Page 761 - Week 02 - Thursday, 12 February 2009

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MS LE COUTEUR: Okay. Can the government tell the Assembly how long it will take to fully implement this initiative and how the initiative will differ from the service previously supplied by Revolve at no cost to the government?

MR STANHOPE: At this stage the government is committed to discussing these issues with the Greens, and no decisions have been made about the prioritisation of waste initiatives that will be pursued by the government. As I indicated yesterday, these are issues in relation to waste and the prioritising of initiatives that the government might pursue that we look forward to discussing with you and, indeed, with broader interest groups.

As I indicated yesterday, we have during the campaign and in discussion identified a range of waste initiatives that we will now pursue as part of our commitment to NoWaste to increase the level of recycling and to reduce the amount of waste taken to landfill. As I indicated yesterday, at this stage somewhere in the order of 74 per cent of waste in the ACT is recycled. We are at the last quarter, the hard quarter. It is hard for a number of reasons, some of them technological. The technology does not yet exist to recycle some particular substances that are taken to landfill, such as asbestos. These remain intractable problems for us.

Other substances, goods or materials that might be recycled are difficult to recycle in the absence of a market for the recycled product. I might say that, on recent advice to me, one of the issues on which we are facing some difficulty in the current economy is the sale of wood product that is recycled. It seems quite remarkable that there two sorts of wood taken to waste. One is green waste, 90 per cent of which in the ACT is recycled and for which there is a very strong market.

The other seems to be builders’ waste, which is chipped at Mugga. However, a market that had previously existed, mainly in China, has not been as active in recent months and the stockpile is growing and growing. There is an issue there for that business that is involved in recycling wood.

We have identified a number of initiatives. Some of those initiatives are street-level recycling bins and the separation of more waste at the tip face into waste streams to facilitate its recycling. In that regard, I have mentioned waste streams that would separate out metal, wood, clothing, cardboard, bottles, plastic and organics. As I have said, this is very much at the forefront of ACT NoWaste’s thinking in relation to a next initiative, but I have signalled that I would wish to discuss that. It is also relative to our budget capacity.

As I said, it has been indicated to me that an expenditure of $4.7 million a year, through a process that would allow the separation of waste at the tip face into a whole range of streams to facilitate its recycling—it is essentially around people to separate the waste; it is a manual-intensive exercise—would increase our level of recycling from 74 per cent to 76 per cent, and actually reduce 20,000 tonnes a year from landfill.

I will just have to check some of these numbers, but interestingly, an all-of-territory third bin to collect organic waste—organic waste is about 40 per cent of household waste—would cost significantly more than that and return about the same level of reduction in waste to landfill.

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