In October 2013, consultants ‘Blue Environment’ Pty Ltd was commissioned by the state government’s Waste Advisory Committee (WAC) to investigate current management practices and explore opportunities and barriers for more effective management of five priority waste streams: municipal, industrial, clinical and quarantine, pit waste and sludges and organics. These five areas were identified by the WAC as needing special attention. The following headline statistics tells us this was justified.
Municipal solid waste: 67% goes to landfill and only recovery of glass is comparable to other states. Industrial: 73% goes to landfill and recovery rates less than half other states. Organic waste: Constitutes 62% of all landfilled waste. Although data is poor industry estimates only 18% is recovered.
The final report ‘Tasmanian Waste Review’, March 2014, has been provided to the WAC and the EPA for comment. Report available from: http://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/document?docid=1429
It is unclear what action will be taken, especially as many of the recommendations depend on establishment of a higher waste levy and, as the report states, the state government’s position on waste levies is not yet known.
The report summary (pages 1-2) notes that:
‘The investigation found that waste management practices and achievements in Tasmania continue to lag behind most other Australian states.’
‘While recycling systems are generally well-established for comingled recyclables from domestic sources, based on interstate performance there would appear to be significant under-utilisation of these systems. The low capture rate of recyclables is also reflected in other sectors, especially industrial waste (where there is little recovery of materials);’
‘In effect, it is more expensive in Tasmania to recycle material than it is to dispose of waste to landfill.’
‘In other Australian states, the development of a robust recycling industry has been led by the introduction of a waste levy.’
‘Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that this investment has led to higher levels of employment in the private sector than the government sector. Commonwealth economic research indicates that in Tasmania around 4 times the number of jobs were created by recycling than by landfill disposal; it also found recycling businesses had annual turnover 700% higher per tonne than landfill organisations. Continuation of the current status of waste management in Tasmania therefore represents a missed economic opportunity, foregoing the creation of between 660-920 direct and indirect jobs and the economic output of ‘value-add’ recycling businesses that Tasmania could expect to see established.’
‘A key priority for WAC is to establish the position of the Tasmanian Government in relation to a waste levy. If there is no support for the proposition, realistically the Tasmanian community can expect to see only minimalist improvements to waste policy and recycling. Should a waste levy be supported, there are a range of systematic and specific initiatives recommended...’
Municipal solid waste
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is primarily waste collected via council’s kerbside collection and waste delivered by generators to landfills and waste transfer stations.
According to ‘Waste generation and resource recovery in Australia’ (DSEWPaC 2014), over 257,000 tonnes of MSW is generated in Tasmania in 2010/11, of which:
- Over 171,000 tonnes was deposited to landfill (of 67%), of which around 17,000 tonnes was recovered for generation of energy from landfill gas.
- Over 86,000 tonnes was recovered for recycling (33%). (page 3)
The report found that Flinders Council did not have a kerbside rubbish collection and Flinders and Break O Day councils did not have a kerbside recycling collection.
‘The extent to which existing landfills or transfer stations in Tasmania meet relevant best practice standards is not known.’ (page 7)
Around 94% of southern households have access to kerbside garbage and recycling services but this figure ranged from a low of 58% in Southern Midlands for recycling and rubbish to many councils claiming 100%. Information was only available on southern councils but the report stated that the figure ‘was likely to be lower ‘ in the north-west and north-east regions.
‘MSW generation per capita is mid-range compared to other states, however the recycling rate per capita is much lower and the total recovery rate is significantly lower. This may be due to a number of reasons including lower utilisation of recycling collection services and an under-developed resource recovery industry. (page 8)
It was also noted that ‘the proportion of plastics, metal and other materials recovered was much lower than the national average. Glass was the only material for which the rate of recovery was not well below the national average.’ (page 8)
‘Garden organics generally experienced high levels of contamination. Tasmanian contamination figures (which do not include organics) are high by comparison to Victoria (whoses figures do include organics). This may be an indicator that further education of the community is required on the correct segregation and presentation of comingled recyclables.’ (page 8)
‘Analysis of long-term trends of Victorian councils by Sustainability Victoria (2013) shows that the amount of waste presented for kerbside collections increases with the bin size utilised; similar findings have been reported in NSW (NSW EPA 2013).’
‘One of the key differences between Tasmania and most other Australian states has been the establishment of targets for waste reduction and recovery.’ (page 8) Tasmania has no targets but mainland states have specific targets for a range of waste types.
In the report industrial waste refers to Construction and demolition C&D and Commercial and industrial C&I waste.
Over 345,000 tonnes of industrial waste was generated in Tasmania in 2010/11, of which the majority (around 73%) was landfilled. Around 35% (119,000 tonnes) of this was organic waste.
‘Recycling rates drop off for smaller businesses, which send most waste materials to landfill.’
‘Of the industrial waste that is generated, however, Tasmania’s recovery rate is significantly lower that other states, as shown in Table 7. The recovery rate of C&D waste is reportedly negligible.’ Page 13)
The report suggest that setting of targets and much higher landfill fees, due in large part to levies, explains the differences between Tasmania and mainland states.
Land fill levies in Tasmania range from just $2 per tonnes in southern region to $5 in the north and north west regions compare to levies in excess of $80 in Sydney and surrounding areas and $54 for Melbourne and large Victorian cities. The lowest levy reported outside of Tasmania was $15 in Perth.
The report lists many of the waste minimisation and recycling initiatives which landfill levies are expended on in these states, including $465 million over five years in NSW under the Waste Less, Recycle More program. We intend to report on some of the very positive initiatives from other states in a future article.
The report found that organic waste was 62% of all waste landfilled and this was sourced roughly equally from domestic and industrial sources. Food organics contribute in the order of 35% of MSW, 22% C&I and 27% of total landfilled waste. Garden organics contribute around 17% of landfilled MSW, 4% of C&I waste, 3% of C7D waste and 11% of total landfilled waste.
The report found that ‘It is understood that no council collects food organics for recovery, and that garden organics kerbside collection services are provided only by Clarence, Hobart, Sorell councils (all in the Southern region) and Meander Valley (in the Northern region). A trial collection of food and garden organics was undertaken in Launceston in 2011/12, but it is not yet clear if this will lead to a permanent collection service being implemented in the future.’ (page20)
The report found that ‘Tasmania lags behind other states in terms of the service provided to households and the amount recovered, both in absolute terms and per capita figures.’ (page 23) Some improvements in organics recovery in Tasmania had been reported in recent years by ‘industry estimates suggest that overall as little as 18% of available organic waste is currently recovered, excluding energy recovered from landfill gas.’ (page 23).