Waste management and Port Phillip

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By Cr Dick Gross

Four Corners has done it again. On August 14 this year, ABC TV’s award winning Four Corners program investigated the big business of rubbish and where it ends up.

The program famous for uncovering filth has uncovered some big issues in Australia’s waste industry.

Let’s find out what it means for Port Phillip.

The show’s claims were a strange mishmash of a few different things. First, and most importantly for us, there is a real, and long term problem, with glass recycling. Second, there was evidence of unlawful tips in NSW and transport to Queensland in order to avoid paying a levy on landfill.

Let’s take these one by one.

The problem of recycling glass is a national problem.

Recycled glass is presently of zero or indeed negative value. You cannot easily recycle stuff that is worthless. On the other hand, aluminium, plastic and paper are worth money.

So, some glass is recycled, some is dumped in the landfill, and the rest is stored, awaiting an increase in the price of the commodity.

This has been known for some time and despite Four Corners’ breathless reporting, glass is a small part of the waste stream.

There is huge success with plastic, aluminium, ferrous metals and paper.

But we must make a choice; either we give up trying to recycle glass or we do it better. I prefer the latter and have two ideas: first, the federal government needs to mandate that every bottle must have a minimum amount of recycled glass in it, and second, glass can be crushed to use it as a base of road making.

The state government is sitting on a huge amount of money, the sustainability fund and not spending it.

I suggest that the state fund an operation to make road base from crushed glass.

These two ideas would add value to glass and make recycling work.

The second issue is about corruption in the waste industry.

There is corruption in the industry but it does not affect Port Phillip directly. We should monitor it though.

What about Port Phillip? There is the good, the bad and the ugly.

City of Port Phillip Resource Recovery Centre in South  Melbourne  (Fishermans bend urban  renewal area).  Photo: Janet Bolitho, Port Places

City of Port Phillip Resource Recovery Centre in South Melbourne (Fishermans bend urban renewal area).
Photo: Janet Bolitho, Port Places

The good: we pride ourselves on our waste management achievements.

We are the state leaders in recycling dumped rubbish pickups, at 70 per cent compared to a state average of 15 per cent.

We have made leading moves in the ‘ban the bag’ campaign, and we’ve instituted organic recycling at South Melbourne Market.

But there are bad bits too.

We have the second worst household recycling record in Victoria because we don’t have a green waste service.

We also have a lot of medium density buildings that don’t have a separate chute for recyclables.

The Council Plan provides that waste is a “transformative issue” that we must make huge strides in it over the next few years.

And we do have big ideas.

We want to try to bring in a green waste system. This is very difficult in the inner urban area where very few houses have big gardens. Yarra and Melbourne are struggling with this issue too.  We hope to come back to you with an affordable plan.

And the next challenge is in the north of the city in Fishermans Bend. There our waste transfer station is set to be moved because it is in an area deemed to be residential in the future.

We hope to attract funding from the state to help us move the transfer station.  And we also want funding to create a state of the art waste management facility that would service Port Phillip and the areas around.

New technologies could make us cleaner and greener.

So please don’t be too put off by the Four Corners story. Recycling is working.

We will be honest about our problems with waste at Port Phillip and we have made it a big priority to solve them.



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