BASS Coast Shire residents are throwing out millions of dollars every year.
Not actually – of course, but throwing out food scraps and organic waste into landfill costs jobs and is forcing the council to dig deep into its own pockets.
The proposed ‘Cell 7’ at the Grantville Landfill and Waste Transfer Station will cost ratepayers $1.8 million.
But what will be felt by residents is the $47 annual sting that comes with a new organics bin.
Managing waste is expensive, and from two Facebook Q and As the council’s communications department has held, it’s clear people want answers on the new three-bin system.
Last Tuesday, representatives from the Gippsland Waste and Resource Recovery Group held an information session at the Council Chambers in Wonthaggi.
The State Government funded group works with Gippsland councils and businesses to reduce landfill waste and encourage reusing and recycling.
But other than a Sentinel-Times’ journalist and an officer from council’s Environment Department, there were no appearances from residents.
Gippsland Waste and Resource Recovery Group executive officer Matthew Peake acknowledged people usually come if the session’s focussed on a specific idea, rather than a general information session.
Earlier that morning, a dozen people attended the group’s information session in Leongatha.
Mr Peake discussed the three-bin system to be introduced next month.
He said the waste in the new organics bins will be turned into soil, then mixed with other nutrients, bagged, and sold.
“There are other new technologies coming forward, so in the Yarra Valley Water Authority, they’ve built an Anaerobic Digestion Unit so they’re taking food in and producing energy,” Mr Peake said.
“Composting’s more beneficial, it produces a product which has actually got value, whereas we stick it in landfill it’s actually costing us money.
“And because we’re mixing it up with all the other waste in landfill, the chances of us recovering it from landfill, even at a later date, is really limited – if not impossible.”
He acknowledged council’s extra $47 fee for the organics service, but said the annual garbage charge of $374 was cheaper than car registration.
He said food is a good one to pull out before it reaches landfill because in landfill it breaks down, produces methane and then the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) requires council to suck the methane gas out of the landfill and burn it.
“It’s about trying to minimise that cost as well because if you don’t have food going into your landfill, then you’re not producing landfill gas,” Mr Peake said.
“I think Bass Coast has copped a bit of flack unfairly that they’re doing it for no good reason, but there’s a really good reason and it’s that food waste has a value elsewhere.
“It has no value in landfill. It makes it more expensive.”
Focusing on recycling and reusing would also bring in more jobs to the Bass Coast Shire.
He quoted figures that show for every one job in landfill, there would be three jobs in resource recovery, i.e. recycling and turning waste into usable items.
The council also has plans to build a $1.8 million landfill cell at Grantville.
The EPA places strict regulations on how the cells need to be built and maintained, increasing the cost of the cells.
Council and waste companies must build cells which protect the environment, including draining rainfall into a separate pond, rather than let it sink into the ground and contaminate ground water.
“In hindsight, we look back at ones we’ve built and go, ‘OK that probably wasn’t the best idea’.
“We should try and protect the environment from that ultimate trickling down of water into a resource that could’ve been drinkable.”
The clay liners around the cells are one metre thick and the cells need to be looked after for 50 years to make sure they don’t leak.
“Building a lot of little landfills isn’t as economical as building one big one,” he said.
“So you find that in Melbourne the cost of providing a landfill to their community is a lot less than providing landfill to a rural or regional community, sometimes it’s a 50 per cent increase in costs,” Mr Peake said.
The new three-bin system begins in September and it’s expected the space in the current cell at Grantville will be full by May, 2019.
It usually takes between 12 and 18 months to gain EPA approval for a new landfill cell.