Taking responsibility

waste grants

Six years ago, the City of Hobart set an ambitious goal of zero waste to landfill by 2030. Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds shares how the council is empowering the community to make positive change to reach its target.

Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds is “very much” looking forward to the day the council can permanently decommission and rehabilitate the landfill facility nestled in bushland at the foot of kunanyi/Mount Wellington.

She says the council’s ambitious goal of zero waste to landfill by 2030 comes down to “the choices our residents make about their waste”.

To help influence those choices the council is working to make low-waste options easier, cost-effective and more convenient, targeting the four top household waste streams – disposable nappies, food, plastic and textiles.

One of the most recent initiatives is a rebate program to put cash back into the pockets of parents who switch to reusable nappies.

“Disposable nappies were invented for convenience and most of us have become used to the ‘throw it away’ lifestyle over the years,” Anna says.

“We know the ‘ick’ factor is also of concern, but becoming a more sustainable community means a return to taking responsibility for our own waste and understanding the impacts our choices have.

“Even though the long-term cost of disposable nappies is greater than that for cloth, many parents are deterred by the upfront cost of reusable nappies. By offering a cashback program, it can help make that initial cost a little less daunting – and the risk of trying something new a little more acceptable.”

A child requires an average of 6000 disposable nappies from birth to toilet training. By comparison, it takes about 24 reusable cloth nappies to fulfil the same needs. Even substituting one nappy a day can divert more than 1000 individual nappies from landfill over a child’s life.

The city offered 100 residents a 50 per cent rebate (up to $50) on the price of cloth nappies to help them make the switch from disposables. It also partnered with local business, Tiny Footprints, to run workshops for parents to bust the myths around hygiene, ease of use and the quality of the nappies.

zero waste to landfill
Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds.

Hannah Leitch is a big advocate of cloth nappies. The mother of two began using cloth nappies following the birth of her son 20 months ago. She’s now also using them for her youngest, who is just 11 weeks old.

She said the thought of all the waste created by nappies going to landfill was enough encouragement for her to “give it a go”.

“I started right from newborn and, in all honesty, I find them quite easy,” Hannah says.

“They’re so much better now than they used to be. If you follow the instructions, they should last right through to toilet training and can be used again.”

Hannah says she’s noticed more people using cloth nappies. In fact, there’s social media groups dedicated to advising and supporting parents who choose to use cloth.

“There’s a lot more consciousness of the environmental impact of using disposables, people are more aware,” she says. “Disposables were invented for convenience but there’s a cost to them.

“I know a lot more people who are using them now, I’d like to think that more and more people are doing it.”

Reducing environmental impacts isn’t the only benefit of people making the switch to cloth nappies. Hannah says while the initial outlay may be expensive, cloth nappies can “save you a lot of money” in the long-term.

She says incentives such as the council’s rebate are a great opportunity for people who are unsure of making the switch to try cloth nappies without a big initial outlay.

“It’s especially good for people not sure if they want to commit to cloth nappies. They can buy a few and see how they go. It gives them that opportunity to try.”

If you do decide to use cloth nappies, Hannah suggests buying second-hand to keep the cost down and help create a circular economy, and to look for Australian brands.

The nappy rebate follows on from a similar project called The Undies Project, which was initiated by Women’s Health Tasmania and funded by a City of Hobart Urban Sustainability Grant, to provide reusable period underwear to residents on low incomes.

Anna says the concept has been expanded through the nappy subsidy, with the purchase of reusable menstrual items also eligible for the rebate.

It’s incentives such as these that have helped the City of Hobart slash the amount of waste going to landfill by 60 per cent in the past decade. One of the major drivers was the introduction of a Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) collection.

“When a waste audit showed us that food and organic material made up more than half of all residential waste, we introduced a FOGO collection to convert this waste into compost, replacing the previous green waste service,” Anna says.

“In its first year, an additional 500 tonnes of organic waste was composted and diverted from landfill.”

Anna says the success of the program continues to grow as the community gains a better understanding of how to use the service, and more businesses get on board.

Last year, Hobart became the first Australian city to enact a ban on single-use plastic packaging for takeaway food. Council officers worked with the local business community for more than 12 months to transition to compostable packaging before the law was enforced on 1 July, this year.

“This initiative alone is expected to remove up to 600 tonnes of single-use plastics from landfill each year,” Anna says.

“We’re receiving excellent feedback since the changes came in. Most businesses found the transition easy and they take real pride in being leaders in the shift towards more sustainable methods.”

Anna says the final top four item, textiles, is possibly the most difficult to address.

“Clothes and other fabrics are disposed of into landfill in Australia at an alarming rate. It’s something that a lot of people simply aren’t aware of – it’s somewhat of a forgotten contributor to landfill,” she says.

“We are working with textile recycler SCR Group to establish a pilot recycling program in Hobart.”

For more information visit: www.hobartcity.com.au

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