The Ipswich City Council, west of Brisbane, says it intends to reverse its decision to send recycling to landfill.
The Council said on Wednesday China’s import ban on recycling and the rising level of contaminated or non-recyclable rubbish in yellow bins meant it had become too costly for the city to recycle, so from now everything placed in yellow bins would go straight to landfill.
More than half of the items being placed in Ipswich yellow top bins has been unrecyclable waste, and the city’s kerbside collections had already been going to landfill for four weeks.
Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said the Council was looking to utilise a provision in the Local Government Act which would allow the employment of a short-term recycling contractor.
“We have been upfront with the people of Ipswich, and we have proudly sparked a national debate on council waste management practice. This is an issue of global significance, and our position is strong,” he said.
“We have always been intent on calling tenders for waste-to-energy projects in this city, and we’re on the front foot when tackling the issue of waste management.”
Cr Antoniolli said the Council’s move had brought the recycling “crisis” into the public eye.
“It was kept hush — it was just being spoken about in the corridors of all levels of government, but not publicly,” Cr Antoniolli said.
“The existing methodologies of recycling are not working — they’re short-term, they’re not sustainable — we need some long-term strategies.”
Cr Antoniolli said the council would run a campaign to better educate residents about what items can and cannot be recycled.
“The cost is not the issue — the issue is contamination,” he said.
“If we can’t meet a certain level of contamination, they won’t accept it — it’ll go to landfill.
“At present there are quite simply too many pizza boxes, plastic bags, burger wrappers and other items not fit for recycling.”
Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland chief executive Rick Ralph said he was delighted by the council’s decision.
He said the mayor had reached out to industry and representatives would meet with council next week to discuss waste management strategies.
Urgent need for action on recycling
Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Enoch said in a statement she was pleased the Ipswich City Council had found an alternative solution to their waste management issue.
“I commend them for talking to industry and other stakeholders to work through their options and find an appropriate way forward,” Ms Enoch said.
“Residents need to feel confident in the recycling system so that they can continue to keep-up their recycling efforts.”
She said Australia needed a long-term national solution to recycling.
“That is why I wrote to the federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg last month and again this week, to communicate the urgent need for action and I am looking forward to discussing this issue at next week’s meeting of environment ministers,” she said.
“Queensland is doing its part and we are working with councils and industry on a zero-waste future.
“Our government has established a stakeholder advisory group that is assisting in the development of a comprehensive waste strategy, underpinned by a waste levy, which will encourage investment and innovation in the industry.”
Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) president Mark Jamieson said in a statement that while it was also pleased the Council had come up with an interim solution, there needed to be a more comprehensive, state-wide solution to manage the waste stream.
“This is why it [LGAQ] is committed — on behalf of its member councils — to working quickly and collaboratively with the Queensland Government on a zero waste to energy strategy,” he said.
“The LGAQ recognises that a number of councils across Queensland are struggling with the problem of managing recyclable waste in the wake of China’s ban on the importation of contaminated recyclable waste and that the interim measure being put in place by Ipswich may not be suitable — or an available option — for other councils.
“The focus of the LGAQ’s efforts will be very much on a long-term and sustainable solution that meets the needs of councils and the current and future generations of Queenslanders.”