By VINNIE RODI

THE community has been encouraged to embrace Mildura Rural City Council’s decision to introduce a third, ‘green’ bin to kerbside collections.

And it’s a move one Councillor claims will have “inter-generational benefits.”

Councillors voted on Wednesday night to push ahead with a change to our kerbside collections, with a weekly 240-litre organic bin to be introduced.

The new policy will see the existing 240L recycling bin remain a fortnightly pick-up, while the current 120L rubbish bin will move from a weekly to fortnightly collection – a move that sparked community concern when the idea was floated earlier this year.

The new three-bin system will come at a cost to ratepayers – an estimated $55 a year – however, it is also tipped to divert 6000 tonnes of rubbish from landfill in its first year.

Food scraps, vegetables, fruit, meat, tea leaves, paper, lawn clippings, small branches, leaves and weeds will be diverted to the new organics bin, freeing up general rubbish space to allow rubbish collection to move to a fortnightly pick-up.

The new system will also provide the capacity for some households or businesses to have access to more than one rubbish bin – at an additional cost – with kitchen ‘caddies’, and a yearly supply of biodegradable bags, to be provided to households.

Cr Ali Cupper moved the motion to make the scheme a reality, adding an amendment that the service be subject to a review 12 months after it comes into effect.

“This is a high-profile issue, and there has been lots of discussion in the community and amongst Councillors,” she said. “It’s been clear in the community consultations… that there is not a great deal of understanding regarding the reasons why we would be doing this.

“There is a problem that we are trying to solve… We are producing too much landfill waste, and we’re producing it at a rate that is unsustainable.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions, as a result, are costing ratepayers a fortune in EPA fees. These emissions are also contributing to climate change, and more importantly for a community like ours, they are contributing to drought.

“For me, when I look at this proposal, not only does it save us costs, and also reduce our carbon footprint, but it also reduces rates pressure, and it more importantly helps future farmers by doing our bit to help combat climate change by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

“I understand that with any new policy it can cause some inconvenience… and the idea of only having a bin collection once a week sounds like a challenge. But I think it’s an adaptation we can make pretty effectively, just like we adapted all those years ago to the smaller, red-lid bin and the bigger recycling bin.

“The estimated savings will be $195,000 per year, so over five years that’s nearly $1million, and over 10 years that’s nearly $2million in savings to ratepayers. This is a solid policy that delivers inter-generational benefits, saves us money now, and helps us to do our bit to fight climate change.”

Cr Cupper, PICTURED, said she also fully understood concern surrounding the additional $55 a year set to be imposed on ratepayers.

“I would say that the financial benefits are going to greatly outweigh that in terms of the broader causes of putting downward pressure on rates,” she said. “I would like to pose this, which might inspire other people to look at this in another light, that this is a $55 yearly contribution to our future farmers.”

Information tabled to Councillors ahead of Wednesday’s vote indicated that food organic waste currently makes up 31 percent of the municipality’s rubbish bins, while a further 22 percent is classified as garden organics.

Based on these figures, Council is anticipating it will save $195,300 in Landfill Levy payments based on an estimated 6000 tonnes of organics waste being diverted from landfill each year once the third bin is introduced.

The implementation of an organic bin has been close to five years in the making, and followed a 16-week trial of kerbside organics services in Merbein, covering 860 households.

The trial used the same ‘three-bin’ system endorsed by Councillors this week, with 85 percent of participants indicating they wanted the service to continue following the trial’s conclusion.

In April this year, Council began community engagement regarding the proposed changes to kerbside collection, with 68 percent of participants supporting the service.

Cr Simon Clemence was another Councillor to speak in favour of the move, saying there had been “a lot of research and work done on the policy.”

“Unfortunately the community has not been engaged to get a proper understanding,” he said. “I refer to social media commentary – one of the issues raised was that a fortnightly rubbish bin won’t be enough.

“Three years worth of audits were done on these bins, and each of those audits worked out that just over 50 percent of rubbish waste was organic.

“Take all of that organic or green waste out of that (red) bin, and stick it in the organic bin that will be taken away weekly, and the rubbish bin is half empty, and can be taken away fortnightly.

“The reason we’re doing this is to save money… but also 6000 tonnes a year of waste will be diverted from landfill. That’s airspace at the tip. When that tip runs out of space, a new tip will cost ratepayers $10million to build. We have to do everything we can to keep that tip alive as long as we possibly can.”

Cr Anthony Cirillo, who moved an unsuccessful motion to lay the matter on the table, said that in recent weeks questions had been raised regarding the new service, adding that he would have preferred further community consultation be undertaken.

“In my opinion this service increases the biosecurity pressure across the municipality,” he said. “There’s also been arguments raised about the need for this bin in the residential areas versus the urban areas. 

“Those in the urban areas with larger blocks of land are already disposing of their green waste, and do not feel they need this extra bin.”

Cr Milne agreed that the motion should have been ‘laid on the table’ to allow “tweaks” to be made.

“There’s probably a couple of things that could have been tweaked to make it a little bit more palatable,” he said. “The financial impost is a concern… I think a lot of the community are for this, but it’s another cost.

“We’re on the TV every night with Mildura Future Ready, and we’re talking about our community, how we have low incomes… and now we’re going to put another $60 on rates.

“If we could do this with no cost… I think that would be far more palatable.”

Cr Brown said that while he has reservations, he was convinced the scheme had to go ahead.

He also maintained that a review of the service in 12 months time would also allow Council to undertake any “tweaks” needed.

Cr Poole also moved to clarify that the proposed $55 additional cost to ratepayers was a “worst case scenario,” with Council management confirming that the eventual cost to ratepayers could vary depending on the outcome of a tender process.

Council will now take the service to tender, with the third ‘green’ bin expected to be introduced on July 1, 2020.