayor, adds that the upgrades will allow the shire to keep its smaller transfer stations in operation. He explains that while all the shire’s facilities run well, when dealing with such a large land mass, manning every transfer station is cost prohibitive.
Furthermore, with some of Banana Shire’s transfer stations located close to other shires, which charge residents for waste disposal, council had problems with illegal dumping of substances such as asbestos.
“I think it’s [the upgrades] going to improve everything. Education is the biggest thing, and we’re working on that, but when people know they’re on camera and illegal dumping is going to be picked up, that stops a lot of that behaviour,” he says.
“It makes the whole operation more cost effective. Instead of closing the smaller transfer stations down, which is not fair to the rate payers, this system will make the process cost efficient.”
Ferrier adds that the “times are changing.”
“Everybody is thinking more environmentally. And what Keith and Des are doing is incredible. We’re heading on the right track.”
Banana Shire is planning for a period of economic development, with projected new industries progressively entering the region in the coming decade.
For instance, a major tyre recycling plant is planned to open within 18 months. As more businesses are expected to move into the region, however, the downside is an increase in waste generation.
Banana Shire Council is looking at these potential risks as opportunities to work with current and new businesses to find useful and innovative waste and recycling solutions.
“Using cradle-to-grave planning as a model, businesses should be considering waste in the first instance. What are the cost implications of poorly planning and managing your waste? What opportunities are there for these emerging waste streams? Is there a beneficial use for them here in the Shire or elsewhere?” Halford says.
Halford’s line of thinking forms part of council’s impending Strategic Waste Management Plan.
He explains that Banana Shire is in discussions with local industry to investigate opportunities to develop a Waste Management Centre that would eventually form part of an industrial waste and recycling hub.
Treatment options include oil, tyres, green wastes and bio solids, hydrocarbon contaminated waste, leachate and glass, plastic and paper recycling, with the end result being the production of products useful for industries within the region.
At present, most of these waste streams are transported out of the region to be treated at significant cost.
“This may also provide opportunities for other Shires in Central Queensland or beyond that may have capacity or transportation issues in the future,” Halford says.
“Council is also exploring potential renewable energy projects in conjunction, so a lot is happening in this space.”
Halford’s sentiments are mirrored by Mackellar, who says despite the challenging nature of 2020, the time is right for investment and development.
“Waste and recycling are hot topics on both a state and federal level, plus, COVID-19 has identified the need for more infrastructure capacity in this country,” he says.
“We want to get more infrastructure and businesses into the region, and the work we’re doing with Mandalay is certainly creating a platform for that.
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