By Matthew Pearce
Representing 31 councils in North Gladstone, LAWMAC sees great potential in the future of waste management and resource recovery – but also great challenges that will need to be overcome.
The Local Authorities Waste Management Action Committee met in Townsville last month where they discussed issues such as recycling tires and solar panels and creating resource recovery areas.
LAWMAC chairman and deputy mayor of Rockhampton Regional Council, Neil Fisher, said one of the biggest issues facing the group was electric vehicle batteries and what happened when they reached the end of their life. life.
“Electric vehicle batteries last about five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half years,” he said.
“The question is, at that point, is the car worth enough money to justify paying for another battery? Are we going to have a major problem with abandoned cars?
“Any abandoned vehicle costs the local government money, but electric vehicles pose an additional problem as the batteries become a contaminated item for landfill.”
Cr Fisher said LAWMAC is calling on manufacturers to take responsibility at the end of their product’s life with a stewardship program similar to those in place for tyres, paint, mattresses and packaging, allowing batteries to be recycled by the manufacturer.
“Upscale like Tesla is working on stewardship programs, but we’re starting to see a proliferation of cheap Chinese electric vehicles coming to market, which will encourage a lot of people to go electric,” a- he declared.
Other items that cause problems when they reach end of life include mattresses and lithium batteries.
“We’ve had a 100-fold increase in lithium batteries in recent years, they’re in just about everything we use. But they cause landfill fires and we’ve also had fires in the back of collection vehicles garbage.
“We’ve started building our strategies for a carbon-neutral world, but we’re going to be continually littered with mistakes that were made by only looking at the ‘warm and fuzzy’, the things that look good on the facade. , but can cause problems years later.
Cr Fisher said economist Ross Garnaut had spoken with LAWMAC about the economic opportunities associated with minimizing waste, such as recycling items such as solar panels and tires.
“We are already seeing a number of businesses leveraging recycling and resource recovery and I think we are going to see continued growth in the years to come as the community moves towards zero waste,” he said. declared.
“Developing waste areas in parts of Queensland could take resource recovery to a whole new level. A place where entire cottage industries could be developed simply by taking the by-products of what has been landfilled and reusing their components.
“What LAWMAC does is already feed into CQ ROC and various other regional council groups and their waste management plans, which puts us in a very good position across North Queensland to be ahead of the game. guard when various funding opportunities arise.
He said the days of local councils ‘digging massive holes and dumping all sorts of rubbish in them are long gone’.
“We call it resource recovery from waste, because it’s not waste in landfills now, it’s a resource we can use.”
Cr Fisher said he sees opportunities in CQ communities to recycle solar panels and tires as well as concrete, which is turned into crushed aggregates that can be reused.
Rockhampton is already halfway through a FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) trial, alongside Townsville, Lockyer Valley and Ipswich.
Organic material collected from curbside bins is taken to a commercial composting facility in Gracemere to be processed into several grades of compost products.
Cr Fisher said there is no “one size fits all” approach to net zero carbon emissions, with recycling plans that can work in unviable state capitals in areas where there are smaller population groups with large distances between them.
“LAWMAC is committed to by 2050 we are starting to plan for a future that I think everyone wants to embrace but not always want to do anything themselves. We take the lead and lead by example and hopefully bring the rest of the country with us.