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Southbank pushes council on waste

08 May 2019

Southbank pushes council on waste Image

By Sean Car

Our local community, led by the Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) and Southbank Sustainability Group (SSG), has played an integral role in reshaping the City of Melbourne's 2030 waste and resource recovery strategy.

In what will prove to be a critical and defining document in our city’s short-term effort to reduce its impact on climate change, the strategy was put before councillors at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on April 16.

With reference to Victoria’s current recycling crisis, the strategy outlines the opportunity to accelerate a move towards a circular economy on a reuse, recycling and recovery system with a vision to transition toward zero waste to landfill.

Key priorities include options to separate organic waste, create a new recovery hub network for businesses, establish a new expert advisory service to support an improved waste system, create a waste minimisation and innovation fund and provide e-waste recycling options for residents.

It also proposed a number of governance improvements and pledged to advocate for greater investment in new resource recovery infrastructure, an incentive program to improve collection systems and the introduction of a container deposit scheme (CDS).

As part of the strategy, council is also set to pilot a food waste collection trial in Kensington, with 700 residents to receive a third kerbside bin for food scraps to test how a domestic food waste collection service could work in the municipality.

However, councillors would ultimately include a long list of changes and inclusions to the original strategy devised by council management, thanks to the efforts of 12 submitters, eight of whom were Southbankers.

SRA treasurer and SSG member Artemis Pattichi delivered a verbal submission on the night in which she warned councillors of the risks of not adopting more ambitious targets in the face of rising climate change.

“What the plan is greatly lacking and why we’re demanding the committee not endorse the plan in its current form is the implementation plan and how to get there in terms of avoiding reusing and reducing,” she said. “In its current form the implementation plan is basically continuing a lot of the existing actions and it’s not showing the innovation that it’s talking about in the plan.”

“Unfortunately, when you read the actual United Nations reports outlining the state of our environment we do only have the next 11 years to get this right before the tipping point is gone. That’s until 2030. We need to have a lot bigger, large-scale and ambitious actions to make a difference and to mitigate climate change because after that, that’s it.”

“It’s not the time to have a continuation of actions. We need to see bigger actions and a lot more innovation and we need to see the City of Melbourne leading and being the sustainable leader that it has outlined to be in this report.”

Some of the key criticisms of the strategy included low and missing targets for areas such as household (20 per cent by 2030) and industrial waste (75 per cent), methane gas, organic waste diversion from landfill or composting, as well as single-use plastics.

The strategy also floated the possibility of waste to energy schemes, which submitters were particularly critical of, arguing that commoditising waste would only incentivise its economic value. A push for more renewable energy was strongly encouraged.

The SRA and SSG also urged the council to pilot its own CDS, rather than only adopting a position, arguing that the results could potentially encourage the state government to implement a scheme sooner. The groups also argued that evaluation periods should be implemented into the strategy.

Some of the 15 changes and inclusions placed into the final draft strategy by councillors included:

  • Establishment of the setting of targets for 2023 to evaluate results and evolve actions for 2024-2030;
  • Incentives for residential, commercial and industrial sectors to reuse;
  • Targets for reduction in packaging, single-use plastic bags and plastic in general;
  • Setting higher 2030 waste recovery targets for City of Melbourne-sponsored events;
  • Exploration of alternatives to plastic for dog waste and disposal systems;
  • Only explore waste to energy after the review in 2023;
  • Campaigns and advocacy to reduce and repurpose cigarette butt litter; and
  • Review local laws to consider harsher fines for littering.

Councillors requested the final strategy and 2019-2020 implementation plan, inclusive of a one-year monitoring and evaluation framework, be reported back to the FMC with more information by July.

“Clearly on the volume of interest on our waste strategy over the last few years and the continued interest in what the City of Melbourne is doing with respect to the current waste crisis, as it’s called, the community quite clearly wants us to show leadership,” council’s chair of environment Cr Cathy Oke said.

“It’s not clear to the community, industry or even ourselves how we’re going to test things and achieve the reductions within the 10 priorities in the plan. We’re asking it to come back in July with a lot more information.”

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