Recycle Our Councils

Back in the old days, for those who can remember, the core business of councils was ‘roads maintenance, rubbish removal and basic infrastructure’, everything that supported the wellbeing of ratepayers. Now it seems that all of that has been contracted out and the basic responsibilities of a council towards its residents ostensibly handed to third parties, who have no vested interest in its citizens. Many government entities do this based on the argument that it’s not their ‘core’ business. All that councils (all councils) seem to be interested in are non-essential things such as art, ideology, social justice, politics and furthering councillors’ political ambitions. We moved some years ago from one of the worst rated councils, Wyndham, to one that is now fracturing at the seams as infighting and personal vendettas have forced administrators to take control. “South Gippsland council can ‘reflect on failure’ after suspension. The whole point of councils seems to have evaded our elected members as things fall completely into disrepute.

South Gippsland Roads - (source: South Gippsland Sentinel-Times)

South Gippsland Roads – (source: South Gippsland Sentinel-Times)

But a little background first to this story. One of the biggest environmental debacles so far has been Australia’s recycling saga that’s come crashing down as China and then India stopped accepting Australia’s rubbish, and now Malaysia is planning on doing the same. We’ll have to now just wait and see if Vietnam and Indonesia plan on following suit. How Australia even thought to do this is bizarre, given that all this is doing is transferring the problem of rubbish disposal onto someone else. However, on the other hand, we’re terribly worried about our minuscule contribution to the world’s CO2 output and are doing our utmost to destroy our economy as a result, yet we’re prepared to transfer millions of tons of real pollution to other countries. Mind you, self-righteous Canada has fallen even more afoul of the wrath of another country due to illegal rubbish dumping, ‘Canada Is Working on Plastic Problem Following Philippines’ Threat of ‘War’ Over Waste‘.

A private Canadian company shipped more than 2,450 tons of “illegal” waste to the Philippines.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines threatened to wage war over dozens of containers of trash illegally dumped in Manila by a Canadian company, Chronic Plastics Inc., seven years ago.

“I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that [trash] out … We’ll declare war against them, we can handle them anyway,” he said on April 23.

“Celebrate, because your trash is coming home … Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to,” he added.

Canada now says it is working to address the years-long conflict.

How is it that no one considered the unintended consequences of recycling when the scheme was first proposed? Honestly, as with all failed green schemes, only the apparent positive side of any proposal is considered and no one is allowed to consider any potential negatives. If it looks like it can save the planet, then there are never any downsides. Or so goes the mantra. Thus grew a recycling industry that very rapidly began to suffocate under its own waste, as there was no where to send the ever increasing quantities that were being collected. Rules were enacted that none of this waste could be disposed of in land fill and thus warehouses and any free areas started to become stockpiled with waste. Then someone hit on the idea of sending all the excess overseas, until those countries said enough is enough and closed their doors. And now we have a major problem on our hands, thanks to another well meaning but poorly thought out idea.

Ever growing piles of recycling waste - (source: ABC)

Ever growing piles of recycling waste – (source: ABC)

Back to the story. Not content with such a failed green scheme, councils everywhere are now moving to another barely thought out move to save the planet. This time they’re changing the household waste removal cycles and processes such that regular rubbish (food waste etc) will become a fortnightly removal and green waste (now to contain vegetable matter from your kitchen) will become a weekly removal. How these councils believe that households will fill green waste bins with left over salad scraps etc each week, which is where this waste is intended to go, beggars belief. And are we to pick the leftover green scraps from every plate after each meal? This has to be a scheme developed by Vegans who have no other type of food waste and maybe are trying to use this as a means to convert sane people to their beliefs. Now consider a normal household and just imagine the stench that will permeate from the normal waste bins containing food waste etc after stewing for two weeks in an Australian summer? Families that use disposable nappies are going to be in for some ripe old aromas emanating from their bins in no time at all. In fact, the regular waste and the green waste bin with rotting kale will become a restaurant on wheels for blowies driven to a frenzy by the aromas.

What a green waste bin is supposed to contain

What a green waste bin is supposed to contain

And while other councils have annual, free, kerbside hard waste collection, in South Gippsland it costs residents $98 per household for this annual contracted ‘service‘. Not only that, we now have to pay to take green waste to the local tip (sorry, recycling centre) in addition to our annual green waste bin charge, but we do get one month each year where we don’t have to pay to deposit green waste at the tip. At least with the Wyndham council you’d get two free trip passes each year so that you could take in things that wouldn’t go into into any regular bin. And councils wonder why residents hate them so much. Surveys of Victorian councils dating back to 2013 clearly show what residents want, yet councils still fail to serve their residents:

COUNCILS have been told to get back to basics after a major survey revealed that many residents are unhappy with the management of core services.

The State Government study of nearly 30,000 people found that most Victorians want their councils to focus on the three Rs – roads, rubbish and lower rates.

It comes after strong criticism of councils for running political campaigns, such as using ratepayers’ funds for the failed referendum bid to include local government in the federal Constitution.

More than 90 per cent of survey respondents said their municipalities could improve, with low scores given for management of roads, population growth, planning policy, parking facilities and footpaths.

