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Canberra, why so wasteful?

By Kim Fischer 10 August 2015 94

stock photo tip rubbish

The ACT has been ahead of the curve when it comes to municipal waste management for almost two decades now. It was the first government in the world to set a zero waste goal all the way back in 1996.

The no waste by 2010 goal may not have been achieved, but we successfully lifted our recycling rates from 40 per cent to more than 70 per cent of our total waste steam – the highest in the country at the time. We also have the lowest litter rates per capita.

This chart from the ACT government’s updated waste management strategy shows how over the past 15 years the ACT has managed to decrease its waste levels sent to landfill annually.

Waste to landfill and recovery of waste since 1994-95.

Source: ACT Government.

The same chart also illustrates a real challenge. Our population has only increased by 16 per cent in a decade and a half while the total amount of waste generated across Canberra has grown by over 100 per cent.

In fact, per capita the ACT generates the highest amount of waste in the country. (However, it should be noted that this increase has largely come from the commercial and construction sectors, and not from households.)

The business of recovering and reselling waste products is now a significant money-earner. The most recent national statistics show that waste management organisations in Australia were paid $8.6 billion annually, with $2.4 billion in waste products shipped overseas for processing.

While it is obviously better to recover waste than to leave it in landfill, it is better still not to generate the waste in the first place. Having manufacturing processes that allow continual reuse of its materials is sometimes referred to as a “circular economy”.

For example, in the US the jeans maker Levi Strauss wants to reuse cotton from old garments in new products to eliminate its waste by 2020.

Customers are given a 20 per cent discount when purchasing a new item if they bring in an old garment for recycling. Subaru recently celebrated 10 years of zero-landfill manufacturing of cars, where all waste is either recycled or turned into electricity.

In the construction industry, there is increasingly a shift towards building deconstruction instead of demolition. Deconstruction is a process of taking a building apart with sufficient care so that the materials can be reused and recycled. As disposal charges for building materials increase, deconstruction will become normal.

This encourages innovations in modular, prefabricated building materials that are easy to assemble and disassemble. Reuse rates of 95-100% are typical when fully modular building components are used.

Lastly, no discussion of waste would be complete without looking at the option of a third bin for garden waste (grass clippings and plants) and/or organic waste (kitchen scraps) – a long-time topic of discussion for ACT residents. With around 25 per cent of waste going to landfill coming from residential sources at the moment, there is scope to do better.

A 2011 consultancy found that a third bin for green waste would be largely ineffective since the ACT already recycles more than 90% of its green waste. The same report also found that a third bin for organic waste would be much more expensive ($20m / year) than using dedicated machinery at the landfill to extract organic material from both residential and commercial waste ($8m / year).

With a separate organics bin, on average households will place no more than half of their organic waste into this third bin. So even with a third bin, the regular bin will still contain significant amounts of organic waste that go to landfill.

From this point of view it is regrettable that in 2012 the Greens and Liberals joined together to block the purchase of the specialised equipment required. As a comparatively straightforward way to reduce waste sent to landfill by half or more, it would be nice to see this put back on the agenda.

Are we doing enough to reduce our waste in the ACT? What else would you like to see done?

What’s Your opinion?


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Canberra, why so wasteful?
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Nilrem 4:09 pm 20 Aug 15

Skyring said :

I love the way that a post about waste turns into a barney over trams. I guess the two concepts are forever linked in our subconscious minds. Trams = waste.

Remember the days when Rosemary Follett was running things? We had this massive debate about wheelie bins. Every other city in Australia had brought them in. Even Goulburn, just up the highway, had these cheery green bins mocking us as we drove through in those pre-bypass days. Took years before they got brought in. With a change of government, as I recall.

Why don’t we just see what works elsewhere and do what they do? World’s best practice sort of thinking.

Love to see some organic waste bins. I see them in other cities all over the world. Just not Canberra.

We can’t reduce our waste entirely. It was foolish even to try that “No Waste by 2010” thing. Just buying stuff at the shops, and half of it seems to be packaging. I’m forever ripping up corrugated cardboard boxes to jam them into my skinny bin. And even though we don’t get free plastic bags at the shop any more, I’ve still got a lot of cupboard space devoted to plastic bags. The difference now is that they are chunkier and bulkier and I have to pay for them.

Thank God I’ve got some government flats nearby. Every time the rubbish problem gets too severe after a party or Christmas or the tax cheque, I can just whip around at midnight and unload the rubbish into the communal skip, now that the Salvos have packed up their service.

+1 for organic waste bins. That was one of the original threads here!

