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Seeing red over green bins

ACT Liberal policy to introduce free garden waste bins has concerned some locally-owned Canberra waste processing plants. Student journalist Molly Baxter investigates the impact.

A policy to introduce free garden waste bins to free-standing Canberra homes has been put on the table by the ACT Liberals.

If elected in October, a $5.5 million plan to introduce these bins to Canberra homes will be put in place.

The ACT Liberals plan to locate these bins in Canberra homes for free, with the government then preparing to process the fortnightly collected garden waste and resell it as mulch, eventually aiming to break even on the costs of the operation.

ACT Liberals candidate Vicki Dunne is certain that the plan will work in with Canberra businesses already processing garden waste.

We would open up the whole process and expect and encourage local business to participate in the tendering process, either as stand alone entities or in partnership with one another, because there is a lot of experience out there already in the trash pack business. The Liberal party hope that a fortnightly pickup will help those who do not have a car or have a disability and who struggle to get their garden waste to the plants already existing. We hope to make it easier for people to dispose of their garden waste, currently they either have to buy a trash pack or they have to drop it off themselves to a drop off place… many old people and people with disabilities can’t do this.

If elected, the Liberal party will see the green bins placed in free-standing Canberra homes in 2014.

More Cost?

The 2011 final report of the Hyder Consulting Assessment of Waste Infrastructure and Services [PDF] stated that Canberra achieved its 90 per cent recycling rate at a cost of approximately $5 a tonne where as a third bin service would cost on average around $50 a tonne.

Minister for the Environment and sitting ALP candidate Simon Corbell has said that the ACT Government commissioned an international waste expert last year to assess the plans for the third bin.

We don’t understand why you would implement a scheme that will cost ratepayers more and recycle less… they have no professional assessment for back up and we know it will cost $19 million to run with no improvement in the recycling rate, putting jobs and local business at risk.

Currently, there are several locally owned businesses available to Canberra locals to dump garden waste for free located at Macgregor, Mitchell and Fyshwick. 

These businesses allow locals to dump their garden waste, which is then processed into garden mulch and sold at a profit to the business, an option that the Labor government has funded for several years to stop garden waste going to landfill. But with a $10 million dollar plan to build a processing plant, locals are worried about the effect it will have on these local businesses.

Local Businesses Chip In

Local business owners say that the plant will barely affect the huge amounts of garden waste already deposited at local plants. Large amounts of garden waste are bought in to the companies in a variety of ways, including anything as small as a boot load of clippings to a truck full of logs.

Co-owner of Corkhill Bros. Brian Corkhill states that the bins provided would barely fit week’s lawn clippings in them compared to what is usually deposited each day at his plants in Mugga Lane. A locally owned business for over 25 years, Corkhill Bros. is a major processor of huge amounts of Canberra’s garden waste. 

Molly interviewed Mr Corkhill to get some insight into this long established Canberra business:
 

(Download the audio file)

Mr Corkhill states that the third bin will not be enough for the people of Canberra as people drive in with truckloads of waste everyday, often piled in front seats and boots as well as trailer’s, utes and trucks. Corkhill brother’s process about 100 thousand cubic meters of loose garden waste per month that he expects in time will only rise.

“Years ago when you moved into Canberra, the government gave you a heaps of trees, people took everything they can get for nothing now they are forever cutting them down.”

Mr Corkhill expressed his concern at the introduction of a processing plant, due to the method it takes to make the mulch and which also produces about four other products.

“The bins will not be enough to pick up the waste of Canberra households. If you notice the number plates that come into the Mugga Lane plant, its all NSW plates, Queanbeyan people even make the trip in and they already have the bins.”

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