IN THE BIN: Romyna Hebberyng wheels the rubbish bin back from the kerb.
IN THE BIN: Romyna Hebberyng wheels the rubbish bin back from the kerb. Jacob Wilson

Recycling report raises issues

A RECENT report on ABC's Four Corners highlighting serious mismanagement of waste recycling in New South Wales has triggered an immediate Whitsunday Regional Council review of its new kerbside recycling program, ahead of its rollout in a few months.

The ABC program sparked widespread concern over practices - especially relating to the stockpiling of glass intended for recycling, but which was instead ending up in landfill - in the billion-dollar recycling industry, prompting local councillors to call for an urgent review of the new kerbside program.

Whitsunday Regional Council manager waste services, Karl Murdoch, said the review would be presented to the council at next week's meeting.

Mr Murdoch said the new program, due to begin in November, would be rolled out with safeguards in place to ensure a similar situation did not occur in north Queensland.

"We're setting out to doing the right thing here and we're looking forward to getting this waste out of landfill,” he said.

Mr Murdoch said various contractors would be used to collect the yellow lid recycle bins fortnightly, and the waste would be delivered to the Mackay Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) or a new plant which has opened in Townsville.

"We want to make sure our contract specifies that our recycling doesn't end up in landfill. And we want to reassure people, that that's not what we're doing here.”

He said system safeguards, which would be implemented and monitored meticulously, included comprehensive communication between the MRF and council and ensuring the system was user-friendly and that residents understood what could be recycled and what would "contaminate” a bin and render materials unsuitable for recycling.

He said there were also no incentives throughout the process for recyclable waste to be sent to landfill.

"It's up to the MRF to find markets for the individual materials, and we can reassure people that we would never send kerbside recycling materials to landfill.

"Obviously we'll work together, with MRF, on this. We want to get everyone recycling as much as they can.”

He said the MRF's performance figures were based on how much waste was recycled, "so it's not in their interest to landfill material that is perfectly good for recycling”.

Mr Murdoch said glass, for example, could be made into other products such as sand for golf course bunkers, grit or sand used in trenches when laying pipes, and road-building materials.

He said the system aimed to find markets for these materials, rather than deciding the waste would be made only into bottles, when there wasn't a market for glass bottles.

An education program will be kicked off throughout the region including an awareness program with information, online resources, a dedicated website about recycling, and the release of a video about what to do, and not to do.

At last week's council meeting in Cannovale, Division 6 Councillor Michael Brunker had said he was concerned about the operation of the new program after the ABC's revelations of "a massive multimillion-dollar fraud happening in other states”.

The charge for the new Whitsunday program will be a $70 waste recycling levy in January.