Council addresses recycling and climate emergencies

City of Melbourne (CoM) moved to fast-track its waste strategy on August 5 in response to Victoria’s escalating recycling crisis, less than a month after councillors adopted the strategy and in the same meeting declared a climate emergency.

More than 30 Victorian councils have been sending their recycling to landfill since July 25 when recycling firm SKM announced it would no longer accept them. The CoM has sent 45 tonnes a day since then.

10 days earlier, the council adopted the Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 and moved an urgent item of business by formally declaring a “climate and biodiversity emergency”.

The waste strategy includes an independent feasibility study into the establishment of a new large-scale recycling centre that would service multiple municipalities.

Announcing the strategy’s fast-tracking, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said it would involve both short- and long-term aspects.

“We want to stop recyclables going to landfill as soon as possible and deliver long-term improvements for our residents and businesses,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We are going to increase the number of shared waste hubs for businesses in the central city and work with businesses in the central city and work with businesses to reduce the amount of waste they produce.”

“Our team is examining international best practices and will run an expression of interest process looking for technologies that could be used in Melbourne’s inner-city laneways. This could include using everything from mini-compactor bins, to specialised vehicles, and collection of source separated materials such as glass, organics, paper and cardboard.”

CoM also joined other Victorian councils such as the City of Frankston, the City of Darebin and the City of Port Phillip in calling for the state government to introduce a state-wide container deposit scheme (CDS) – a recycling cashback plan for individuals and community groups.

The council’s July 15 climate emergency motion was moved by environment portfolio chair Cr Cathy Oke and endorsed unanimously, declaring that climate change and mass species extinction posed serious threats to the people of Melbourne and should be treated as an emergency.

While noting its ongoing commitment to mitigating climate change through a range of initiatives such as the Melbourne Renewal Energy Project and the Climate Change Mitigation Strategy, Cr Oke said she felt frustrated that more wasn’t being done.

“We are on track to far exceed the 1.5 degrees increase that thousands of scientists acknowledge that, pass that point, and we are in dire circumstances. We need far more action at all levels of government,” she said.

Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said that all councillors had engaged in a “robust discussion” about the use of the word “emergency” and how that would help curb climate change in the municipality.

“It’s not about scaring people but it’s actually about how you resource things and push towards targets. It sends a message to our community that we take this very seriously,” Cr Wood said.

“We’re actually on track by 2030 to be responsible for 13 per cent of global emissions so that’s no longer the get out of jail free card that people use to say that ‘we’re not much of the problem’ and ‘we shouldn’t move on this’.”

Cr Wood also slammed the lack of leadership from the federal government on the issue, noting that if it wasn’t going to act then it should not “stand in the way” of those wanting to do so.

Cr Jackie Watts also gave an emotional address in support of a section of the motion, which acknowledged the action that young people were taking across the world in demanding more from their governments.

“We are in a very dire situation. We have an obligation to tell it how it is, and we are,” Cr Watts said. “This motion actually shows respect for the young people who will actually have to deal with the mess we are fighting.”

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