Ballina Shire Council staff have drafted a new policy allowing for the funding of new projects tackling waste reduction in the shire.
The new proposed policy, to start with $50,000 from existing funds, comes as one of this term’s new Ballina Shire Greens councillors calls for local government action on waste minimisation in the wake of a global soft plastics recycling crisis.
Greens Cr Kiri Dicker has submitted a four-part motion for this week’s ordinary November council meeting, with the last two parts calling for letters to be written to relevant government authorities and stakeholders.
The second part calls for the council to look for guidance on updating waste management policy from Local Government New South Wales.
The heart of Cr Dicker’s motion is in Part One, which calls for the council to investigate ‘potential updates’ to its procurement policies.
Cr Dicker wants the council’s waste management policy to ‘support a decrease in the purchase of non-recyclable materials’.
Think global, act local
The Greens councillor says the decrease could be achieved by encouraging ‘assessment of product need, utilising products/materials containing content recycled domestically, optimising reuse and increasing the uptake of products and materials that contain recycled content where they are comparable in cost, quality and performance, and do not have known worse environmental outcomes’.
Notes for the motion on this week’s agenda showed Cr Dicker referring to the recent ‘suspension of the REDCycle soft plastic recycling scheme, which operated in over 200 major supermarkets nationwide’.
Cr Dicker said an ‘exponential increase in plastic consumption worldwide’ was ‘at the root’ of the problem.
‘The World Economic Forum advises that global production of 15 Mt in 1964 grew to 311 Mt in 2014, is expected to double again by 2034 and almost quadruple by 2050,’ Cr Dicker noted, referring to the National Waste Report, 2020.
‘The vast majority of plastics in Australia (85%) are not recycled and end up in landfill,’ Cr Dicker wrote.
‘In the absence of regulations that stipulate mandatory recycled content, the onus is on consumers (including individuals and institutions) to use their collective purchasing power to drive change,’ the Greens councillor continued.
Council staff call for waste minimisation funding
Cr Dicker said the Australian Local Government Association recommended councils adopt ‘more supportive, mandated procurement targets’ for products containing recycled material.
The Greens’ councillor’s call came at the same time as separate advice from council staff suggesting current ‘limited policy avenues’ meant ‘valuable ideas or activities to promote waste minimisation and resource recovery activities’ were not being achieved.
A policy enabling the council to consider ‘providing assistance in a flexible or timely manner’ for ‘worthwhile projects’ was missing, staff said.
Ballina council knocking back pitches for action on waste
The advice came as part of the agenda’s section on Civil Services Division Reports concerning donations for ‘Community Resources Recovery Initiatives’.
Staff said the council was ‘often approached by community stakeholders requesting financial assistance to deliver projects and initiatives’ aligned to its waste minimisation and resource recovery education and program.
A proposed new ‘Donations – Community Resource Recovery Initiatives Policy’ provided a framework for ‘the management and distribution of financial donations provided to community members/groups for the purpose of conducting waste minimisation and resource recovery projects and initiatives within Ballina Shire’, staff said.
$50,000 to kick-start Ballina waste reduction projects
A report was included, outlining the ‘benefits’ and seeking ‘direction’ for public exhibition of the draft proposed policy, with staff suggesting an initial budget of $50,000.
‘However, this amount may need to be reviewed by Council throughout the financial year in response to the number and value of applications received and any impacts on the Landfill Reserve Management (LRM) budget,’ staff advised.
‘A budget adjustment will be made at the next quarterly review if Council adopts the proposed policy,’ staff said.
Staff said so long as there was enough money in the LRM budget, any application assessed as providing a ‘value for money solution’ for promoting ‘waste minimisation and resource recovery education and messaging in the community’ should have a chance to be funded.
‘This will help to enhance and expand the delivery of Council’s strategic resource recovery program to sectors of the community that Council would otherwise not reach given its resource constraints,’ council staff advised.
Staff said the policy was separate to an existing Donations – Financial Assistance for Community Groups Policy.
‘The reason for this is that the existing policy is funded from general revenue, is often over subscribed for the funds available and the assessment considerations are very different,’ council staff said.
‘The assessment for the Resource Recovery projects is designed to consider the value returned to the environment and the avoided costs from landfill for each project,’ staff said.
Cr Dicker’s notice of motion and the staff proposed policy for donations to a community resource recovery initiative projects fund were to be debated at Thursday’s ordinary council meeting.