COMMUNITY WASTE FORUM AT DROMANA
29 October 2017
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you Mayor Colomb for your welcome. Might I also thank our own Chief Operating officer Niall McDonnagh, Jess Wingad our Manager Climate Change Energy and Water and Daniel Hinson Team leader Waste for organizing this important forum on behalf of Council.
For those whom I have not met, Hugh Fraser is my name. My ward is Nepean Ward – the next ward down the road – but we all have one problem in common – our waste! This is something we all have to know about because its proper management is essential for our personal wellbeing and that of our environment.
And waste costs Council and the ratepayers $20m per annum. Critical that we as a community and as a Council do our very best to dispose of our waste in accordance with the world’s best practice.
I propose to speak about two sources of waste – first, what we put down to the septic tank or sewer and secondly, what goes into our wheelie bins – in which our application of technology is lagging well behind World’s best practice.
First, turning to what we put down to the septic or sewer. Earlier this year I had a close look at Dover Castle – a massive medieval stone structure. The castle has large halls with bedrooms on the upper level and buried in its 10m thick walls are a number of small communication passages, spiral stairs, and service rooms. One was carved out of the interior of the walls, had a raised bench at one end with a wooden bench top and a suitably sized round hole a piece of rope and a bucket!
It was, of course, a mediaeval equivalent of our very own septic tank – waste disposal technology – if that is what it can be called – still in use here on the Mornington Peninsula 800 years later.
Well, we are working to solve that with mains pressure sewerage from Rye to Portsea, 246 km sewer pipe installed between 2013 to the present time at a cost of $357 m – largest project of its type in the Australian History. It will collect 7.2 m litres of waste water and remove it from 16,000 properties on the Mornington Peninsula, process it and return it as class A water and available for use on our recreation grounds, parks and market gardens. This will prevent our groundwater, wetlands, our precious Tootgarook wetlands and beaches being increasingly contaminated with bacteria from our aging septics – our once fresh groundwater is now undrinkable for human consumption and increasingly so for our wildlife.
This is cutting edge technology – and the important point is that by collectivizing our waste in sufficient quantities and hub our waste in accordance with state government policy, we can create economies of scale, we can remove waste from the Peninsula, process it with cutting edge mechanical technology and safely return it to the community and environment.
So the catchcry “we must be responsible for our own waste”, if literally applied, would mean no mains sewerage for the Morning peninsula and we would all still be using septic tanks. Its a silly reactionary nonsense catchcry.
Turning now to the disposal of municipal kerbside waste – what goes into our three wheelie bins. Niall and Daniel are to speak more about that a little later.
In September I was fortunate to be included in a study visit to China to have a look at 5 waste to energy facilities in Shanghai, Nanjung and some 600 km from Shanghai – Xuzhou (shoezo).
With me were our Chief Operating Officer Niall McDonagh and Waste team leader Daniel Hinson.
Together we formed part of a large Council and business team from Greater Dandenong City Council, the Metropolitan Waste Resource Recovery Group (a Victorian government statutory authority of which this shire is a member and I delegate) and officers from the Victorian Trade Commissioners office in Shanghai.
The Victorian minister for the Environment was following in our footsteps two weeks later. As usual, the State Government is always a follower, not a leader, in waste and climate change adaption.
I should just like to say a few words about Waste In and Out of the Shire. Preferably out of the Shire.
It’s important that we engage with the national and international community about waste to ensure that we as a shire are disposing of our waste in the best possible manner.
For example, internationally in Edmonton in Canada, a well-trained community achieves a high degree of waste separation of putrescible waste, recyclables and green waste. And this separation at point of receipt into the processing system is very important.
First, because it enables the volume of household waste that goes to land fill to reduced and ensures that only the putrescible food waste goes to landfill. Secondly it enables the application of cutting edge technology as an alternative to land fill and waste to be processed in waste to energy incineration facilities generating electricity with a minimum of residual.
At the other end of the international spectrum, In Shimla, the old summer capital of India, a basic rubbish bin collection service is provided by the municipal authorities which the residents simply will not use.
They prefer to throw their rubbish out the back door and streets, as they have done for hundreds of years, clogging up the waterways and wrecking the environment. There the authorities imprison people for doing so.
Again by way of contrast, In Timor-Leste there is a one a week village burn off day – but this is now complicated by the introduction of western petro chemical plastics which are thrown away contaminating clogging the waterways and contaminating the environment. Another appalling example of the ill-disciplined use of carbon.
So what are the lessons for us? On the Mornington Peninsula we have the spectacular Tootgarook wetlands – teeming with flora and fauna and under major restoration at Boneo Park, internationally recognized mineral springs, fabulous deep hot water aquifers, high ground water supporting a whole ecosystem of wildlife and providing a food source through Chinaman’s creek to Port Philiip Bay and attracting dolphin and other marine life. But is there we bury our household waste in the Rye landfill.
Three years ago Council shifted its policy and committed to carbon neutrality by 2021. We did an audit of our greenhouse gas footprint and found that the Rye landfill methane gas emissions contributed 48% to our carbon footprint. Street lighting contributed another 28% and our own electricity consumption 20%. Council is now rolling out LED street lighting to fix this. It is possible to buy green electricity. There has to be a better alternative to landfill in Rye.
As part of the carbon audit, council modelled closing the landfill by the end of next year. The results were starting – if it did so the methane emissions would fall by 78% by 2050. If it continued the landfill to the end of its natural life in 2032, greenhouse emissions would rise by 28 % by 2032 and then only fall from 2018 levels by 28% to 2050. We can solve this intergenerational problem if there is an alternative to landfill in Rye.
And it is very expensive to maintain this landfill – each year our CEO Carl Cowie signs off on a cheque for $2.8m to the State Government landfill levy fund. Substantial capital is required to develop new landfill cells, cap of the old and maintain them. We have invested some $30m in this landfill levy fund and in excess of $400m is now available to construct a waste to energy incineration facility servicing the south east metro area – if government and enough councils are minded to do so.
To shift from landfill to a waste to energy facility is not something this council, on the application of the present technology, can “go it alone”. Economies of scale are required to offer this facility. State government waste policy is to “hub” waste in particular areas. There are obvious transport efficiencies in hubbing waste in Hampton Park and South Dandenong where centres of excellence in the process and recycling and composting waste are, and are under, construction. These areas and Rye are roughly equidistant from our major populations centres in Mornington Mt Eliza, Baxter, Somerville and Hastings.
Rye landfill consumes some 33,000 t per annum; Melbourne landfills 3 million tonnes per annum. Together with greater Dandenong we might have some 75,000 tonnes per annum of waste feedstock to contribute to a waste to energy facility.
In China we viewed some five Waste to Energy facilities which were generally required 750,000 tonnes of waste feedstock per annum – and at best our two councils can contribute a mere 10%.
The point is that in the short to medium term the whole of the south east metro area has to aggregate all of its waste, bring all its many separate waste contracts into one bundle with common terms and duration and then go to the market. With a proper business plan, the rising gate fee cost of increasingly scarce landfill will meet a falling gate fee cost of a Waste Energy Facility
The challenge is for the Metropolitan Waste Resource Recovery Group working with the newly reconstituted Southern Metropolitan Partnership to achieve this. I am confident that with all the excellent work our CEO Carl Cowie and his officers have put into recently creating the Southern Metropolitan Partnership – that this Council and the partnership is more than capable of driving this vital project and build our first Waste To Energy facility in the Southern metropolitan area.