Skyring 3:45 pm 20 Aug 15

Dame Canberra said :

Skyring said :

There was no room to fall down, we were jammed in so tight I could feel that the bloke standing next to me had a roll of Fruit Tingles in his pocket.

Are you sure they were fruit tingles?

I cannot be sure, but it is the only explanation that gives me any comfort.

Skyring 3:40 pm 20 Aug 15

I love the way that a post about waste turns into a barney over trams. I guess the two concepts are forever linked in our subconscious minds. Trams = waste.

Remember the days when Rosemary Follett was running things? We had this massive debate about wheelie bins. Every other city in Australia had brought them in. Even Goulburn, just up the highway, had these cheery green bins mocking us as we drove through in those pre-bypass days. Took years before they got brought in. With a change of government, as I recall.

Why don’t we just see what works elsewhere and do what they do? World’s best practice sort of thinking.

Love to see some organic waste bins. I see them in other cities all over the world. Just not Canberra.

We can’t reduce our waste entirely. It was foolish even to try that “No Waste by 2010” thing. Just buying stuff at the shops, and half of it seems to be packaging. I’m forever ripping up corrugated cardboard boxes to jam them into my skinny bin. And even though we don’t get free plastic bags at the shop any more, I’ve still got a lot of cupboard space devoted to plastic bags. The difference now is that they are chunkier and bulkier and I have to pay for them.

Thank God I’ve got some government flats nearby. Every time the rubbish problem gets too severe after a party or Christmas or the tax cheque, I can just whip around at midnight and unload the rubbish into the communal skip, now that the Salvos have packed up their service.

Dame Canberra 3:33 pm 20 Aug 15

Skyring said :

rubaiyat said :

Do I need to post my photos of the full trams…

I used to live in Melbourne. I remember getting on a tram so well patronised that we standees didn’t need to hang onto the straps. There as no room to fall down, we were jammed in so tight I could feel that the bloke standing next to me had a roll of Fruit Tingles in his pocket.

Are you sure they were fruit tingles?

Skyring 3:24 pm 20 Aug 15

rubaiyat said :

Do I need to post my photos of the full trams…

I used to live in Melbourne. I remember getting on a tram so well patronised that we standees didn’t need to hang onto the straps. There as no room to fall down, we were jammed in so tight I could feel that the bloke standing next to me had a roll of Fruit Tingles in his pocket.

Skyring 3:16 pm 20 Aug 15

rubaiyat said :

One of the first things to great me when I first came to Canberra was my car being broken into in my driveway. They siphoned my petrol and broke the ceiling light in apparent aggravation at not finding anything else to steal.

Ah, that may have been me. Sorry.

You know what it’s like when the buses stop running and you’ve spent all your money on grog. Need to get home somehow.

switch 2:38 pm 20 Aug 15

dungfungus said :

“tram freighting milk…..”
I am sure this happened in the USSR concurrent with the 5 year plans.

Freight tram in Melbourne, 1957:

http://www.thecollectormm.com.au/private/FlindersLane1957.jpg

Dreadnaught1905 2:10 pm 20 Aug 15

dungfungus said :

“tram freighting milk…..”
I am sure this happened in the USSR concurrent with the 5 year plans.

Did I mention, Dungers, that I always enjoy your dry wit? Even when (goodness gracious!) I find myself on your side (broadly speaking, at least) of an argument.

I am pretty sure that even under the five year plans, trucks / vans and even horses and carts – as well as steam driven trains, electric trams and horse drawn trams; steam ships, windjammers and probably canal boats all played a part in the integrated logistics system.

All elements need to work together to get people and items from point to point to point. That’s the, ahem, point.

It is simply not possible to remove roads, freeways and highways in Australia and replace them. Every single item in every single shop in every single city in this country got there on a road at some point of it’s journey (or the journey of its constituent parts). I recall reading the SimCity manual in the late ’80s when the game was first released – it suggested that it might one day be possible to build a city entirely on rail. Even in the game, it wasn’t practical!

I’m not against light rail per se – but I don’t like the Capital Metro proposal. I think it is simply to expensive for what we get. If the cost of the rail from Gungahlin to Civic was less than 50% of the $783M figure in the Capital Metro Business Case, then I think I might be more interested.

Given that a quarter of the Construction Costs ($118M out of $479M) is for changing the road infrastructure to suit the light rail, then it seems to beg the question of ‘What alternative mass transport arrangements involving only the roads could be made for $120M?”

The roads aren’t going anywhere, they can’t. If we remove a significant percentage of the commuter traffic off the roads over the next x number of years, then we will need less roads, sure. But we will always need at least some roads.