And it’s no surprise that councils fail to serve residents, because all to often councillors believe that residents are there to serve the them. Councils are often a microcosm of the broader political environment, a stepping stone for those trying and get into state government and then Federal government, or a source of power for those who know they can’t go further. That means pandering to those who will enhance their opportunities and ignoring what they were elected to do. With an elevated feeling of self-importance, councillors all too often see no need to maintain any obligation to the community at large. And ultimately that leads to a completely dysfunctional council, as South Gippsland Council has demonstrated, adding itself to the list of those Victorian councils that preceded it.

Update 1. And it looks like none of this was a surprise after all:

The Victorian government failed to heed warnings as early as 2013 that China would stop taking recycling waste and did not take action to stop the system plunging into crisis.

Dangerous stockpiles of recycling waste are now sitting in the state and are set to grow, a damning report by Victoria’s Auditor-General says.

China foreshadowed major restrictions on imported waste in its 2013 “green fence policy”, but the Environment Department failed to anticipate the impact on Victoria’s recycling system, the report found.

Update 2. The joy of recycling continues, ‘Indonesia rejects ‘toxic’ Australian plastic recycling‘:

Batam: Indonesian authorities have rejected a 13-tonne container full of plastic recycling waste from Australia after it was found to be contaminated with toxic materials, and they intend to send it back.

Update 3. And now the dirty laundry is beginning to be revealed to all, ‘Waste industry chief calls on councils to cancel contracts with SKM‘. Of course this pointless recycling idea is simply going to remain problematic and will now start to cost residents even more. Maybe we should send it to Sweden:

Local councils are just as guilty of adding to the state’s dangerous and toxic waste stockpiles as “rogue operator” SKM, the head of Victoria’s waste management industry says, because they continue to send recyclables to the troubled company.

Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Victorian Waste Management Association, accused councils of being environmentally irresponsible in maintaining their waste collection contracts with SKM, despite the company’s list of breaches.

MAV President Coral Ross said councils were not being forced to deal with SKM but were acting out of their obligations to go to market and achieve best value for the community.

Update 4. The panic now sets in, ‘State government braces for recycling giant shutdown‘:

The state government is scrambling to attract an alternative waste collector in a bid to avoid up to 400,000 tonnes of recyclable material going to landfill.

“However, the government makes no apologies for having, through the Environment Protection Authority, taken the action it needed to take because the advice was that it was engaging in unsafe practices,” she said.

‘This whole recycling fiasco is entirely [Premier] Daniel Andrews’ and his government’s making. It is an absolute and total shambles.

“Now we see the predictable catastrophe, the predictable fiasco. It is a circus.”

Update 5. And the denial begins, ‘The recycling crisis doesn’t mean your rubbish needs to go to landfill. Here’s how you can help‘:

Bin-share with neighbours

Make a cardboard robot

Take it to a collection point

Hold onto it … for now

Help out an op shop

Update 6. This is how bad it’s become. ‘Residents urged to take responsibility for their own recycling‘. Residents pay rates and elect councillors to take care of these things, not pay rates and do the council’s work on their behalf. And no word about reducing rates for services not provided or provided by residents in lieu:

Victorian councils are urging residents to bring their own household glass, paper and plastic waste to collection points to be recycled and prevent it being sent to landfill, as the crisis gripping the kerbside collection system deepens.

Hobsons Bay City Council has started a weekly service so residents can drop off their recyclables, which are separated into two skips. The material is then sent to recycling company Australian Paper Recovery for sorting.

Councils are increasingly telling residents to take greater responsibility for their household waste to ensure it avoids ending up in landfill.

Update 7. Just as you thought things couldn’t get any more stupid, ‘Bins out at Melbourne school as students told to take all rubbish home‘. The only ‘wicked problems’ that I can see is what’s being taught, or not taught, at schools nowadays:

Melbourne Girls’ College is getting rid of all its bins and asking students to take their rubbish home in a bold bid to encourage them to move towards zero waste.

Starting next Monday, the Richmond college will over five weeks phase out receptacles in classrooms and the yard, leaving 1400 students and 140 staff to find their own home for chip packets and juice boxes.

Says principal Karen Money: “We talk a lot, as educators, about the wicked problems the world faces, and if we don’t start putting some actions behind that rhetoric, then it’s just empty.”

Update 8. A very interesting article here on councils, ‘How Green Zealots Take Over Councils‘:

It was a solemn moment at the Preston Town Hall (Vic.) on October 26, 2018, as Darebin Council raised the Intersex flag for Intersex Awareness Day.[1] Councils don’t come more woke than Darebin, which includes Melbourne’s green-hued northern suburbs of Northcote, Preston, Thornbury and Fairfield. It was an even more solemn day on December 5, 2016, when Darebin became the world’s first council to declare a “Climate Emergency”. Since then about 85 Australian councils have rung out their own “emergency”  declarations, plus 1300 worldwide, including New York and London. In the UK some 60 per cent of councils have declared an Emergency. The Australian numbers are astounding.  Nearly 7.4 million — roughly 30 per cent of the population — are covered by councils’ declarations.