Mildura Rural City Council manager Parks and Waste, Matt George, and Waste Management co-ordinator, Sarah O’Connor.

By VINNIE RODI

DEBATE continues to rage over Mildura Rural City Council’s proposed introduction of a third, 240-litre organic waste-specific bin to existing kerbside recycling and general rubbish services.

Under the proposal, unveiled by Council last month, the new ‘green bin’ will be made available for food and garden organic matter such as lawn clippings, food scraps and garden waste, and will be collected on a weekly basis.

The existing 120-litre ‘red’ rubbish bin would switch to a fortnightly collection, with the 240-litre ‘yellow’ recycling bin to remain a fortnightly collection.

The new three-bin system, if approved, will be introduced in about three years, and is expected to cost ratepayers an additional $55 a year.

And while the community appears generally supportive of the move, concerns have been raised about plans to shift collection of the 120-litre rubbish bin to a fortnightly schedule.

Letters to the Editor received by the Mildura Weekly in recent weeks have called for the 120-litre rubbish bin to remain a weekly pick-up, and instead have the new organic ‘green’ bin collected each fortnight.

Other residents have called for both the organic and rubbish bins to be collected on a weekly basis.

Mildura Rural City Council manager Parks and Waste, Matt George, and Waste Management co-ordinator, Sarah O’Connor, PICTURED, this week remained adamant that the proposal currently being discussed with the community was the best way forward.

And they had the statistics on hand to back up their stance.

According to Ms O’Connor, 55 percent, or just over half, of all waste currently making up residents’ general rubbish bins is garden waste (30 percent) and food waste (25 percent).

A further 20 percent of waste making its way into the region’s general waste bins is recyclable, meaning, on average, 55 to 75 percent of weekly waste could be diverted away from the 120-litre bin under the new proposal.

“From our perspective, people need to have a real think about what they are throwing into the rubbish bin, and ask themselves the question that if there was an organic bin available, and I am recycling correctly, what is actually left to go into my general waste bin?” Ms O’Connor said. “Is a fortnightly collection under this proposal actually going to adversely affect my household?”

The three-bin proposal currently being discussed with the community follows a successful organic waste bin trial in Merbein back in 2013.

“We had 1200 participants use this exact three-bin system as part of that trial over a 16-week period,” Ms O’Connor said. “That trial helped divert 117.9 tonnes of organic material away from landfill.

“We also found through the trial that, after one week, we had a 58 percent reduction, on average, in the total weight of the 120-litre general rubbish bin.”

Mr George said that the main aim of the three-bin proposal was to help Council improve its waste management practices, and in the process help the environment.

“What we can’t forget is that this is about reducing waste to landfill, it’s not about trying to make it less convenient for people,” he said. “In the feedback we have received about the proposal, people have called for additional services and larger bins, but that goes against what this is trying to achieve.

“The general feeling is that people want this (a green bin), and that while everyone has different circumstances, and most people think individually about what’s appropriate for their household, generally there is a desire for this to come into effect.”

Under Mildura’s current two-bin system, 32 to 33 percent of all waste generated in the region is diverted from landfill via recycling or by other methods. The Victorian average for waste diversion from landfill, in comparison, is between 60 and 80 percent.

“We’re trying to reduce our impact on the environment through this proposal,” Mr George said.

Mr George said that while keeping general rubbish collection as a weekly pick-up was not “entirely off the table”, Council’s research indicated that there were more benefits associated with its proposal, which would see the service shift to a fortnightly collection once the green bin is in effect.

He said that Council estimated that waste being diverted by landfill would increase by an additional 39 percent if the proposed 240-litre organic waste was collected weekly and general waste was collected fortnightly.

Mr George said that to introduce the organic waste bin as a fortnightly collection, and keep general rubbish as a weekly collection, would see that diversion rate increase by just 25 percent.

He said that having both the ‘green’ and ‘red’ bins collected weekly “was not an option” at this point.

Ms O’Connor said that the introduction of the organic waste bin would also open up education opportunities, providing Council with a chance to educate households about different waste, and how to effectively utilise all three bins.

“We are also planning on supplying households with a kitchen caddy (Mr George and Ms O’Connor are pictured with one) to aid with the introduction of the organic waste bin,” she said.

Mr George said that Council is continuing to host “intensive consultation” with the community about the proposal, and encouraged both supporters and objectors to have their say either by attending scheduled drop-in sessions, or by contacting Council directly.

“We’ll hopefully put a proposal, and the information to support it, to Councillors in September, and then go through a tender exercise and roll the service out if it is approved,” he said. “Once the proposal is before Councillors, they will have the option to accept it, amend it or reject it.”