April 18, 2007
Rubbish piles up as recycling falters
A PLAN to tackle Sydney's rising tide of waste was bound to fail because the State Government was not doing nearly enough to reach its own targets, a critique of NSW's waste strategy says.
Rubbish was being generated faster than it could be diverted from landfill, in part because of a lack of incentives to collect material for recycling, the Total Environment Centre said.
At the same time, it was becoming more expensive to send material to landfill because of a lack of suitable land in metropolitan Sydney for rubbish tips, the centre said in a submission to the Government's draft consultation report on waste.
"The Woodlawn tip [at Goulburn] was the first metropolitan landfill in the bush," the director of the centre, Jeff Angel, said. "The price [of disposing of waste] for ratepayers is getting quite expensive as landfill sites move further away from the cities," he said. "Not only is there an issue of trying to get more landfill sites but in being more economical in how we use the [waste] resources."
Landfill is a significant contributor to Australia's rising level of greenhouse gas emissions. As food and paper scraps break down they generate methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The office of the NSW Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water, Phil Koperberg, did not return the Herald's calls about the waste strategy.
In 2003 the Government set several targets, to be met by 2014, for increasing the recovery and use of certain kinds of rubbish: recovery of municipal waste was to rise to 66 per cent from 26 per cent; commercial and industrial waste to 63 per cent from 28 per cent; and construction and demolition waste to 76 per cent from 65 per cent.
"Instead, waste generation in Sydney has increased from an estimated 6.8 million tonnes in 2000 to 8.8 million in 2005, and although overall resource recovery has increased dramatically, it has not been enough to counter the increase in waste generation," the group said in its submission.
The main obstacle was a lack of infrastructure for rubbish collection, especially in the commercial sector, Mr Angel said. Deposit legislation was needed to encourage consumers to return beverage containers or a third party to collect them, he said.
In Western Australia the Government has been advised by its expert panel to adopt container deposits because they will financially help local councils, significantly lift rubbish recovery rates and help cut greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfill.
"The State Government sees [deposit legislation] as a national problem, but if it made a start other states would follow, just as has been the case with greenhouse gas emissions trading," Mr Angel said.
Residents account for a third of the state's waste stream, with commercial and industrial representing another 45 per cent, and 23 per cent from construction and demolition. More than half of the commercial waste is office paper, much of which is not recycled, and more than 50 per cent of drink containers are not collected for recycling because the drinks are consumed away from home.