Buying it back: City of Charles Sturt

Fiona Jenkins, City of Charles Sturt Waste and Sustainability Coordinator, highlights the council’s recent decision to prioritise products made from recycled material.

Q: How has council been affected by recent waste and recycling sector instability?

A: All councils have been impacted by the changes heralded by the introduction of China’s National Sword policy and the City of Charles Sturt is no different. These impacts include increased yellow lidded bin recycling costs and rising uncertainty on the future operation of the recycling sector generally.

Q: Why did the City of Charles Sturt choose to sign the Local Government Association of South Australia’s (LGA) Procurement Pilot Project memorandum of understanding?

A: Charles Sturt is seeking opportunities to support South Australian recycling businesses, which we see as critical to the future
of recycling for our residents. Our residents produce 10,000 tonnes of recyclable material each year through our kerbside recycling bins. Doing our bit and buying recycled products back is the best way to ensure this industry survives and thrives in the post China Sword era.

We see the LGA Procurement Pilot Project as a key part of this, as it solidifies our commitment to #buyingitback and makes it clear to everyone that we are serious about the future of recycling in our region.

Q: What is council’s action plan for prioritising recycled content through procurement?

A: Briefings with staff involved in the procurement of materials, for example those working in infrastructure, have already commenced.

The briefings will be ongoing throughout the project to ensure high awareness of the availability and benefits of recycled products.

A new requirement has also been introduced for staff to report on their purchase of recycled products. This immediately increases the visibility of recycled product procurement across the organisation and addresses the old adage ‘you cannot manage what you haven’t measured.’

A target has been set for the purchase of recycled plastic for 2019-20, while targets for a wider range of recycled product purchases will be established from 2020-21.

Additionally, recycled product purchases will be publicly reported against by council each year through our annual report.

Q: What effect will the new procurement process have on Charles Sturt residents?

A: Residents are unlikely to be aware we purchase recycled products in many cases because a road made from recycled materials looks and performs in much the same way as a road made from new/raw materials. However, council will promote some key examples to help draw attention to the benefits of our purchases as the program progresses.
Q: How does the LGA Pilot Project fit in with council’s wider waste and recycling plan?

A: We have a strong commitment to recycling and have recently announced we will be jointly establishing our own materials recovery facility (MRF) with the City of Port Adelaide Enfield. As part of that decision, both councils have reinforced the importance of finding local markets for recycled materials produced by the new MRF. We have a view to use this as an opportunity to support and accelerate the establishment and growth of South Australia’s circular economy.

Given the principles established by both councils, the LGA Circular Economy Procurement Project strongly supports our publicly stated values and objectives as leaders in the development of the circular economy in western Adelaide.

Q: Why did Charles Sturt decide to partner with another council for the MRF?

A: The two councils combined account for 20,000 tonnes of kerbside recyclable material each year. By combining our tonnes, we can establish a facility with sufficient operational efficiencies, while retaining additional plant capacity to accept additional material from other councils at a later date if required.

The MRF operation will be administered through a new regional subsidiary, in the same way other regional waste authorities currently operate across Adelaide, such as the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority, Southern Region Waste Resource Authority and East Waste.

Each council will hold a 50 per cent stake in the new body.

Q: How will the MRF affect recycling services in the city?

A: The new MRF will place our kerbside recycling service on a more stable footing, but from a resident’s perspective, little will change. It will accept the same range of materials we currently accept in kerbside recycling bins.

The main difference will be that both councils will be in a position to know and influence where their recyclable material is sent for processing. This provides an opportunity to help create grow the circular economy by selling recyclable material to local recycling companies.

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