Tweed Shire Council is considering overhauling its twice-a-year kerbside collection service of bulk waste which has become increasingly popular, with extra truckloads needed to remove all unwanted items and waste.
The service, operated for the past five years by contractor Solo Resource Recovery, has also faced a number of problems such as complaints about unsightly piles of waste been left for weeks on the roadside, scavenging and illegal dumping, as well as health and safety risks.
As a result, council staff recommended the currently free pickups for one metre of waste per household be replaced with a dial-up service for one free load per year, and a voucher scheme allowing one free trailer-load of waste up to 1.5 cubic metres to be dropped off at the Stotts Creek rubbish/recycling facility.
The voucher system is similar to one operating in neighbouring Byron shire, which several years ago replaced kerbside bulk pickups.
But Tweed councillors last Thursday decided to hold off, voicing concerns about the ‘restrictive’ ways of dumping waste and voted unanimously to defer the issue so they can workshop the issue again.
Cr Warren Polglase, who moved for the deferral, questioned the use of trailers to dispose of bulk waste, saying thousands of ratepayers did not own one.
‘There are 27,000 ratepayers in the shire, how many of them have trailers? We as a council should look at better ways to improve the system we have,’he said.
Cr Polglase said pickups at times were slow and rubbish would sometimes lay around for around 10 days.
The veteran councillor said that when wheelie bins were first introduced many years ago, people were against them.
‘Try taking their bins away today, there’d be enormous problems,’ Cr Polglase said, adding that the proposed voucher or trailer system was ‘too restrictive in ways people can take waste to the tip.’
He said there were 255 homes at Noble Lakeside Park housing estate in Kingscliff (which he manages), but only a couple had trailers.
Cr Carolyn Byrne said community input was needed ‘before we make a kneejerk reaction’ as the kerbside collections were ‘rightly or wrongly’ very popular for people recycling goods.
‘It’s a case of one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure’, Cr Byrne said.
Council general manager troy Green said the next kerbside pickup due in May would proceed as normal.
The shire’s director of natural resources Tracey Stinson said in her report that demand for the kerbside collection service had increased significantly in the past five years, both in the amount of waste collected and the number of loads required, leading to an ‘extended duration required’ to provide the service.
Ms Stinson said that last year, 618 truckloads carrying around 2,760 tonnes of waste were delivered to landfill, almost double the amount for the first year of operation in 2010 (380 loads with 1,838 tonnes).
‘The increase in tonnage and loads is contrary to what has typically been experienced in other regions, as higher levels of usage usually occur in the first two years of providing the service, with presentation tapering off over time,’ she said.
‘This trend likely reflects the cost of disposing of waste as this has increased significantly over the last five years due to the introduction of the state government waste levy. The convenience of this service may also be a contributing factor with residents stockpiling bulky goods knowing that the service will commene shortly.
‘The service is scheduled to be provided twice yearly over a five week cycle with the shire broken up into a number of discrete weekly portions. This timeframe has blown out significantly as the material presented has increased, with the November 2014 service taking over eight weeks to complete.
‘This has lead to a number of problems including:
• The negative aesthetic impact of having waste at kerbside for extended periods,
• People scavenging through the piles, spreading items and setting fire to the waste,
• An increase in the environmental and Work Health & Safety (WHS) risk of having material laying around the streets, and
• Illegal dumping including other people adding to legitimate piles and the formation of large piles that cannot be tied back to any residence.
‘Some residents are also putting material out at kerbside prior to the week of service (in some cases up to a month or more earlier) and whilst council has adopted a proactive approach in the management of this, the problem is getting worse with each collection as the people dumping the waste in most cases are unable to be identified.
‘There are also cases where residents put the material out late and still expect the material to be picked up.
‘Many residents are also presenting larger quantities than what they are allowed to, with the contractors currently picking up all of the waste without additional cost.
‘This makes it increasingly difficult for the contractor to complete the service within the time frames without adding significantly to the resources required, and the payment to the contractors has not increased beyond those originally tendered at the start of the contract.’
Ms Stinson said illegal dumping has increased significantly throughout the whole collection area ‘but more particularly on the fringes of the Shire with neighbouring councils not offering the service.
‘There are also a number of people dropping materials off onto piles in front of other properties and properties that are not entitled to the service presenting waste.
This waste dumped illegally often includes inappropriate materials such as batteries, paint, chemicals, building waste, tyres and syringes.
‘Council has also seen the advent of the “common pile” which is an aggregation of waste for a region or number of properties, or piles that appear in front of farms and out of the way locations that do not tie back to any property.
‘Council is unable to address the issue with the responsible party when inappropriate materials are presented in this way,’ Ms Stinson said.