Remote NT towns say goodbye to scrap metal

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Remote NT towns say goodbye to scrap metal

posted 22-Nov-2018

The four Councils in the Big Rivers Region in the Northern Territory (NT) have joined forces and gone into contract with scrap metal collector Sims Metal Management, who will go out to the remote towns and remove the scrap metal.

Scrap metal in remote towns has been a problem for many years. It takes up a large amount of space and is unsafe when managed improperly. Due to the far distance to scrap metal markets, most remote towns are unable to make use of these facilities in an economically viable way. Through regional collaboration, the councils have been able to create a feasible solution out of an environmental, logistical and economic burden.

The project started in Wadeye, a remote town located approximately 420 kilometres southwest of Darwin with a population of around 2,500 people. The town can be accessed via 180 kilometres of unpaved road that is inaccessible during the wet season. An estimated 600 cars were awaiting collection here, which equals at least 25 round trips with a road train.

The scrap metal is being transported from the remote towns by Sims Metal Management to central collection areas, where it will be crushed before shipping to Adelaide.

Although dealing with long distances and harsh weather conditions is not new to the Regional Councils, tackling these types of issues in the field of waste management is relatively new. Distances to recycling markets are large and while working with a limited budget, recycling is economically unviable for most communities.

The four councils, Roper Gulf, Victoria Daly, West Daly and Katherine Town Council, are part of the Big Rivers Region Waste Management Working Group, which has been meeting on a regular basis since 2014. The Department of Health, the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT), the NT Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA), the Department of Community and Housing Development and NT Worksafe are the other members of the group.

Since 2016, the Department of Health has funded the position of a Waste Management Coordinator for the group, who assist all the councils with waste related issues and identifies common challenges. The current coordinator, ir. Janna Poortinga, points out on behalf of the whole group about the uniqueness of this project:

“Never before has a project of this scale been initiated in the region. The climate, logistics and economics make waste a challenging subject here and the ‘usual way’ does not apply. We need to find our own way when it comes to waste and that is exactly what we are doing here.”

The coordinator explains:

“The key ingredients of turning an impossible task like the scrap metal issue into a feasible project are communication and collaboration at a very high level between all stakeholders, and that is exactly what has happened here. We hope this project can lead as an example for many other projects to come, not only for the region, but also for the Territory and even Australia as a whole.”

The group is already looking into new projects that can be initiated to tackle waste issues collectively. These include reduction of waste volumes and littering.