Bins – not exactly the sexiest or most rock n’ roll subject we have been broached here within the annals of Common Ground.
But, though no star-studded celebrity may be behind the tale or immaculate imagery portray the topic, the Byron Shire Council’s recent organics bin initiative – to be launched in a little less than a month – is a story well worth being told.
It has been firmly affixed to the council drawing board for quite some time and the local community has long been hoping for a solution to the problem of green waste. Finally, and much to their credit, the Byron Shire will be following the lead and joining the example of its neighbours of Lismore and Ballina.
On August 3, almost each and every urban-dwelling one of us will be receiving a brand-spanking new green bin, and the Shire takes one giant step closer to sustainability.
We have all been diligent in our waste separation, making sure that our cans and paper and glass are cast into the yellow-top, with non-recyclables deposited disparagingly into the reds. But now there is one more way we can recycle. Garden clippings, food scraps, tea bags and even paper and soft card can now find a new home, destined for a far greater future than a lifetime in landfill.
“When the service is introduced, all of our household organics and recycling will go up to Lismore’s material recovery facility,” says council Environmental Programs Officer, Lloyd Isaacson. “instead of going to landfill our food and garden waste will now be processed into a beautiful certified organic compost which that can be returned to our soils and it’s a wonderful resource for our local farmers and gardeners.
“Our community is very supportive of local producers so I think people will be very happy to see that their green waste is turned into something so beneficial to farmers and them as well.”
So, great news for the Myocum tip: no more green waste, other than the larger garden waste that will still be received and mulched at Myocum. But what does that actually mean? For one, it means that an estimated three thousand tonnes of waste will no longer be taken to Myocum, easing the strain on the facility and allowing it to better handle other non-recyclable items.
“Incredibly,” says Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, “fifty per cent of what goes into our red landfill bins each week is food and garden organics, which is no good for our environment and a waste of a valuable resource.”
But in this win-win-win situation, that is just the first step. Green waste placed into landfill and covered over will not compost. The anaerobic (air-free) environment doesn’t allow the ‘right kind’ of bacteria to do their work, meaning a build-up of methane carbon dioxide – both very harmful to the environment and leading contributors of global warming.
Instead, the waste – which not only includes garden scraps and lawn clippings, but extends to egg shells, bones, in fact, anything that was once growing – is taken to Lismore, sorted and filtered for any contaminants and then stored for up to twenty weeks in wind rows, where it slowly composts, reaching up to two hundred degrees centigrade, to produce high quality, nutritionally rich, certified organic compost.
It will also create an influx of much needed jobs for the region:
“In terms of collection, it will create local jobs, but it will mostly be at the Lismore facility that they will definitely need more people,” highlights Isaacson. “They’re really keen to receive our organics because they process it into certified organic compost because there is such a high demand for the organic compost product from local growers, producers and residents.”
Those of us conscientious citizens who currently compost are still more than welcome to do so, but the bits and pieces – the palm fronds and so on – that can’t fit don’t break down in their personal bin can now also find a good, upcycled home. It’s a positive and easy way to give back to our community, properly sorting your trash to not only avoid over-burdening our local land-fill and environment, but also increasing recycled waste and creating rich, nutritious compost.
But as with any new issue, concerns have been raised, albeit a very few and of very minor consequence. Yes, it will mean three bins to take out, but only ever two at a time, with the green waste collection now taking place weekly and the standard recycling and standard trash alternating fortnightly, it really isn’t much hassle for a very worthy cause. And if this sounds all a little bit complex, visions of hovering our newspaper over three gaping bins, wondering ‘landfill-recycle-compost’, rest easy tonight, the bins will receive stickers clearly marked with their desired contents. It’s
just like back in good ol’ grade five – just match the pictures.
“The new 3 bin system will be an easy and convenient system for sorting and separating your household waste,” says Mayor Richardson. “Together we can reduce what we send to landfill, help our local environment and turn our waste into certified organic compost to be returned to the soils of our local farms and gardens.”
Additionally, each household will be issued a countertop kitchen caddy with fully compostable inserts, so there is no concern of stinky kitchen scraps attracting flies or vermin, so for significant environmental and ecological gain, the impact to our day-to-day is tantamount to zero.
Another huge win for Byron’s café-oriented population is that there is now a good home for the huge amount of compostable coffee cups, with the residential program gladly accepting them and commercial green bins planned for the future:
“Businesses are trying to do the right thing locally,” says Isaacson, “and they all have the compostable coffee cups, but the cups are then going into the recycling bin and compostable coffee cups are not ideal for the recycling process so it’s great news that they can now go in our green organics bins. We are really hoping the organics bin service can be introduced at a commercial level in the not too distant future.”
The council’s motivation for better recycling practice doesn’t end here though. With several tonnes of e-waste arriving at Myocum each month, we will soon see the establishment of specialty recycling stations throughout the Shire to accommodate batteries, mobile phones, light globes and so on, making it convenient for residents to better dispose of their e-waste.
It would seem like everything’s coming up roses, especially the local roses, which will benefit from a healthy supply of organic compost. At this stage, said compost will still have to be purchased at Lismore, but council is even looking at packaging it into smaller bags to sell locally, making it more accessible for the Byron community.
August 3 will be a bright day for the Byron Shire, a Christmas come early for us all, and a positive move towards reducing our community footprint. In the words of Darryl Kerrigan, looks like everybody’s kicked a goal.
Images: Byron Shire Council brochure to be distributed to Shire residents | permaculture.com.au / Lismore Council
For further information, go to: www.byron.nsw.gov.au