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Is there a landfill problem in Sydney?

Australians are the second highest producers of waste in the world, with each Australian producing over 2100kg of waste each year. At the current rate of waste generation, landfills servicing the Sydney region are scheduled to run out of space by 2016.

What action has the NSW State Government taken on the landfill problem?

To encourage waste reduction, the State Government has set NSW councils a target to divert at least 66% of waste from landfill by 2014. The cost of sending waste to landfill is becoming more expensive and is set to increase steadily until 2016. By contrast, recycling is a much cheaper and environmentally friendly option for councils, as long as the recyclables are not contaminated with other waste.

How does Randwick City Council manage waste services?

To promote recycling and encourage waste reduction in the home, Council has implemented the NSW standards for household bins which include: a smaller red-lidded garbage bin with larger yellow-lidded and green-lidded recycling bins for single dwellings; and shared garbage and recycling bins for multi-unit dwellings.

Waste collected from the garbage bin as well as illegally dumped and most clean-up materials are sent directly to landfill. Household recyclables from the yellow-lidded bin are sent to or sorting into the various commodities (paper and cardboard, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and containers, aluminium and steel cans), which are then sent to the manufacturing companies to be turned into new items. Garden organics collected in the green-lidded bin as well as that collected at Council’s Recycling Centre are recycled into compost and mulch which are then sold by the processing company as landscaping supplies.

How much does it cost Council each year to send waste to landfill?

In 2011-12, Randwick City Council spent about $6 million disposing of waste to landfill. This cost includes the waste levy, currently at $82.20 per tonne, which is set to incrementally increase each year. By 2015-2016 the waste levy alone will be $120.20 per tonne of waste sent to landfill.

How much do we need to reduce waste by?

Through recycling and other resource recovery initiatives, Randwick City Council is currently recovering 38% of municipal waste produced in the local government area. To achieve a resource recovery rate of 66% by 2014, we need to show great improvement in this area.

The 2011 household waste audit showed that each household inRandwickCityproduces an average of 8.2kg of waste each week. We recycle an average of 4.9kg through the yellow-lidded bin each week, and single dwellings recycle about 3.2kg of garden organics each week. Unfortunately, about 16% of the garbage bin contents were made up of items that could have been recycled, whilst 9% of the recycling bin contents was made up of contaminants.

As individuals, we can do our bit by making sure the correct items go in each bin, and by trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce.

Council is also working on other strategies, including the use of Alternate Waste Treatment Technology to help achieve the landfill diversion target.

What is contamination?

Contamination of the yellow-lidded recycling bin means that the non-recyclable materials have been placed in the recycling bin. One contaminated recycling bin can potentially contaminated a whole truckload of recyclables, making it unsuitable for recycling which means it may need to be sent to landfill.

The most common contaminants found in the recycling bin are: plastic bags and bagged material, food scraps, clothing, nappies, polystyrene foam and general garbage.

The green lidded garden organics bin can also be contaminated with unacceptable materials. When this happens, the material becomes unsuitable for composting or if detected at a later stage, will result in low-quality compost. This reduces the value of the product and can make garden organics recycling more costly for Council.

The most common contaminants found in the garden organics bin are: food scraps, rocks and soil, garden pots, plastic bags and building materials.

There are also some materials which may not be suitable for any household bin, including the red-lidded garbage bin. Hazardous waste and building materials should not be placed in any of the bins.

How does Council monitor contamination?

During recycling collection, the driver monitors the contents from the recycling bin using a monitor which receives a live feed from a camera placed in the hopper of the collection vehicle. Contaminated bins are reported electronically by the driver and Council sends a feedback letter to the corresponding address.

Bins are also monitored during random audits conducted by Council officers and Council’s waste and recycling contractors.

How does Council know which bin belongs to which property?

Garbage and recycling bins are fitted with an electronic chip which helps Council track and identify lost and stolen bins and capture important data about waste generation and resource recovery rates.

What is Alternate Waste Treatment Technology?

Alternate Waste Treatment Technology is simply the term used to describe a type of technology used to treat waste in a non-traditional way (landfill and recycling).

High resource recovery rates can be achieved using Alternate Waste Treatment Technology because remaining recyclables can be recovered and waste can be used to produce compost and/or renewable energy. This results in zero or minimal amount of waste going to landfill, after treatment.

Council is analysing the various technologies to achieve the best resource recovery outcomes based on the composition of waste generated in Randwick City.