The arguments suggesting that the roads are a tax burden are not entirely accurate. If the roads were wholly removed, then the tax base would be substantially weakened – logistics in Australia is responsible, indirectly or directly, for a vast amount of Government Income.

With my personal work situation, public transport isn’t an option for me – as I need to move between sites frequently throughout the day, often carrying large quantities of items with me. However, I do recognise that for a 9-5 office worker, then public transport (of some form) is probably better* than driving as a commute.

I don’t think fossil fuels are the answer in the long term (sorry Dungers, my agreeing with you had to end sometime). But if the ACT was to drop their share of the $665 million left over from Capital Metro (after, you know, we’ve spent $118 million on roads anyway) into renewable energy research, then imagine what might possibly happen!

Endless electrical power**, hydrogen fuel cells, super capacitors, commercially viable artificial photosynthesis… who knows what’s next?

*Better, as in ‘good for everyone’.
** That backyard cold fusion reactor that everyone is talking about…

dungfungus 10:07 am 20 Aug 15

rommeldog56 said :

rubaiyat said :

Blind Freddy can see where the problem is.

Just going back a few more days:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-07/man-killed-after-crashing-car-while-driving-in-wrong-direction/6679380

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-05/pedestrian-dies-after-being-hit-by-garbage-truck-in-car-park/6674316

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-13/man-almost-drowns-after-car-flips-into-drain/6693424

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-03/melbourne-police-dish-up-cold-burgers-to-speeding-driver/6666962

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-31/outgoing-tac-boss-police-call-for-lower-drink-drive-limit/6663254

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-28/call-for-removal-of-on-street-parking-in-melbourne/6653118

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-24/milk-sent-pouring-onto-street-after-melbourne-truck-crash/6644558

Somewhat beyond the grasp of some however.

So, u think some or all of these people would have been “saved” by the tram ?

But if u want, to be balanced, why dont you post about the numbers of people who have died in train crashes, in level crossing accidents, in bus crashes, etc. And I’ve never heard of a tram freighting milk either so that adds nothing to your argument – what ever that is.

Its poor form to use the unfortunate death of others (see #82 too) to support your views.

“tram freighting milk…..”
I am sure this happened in the USSR concurrent with the 5 year plans.

rommeldog56 11:46 pm 19 Aug 15

rubaiyat said :

Blind Freddy can see where the problem is.

Just going back a few more days:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-07/man-killed-after-crashing-car-while-driving-in-wrong-direction/6679380

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-05/pedestrian-dies-after-being-hit-by-garbage-truck-in-car-park/6674316

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-13/man-almost-drowns-after-car-flips-into-drain/6693424

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-03/melbourne-police-dish-up-cold-burgers-to-speeding-driver/6666962

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-31/outgoing-tac-boss-police-call-for-lower-drink-drive-limit/6663254

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-28/call-for-removal-of-on-street-parking-in-melbourne/6653118

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-24/milk-sent-pouring-onto-street-after-melbourne-truck-crash/6644558

Somewhat beyond the grasp of some however.

So, u think some or all of these people would have been “saved” by the tram ?

But if u want, to be balanced, why dont you post about the numbers of people who have died in train crashes, in level crossing accidents, in bus crashes, etc. And I’ve never heard of a tram freighting milk either so that adds nothing to your argument – what ever that is.

Its poor form to use the unfortunate death of others (see #82 too) to support your views.

dungfungus 6:31 pm 18 Aug 15

rommeldog56 said :

rubaiyat said :

“……whilst where there is public transport there are barely any cars, just lots of well patronised trams.

Haha, you have to laugh. With spin like that, you should get a job with Canberra Metro or that Canberra Light Rail self appointed “peak transport body” for Canberra. Even they are not silly enough to make bizzare statements like that.

It’s the only possible explanation.

rubaiyat 6:26 pm 18 Aug 15

Here’s that “spin” you accuse me of:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-15/man-charged-over-minibus-crash-which-killed-two-elderly-women/6699680

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-16/teen-dead-two-injured-in-yarra-valley-crash/6700664

Do I need to post my photos of the full trams, main streets in Melbourne largely free from traffic thanks to the trams, and the typical overweight sole occupant driver in the 2 tonne 4WD just where I got off the tram? Just cast your eyes around you, its all there. Doesn’t take much to open your eyes and mind and think for yourself, even after a lifetime of just emoting.

dungfungus 6:16 pm 18 Aug 15

switch said :

dungfungus said :

It also discriminates against colour vision impaired people.
What’s wrong with a “G” for garbage and “R” for re-cycle?

Because that would discriminate against people who don’t use the Latin alphabet?

People who don’t understand Australian should not be living here.
Colour vision deficiency affects people of all races, languages etc.

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