Recycling starts with us, at Council

Published on Thursday, 1 September 2022 at 4:00:00 PM

In my opinion...

Council CEO Ingrid Stonhill

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “it is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself”. In this instance those wise words apply, Katherine Town Council is going to be leading by example with the long overdue introduction of recycling.  Our first steps are mandating sustainable practices at our Civic Centre. We are so behind the rest of the country and indeed the world and need to be better at recycling.  If we want to change that for our town, then it needs to start with us. 

We have a $7.2million Materials Recycling Facility in the pipeline for Katherine. This is backed by the federal and Territory governments and is currently going through a feasibility study. As this likely will not come to Katherine until late 2024, we need to start the education campaign now.

In June, staff from council’s Department of Infrastructure and Environment Services conducted an audit of the Civic Centre’s staff behaviour with waste over a week. They found that about 60 per cent of waste could be diverted from landfill.  That’s over half of what we were throwing away.  Our first step was to remove personal under-desk bins and replace them with commune recycling bins for plastic and paper as well as a compost bin in our kitchen.

I know there will be some short-term pain as we get used to this change and personally, I know I will have to be more conscious of where my takeaway coffee cups go.

Our elected members are right behind us, and Councillor Jeremy Trembath is helping our staff with the composting process.  We plan for the soil that is produced will be used on council gardens and at the Waste Management Facility.

I believe one of the main benefits of this trial is that we will better understand the questions residents will have when kerbside recycling comes to Katherine residents, remembering our staff are residents too.  We will see how the trial runs and whether staff are happy to recycle and are doing it correctly.  When we reach a successful and sustainable point, then we will extend this program to our other facilities.

The Katherine Waste Management Facility will likely reach capacity in about 12 years and if the amount of waste that is deposited there is reduced through recycling and a circular economy, this timeline may be extended and possibly a new multi-million site might not be needed.

While Katherine and the Northern Territory have a smaller impact than the rest of Australia, sustainable practices are tied to our future. Countries like Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark are leading the way. Switzerland, despite being in the top five for waste production, has 100 per cent waste recovery. It stopped burying rubbish in landfills in 2000, and they recover 53 per cent of their waste through material recovery (such as recycling and composting). The other 47 per cent is incinerated for energy but while this is reusing waste, the energy it provides is small and burning waste can be toxic.  But the main learning here is, doing nothing is no longer an option.

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