Broken Hill local Joe O’Connor brings his recycling to the tip “once or twice every month or two”. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)
Recycling requires more motivation in the outback, where there is not a yellow-lidded bin in sight.
- Kerbside waste collection and recycling services are not widely available across remote and regional Australia
- Plans to introduce recycling bins in Broken Hill had been stalled due to “significant” costs
- Some people travel 500kms across the border to visit a Broken Hill bottle yard to claim 10 cents a can
If you want to recycle in Broken Hill, you have to make a trip to the local bottle yard or drive to the tip at the edge of town and sort glass, cans, plastics and paper into separate skip bins.
For some, a recycling trip to the tip is a weekly routine, but the council’s general manager, James Roncon, said the town still had “a way to go”.
“There’s probably not a strong recycling culture in Broken Hill; certainly not as strong as we would like it to be,” he said.
Cost of kerbside recycling an obstacle
Kerbside waste collection and recycling services are not available in a significant number of communities in remote and regional Australia.
Residents of Broken Hill can take their recycling to the tip and separate the items into bins. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)
According to a 2018 report by the Department of Environment and Energy, 91 per cent of Australian households had access to a kerbside recycling collection.
But 123 local government areas (LGAs)— almost a quarter of the total number of LGAs across Australia — offered no collection or recycling service at all.
Each household in Broken Hill has a green waste bin that is collected with the contents added to local landfill as a cover to suppress dust.
Mr Roncon said kerbside recycling for containers, paper and cardboard was something Broken Hill locals would “love to see” but it would come at a “significant” cost, so plans to introduce recycling bins and collection services for the town had been stalled.
“The people that are proactive about wanting to see kerbside recycling become less enthusiastic when you ask them if they are prepared to pay for it,” Mr Roncon said.
Recycling for cash
Adrian Channing took over the bottle yard from his father. He says there are 13,000 crushed cans in each bundle. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)
After 35 years running the local bottle yard in Broken Hill, Adrian Channing said he knows most of his customers by name.
“It varies — I’ve got people on the old-age pension, I’ve got some P-platers in the yard,” he said.
“It’s not just one particular demographic of person that does it. Everybody does it.”
Some customers travel long distances to earn their 10 cents a can.
The crushed cans and smashed glass are carted away by a local freight company to recycling centres in Adelaide. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)
Mr Channing said he sees people who journey almost 500 kilometres south from the Queensland border to deliver their recycling to his bottle yard.
“Our average amount of cans or bottles per customer is about 600 units,” he said.
He said the “only way” to encourage people to recycle was by offering a financial incentive.
Before the NSW Government-run ‘Return and Earn’ scheme was introduced in December 2017, he was processing less than half the number of items he is now.
“Money’s hard to come by nowadays I suppose. Everyone’s doing it a bit hard, so any money they can put in their pockets is a good thing,” he said.
Recycling creates jobs in rural town
The nearest town to the east of Broken Hill is Wilcannia. There is little between them but a seemingly never-ending desert-scape either side of a lonely 200-kilometre stretch of highway.
Before Wilcannia had its own recycling facility, some locals would drive out to Broken Hill with their cans and bottles.
Kevin Cattermole holding a poster he designed about Wilcannia’s Return and Earn scheme. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
“It was an inconvenience, really,” said Kevin Cattermole, who oversees Wilcannia’s Return and Earn shop.
The Wilcannia recycling shop was opened as part of the Aboriginal Communities Waste Management Program — run with the NSW Local Aboriginal Land Councils and funded for four years through the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health.
Mr Cattermole said the positive impacts of having a recycling station in town were many.
The streets are cleaner, children have a chance to earn pocket money, and new jobs have been created for locals.
“It’s a couple of days’ employment for the boys … and that keeps them out of trouble and [they earn] a couple of extra dollars for themselves,” Mr Cattermole said.
Senior project officer Tash Morton said the next phase of the waste-management program was building a local recycling facility for plastics.
They will build a machine that shreds plastics so they can be made into new products, like mobile phone cases, tiles, pots, and reusable cups.
Tash Morton speaking to school children visiting her recycling stall at the Wilcannia careers fair. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
But for now, Ms Morton said “everything was ending up in landfill”.
“All these great resources that could be recycled are so far from recycling centres that it’s not economical for these councils to collect them,” she said.
“In towns like this, it’s about what can we do to process the waste here.”
She said her role was to support locals to get their own sustainability initiatives off the ground and to run workshops about waste at the local school.
“The ultimate aim would be a cleaner Wilcannia and the kids growing up in a town knowing that waste is a resource and they can keep it out of landfill and reuse it,” Ms Morton said.
Learning recycling habits early in life
Preschool teacher Katie Bassett-White is encouraging a stronger culture of recycling in Broken Hill by teaching the town’s youngest residents to be mindful of how they dispose of their rubbish.
The children at Alma Bugdlie preschool collect cans that they exchange for money to buy stationery.
Jarrah, Zhandar and Avril are learning how to recycle with their teacher, Katie Bassett-White. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)
There are at least 10 small wheelie bins dotted around the school with different coloured lids to indicate what should go in each of them.
“We like to make it as easy as possible for the recycling to happen,” Ms Bassett-White said.
“The visual reminder of having a bin close by helps to encourage the environmental responsibility.”
Recycling may take more effort in a place like Broken Hill, but she said that did not make it impossible.
“I know it would be a lot easier if there were the bins that they have back on the coast, but we don’t have that so it’s just a different sort of planning, that’s all,” she said.
Credit: Source link