Green bins for homes to be investigated by Port Stephens Council after legislation change

BEWILDERED: Port Stephens councillors Steve Tucker and Paul Le Mottee in front of the Newline Road waste management facility in 2018.
BEWILDERED: Port Stephens councillors Steve Tucker and Paul Le Mottee in front of the Newline Road waste management facility in 2018.

Green bins, landfill reduction and a better outcome from the Bedminister waste system have all been placed under the spotlight as part of the newly drafted Port Stephens Council Waste Management Strategy 2021 to 2031.

Port councillors agreed at the August 24 meeting to place the draft strategy, which can be accessed on the council website, on public exhibition for 28 days.

A report to council stated that Port Stephens had always been at the forefront of the waste industry, being one of the first councils to introduce and adopt the Bedminster system to compost its waste stream into a reusable product.

However, the composting process was shut down in October 2018 by the NSW EPA when it announced that "mixed waste organic material is no longer able to be used on agricultural land, and is ceasing use on forestry and mining land until further controls can be considered".

At the time, Cr Le Mottee told the Examiner that he found it extraordinary that the government would create a set of circumstances where in 2018 composting had been virtually eliminated in Port Stephens.

"Maybe some residents are not aware that for some 25 years this council has been successfully separating red lid bin waste. And oddly, where will that waste now end up ... as landfill."

Cr Steve Tucker added: "It seems ironic that the EPA, which was set up to promote recycling and composting, would virtually shut down a worthwhile industry."

This issue was acknowledged in the council draft strategy report: "Due to recent changes in legislation, it became apparent that council needed to revisit its waste processes and procedures to ensure best practice, to keep up to date and remain compliant in the waste industry".

"The strategy is intended to review current regional growth in the area and identify possible options for the future, which meet the needs of the community, whilst ensuring council remains at the forefront of the waste industry."

Since the use of mixed waste organic outputs was stopped, the NSW EPA says it has made significant funding available for councils to support them in upgrading their kerbside waste programs to shift to organics recycling.

"The alternative waste treatment program, announced in March 2020, provides $24 million in funding to help councils and the alternative waste industry improve kerbside separation of food and garden waste and encourage other better uses of waste," an EPA spokesperson told the Examiner.

"The funding package included the $5 million Council Transition Fund to support strategic planning and transitioning to sustainable waste management services that maximise the amount and quality of organics recovered. Port Stephens Council was awarded $180,000 in August 2020 for strategic planning and options assessment."

A key objective of council's draft strategy was to address how council could meet those targets by investigating systems for the processing of waste and the introduction of a third (green) bin.

Council's facilities and services manager Greg Kable said that there was "no timeframe" and the proposed green bin system was just one of a "myriad of options".

Other objectives of the strategy would be to identify opportunities for council to utilise waste assets and resources in the most efficient manner, and to reduce the community's environmental footprint through waste avoidance, reduction and resource recovery expansion of litter prevention and community education.

A Tomaree Residents & Ratepayers Association spokesperson said that while the group was supportive of the broad high level strategy, they were disappointed with the lack of detail.

"We think it should include a wider leadership role for council in promoting waste reduction in the wider community and a 'circular economy'. In particular, we welcome the investigation of the possibility of a dedicated green waste bin, but more details are needed on issues such as the size of the bin, frequency of collection and how such a service would relate to council's composting facility. The costs and benefits of the range of options need to be spelt out."

The draft is on exhibition until September 22, have your say at portstephens.nsw.gov.au/your-council/public-exhibition.

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