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Green energy a core focus as Ipswich combats recycling price surge

18 April 2018

Ipswich City Council is set to embark on a revolutionary program which takes waste management into the next decade and beyond.

By mid-year, council will call tenders to bid on waste-to-energy projects which will enable a portion of the city’s energy to be environmentally-friendly.

From now, all contents from yellow lid recycle bins will be sent to landfill.

Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said Ipswich was the latest domino to be affected by a nationwide issue – one which required a three-tier government solution.

Eventually, all councils would be impacted by the viability of recycling household waste, Mayor Antoniolli said.

Recycling contractors notified council that the current rate being paid to them by council would skyrocket if recycling was to continue. The increase in costs in the order of $2 million per annum could potentially equate to a 1.5%-2% rate rise.

In addition, the current contamination levels in the city’s recycling is unacceptably high. About half of everything collected from yellow lid bins is not able to be recycled.

For recycling to continue, that simply means we need to reduce by half the amount of pizza boxes, food waste, plastic bags, disposable nappies, grass clippings and garden waste, broken plates, coat hangers, light bulbs, dirty tissues and serviettes, and foam packaging.

“As a city, we need to move forward,” Cr Antoniolli said.

“We want to become a leader in the waste-to-energy space, which will in the medium to long-term provide us with an environmentally-friendly energy source, jobs and a better economic outcome for Ipswich.

“We’ve actually been looking at waste as an energy source for some time, and this gives us the ideal opportunity to be ahead of the game in that space.

“While it is fair to say the national recycling system broke sooner than we expected, Ipswich has been looking to the future. We’re making sure we tackle this issue head on.

“I have spoken personally to the minister on this issue, and made it clear that we’ve been backed into a corner on recycling.”

In the meantime, council has not given up on looking for recycling solutions.

Deputy Mayor Wayne Wendt said: “This is a fundamental shift in how we as a community think about waste."

Cr Wendt advised residents that:

  • People should continue to sort their waste as per normal – bins will be collected on the same days, with yellow lid bins collected each fortnight.
  • Green waste doesn’t change. That will still be recycled.
  • Red lid bins will still be collected weekly.

“The focus on recycling will now be very much about waste reduction. Everybody plays a role in the protection of our environment, and ways to reduce waste now become even more important to our daily lives.

“Since the 4 Corners program on waste was broadcast earlier this year, contamination rates of yellow lid recycle bins has doubled.

“Under the current and previous rates of contamination waste experts advise it would be almost unachievable even with the best and well-intentioned community education program to lower the rate of contamination to acceptable levels.

“In a nutshell, this means we were left with no other choice but to send yellow lid bin contents to landfill. Importantly, it is worth repeating that this does not change the way household rubbish is collected. There will still be the same number of trucks, the same number of staff, and we anticipate a similar level of waste.”

What others are saying about the recycling crisis:

Victorian waste management association CEO Peter Anderson said earlier this year: “Around 40 per cent (of Victoria’s recyclable material) goes overseas. If it doesn't go overseas then where does it go? It just stockpiles.”

The Municipal Association of Victoria believes the state’s recycling crisis could force council rates to rise by 1.1 to 2.5 per cent on top of the 2.25 per cent state-mandated maximum rise.

CEO Rob Spence said: "Working through this complex issue will require the involvement of industry, all three levels of government and the community to minimise the impacts and find alternative solutions.”

Victorian Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said:“We’re already investing at record levels to manage waste in the long term and we will continue to work with industry and local government to help them address these challenges.”

On 20 March, Environmental Minister Gabrielle Upton announced the NSW Government would release a one-off package of up to $47 million to support local government and industry to respond to China’s National Sword policy.

A representative of Planet Ark: “We’ve spent millions of dollars getting people to recycle over the past 25 years but haven’t spent enough time developing the end markets for the output streams.”

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