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Rethinking waste

Australian cities are growing at an impressive rate and Melbourne is leading the pack with regard to total population growth according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data (Published: 31 July 2012). This growth, as a consequence, places pressures on essential services that allow us to go about our day to day lives.

One of these essential services is waste management and as a consequence of population growth, more waste is produced and it needs to be managed appropriately. Unfortunately we don't have a bottomless pit where the waste we produce magically disappears, so we have to come up with ways to deal with it in a environmentally conscious and sustainable manner or else there is the potential we could end up living in our own mess in more ways than one.

In 2005, the Victorian Government along with EPA Victoria created the Sustainability Fund which is a perpetual fund that receives money collected from Victorian landfill levies. According to the The Priority Statement of the Victorian Sustainability Fund (Published: February 2012), the objectives of the fund are outlined as follows:

  • To support Victorians to reduce waste and dispose less waste to landfill;
  • To support innovators in the waste management and recycling industry and local government who are willing to invest early in better technologies, facilities and services;
  • To remove logistical and systemic obstacles to recovering commercial value from otherwise abandoned material; and/or,
  • To assist in funding community initiatives to improve our environment, respond to climate change, use our resources efficiently and to support sustainability to advance the social and economic development.

In funding allocated in 2011-2012, the majority of the sustainability fund contributed to programs which focused on rehabilitation and management of land and waterways throughout Victoria, with the remainder looking into resource recovery. However, Ryan Smith, the Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change, placed more urgency on driving investment in resource and recovery to ease the squeeze on landfill capacities through the release of two funding rounds.

In the media release dated 31 July 2012, Minister Smith said "These two funding rounds are part of a broader suite of initiatives under the Coalition Government's Conserve, Invest and Save strategy to reinvest the landfill levy in better infrastructure where it is most needed. The funds will target key issues in the waste management sector, specifically diverting commercial and industrial waste and organic waste to landfill". Minister Smith also went on to champion the fund's ability to create an additional green economy through diverting waste to landfill.

One detrimental aspect of the increased landfill levies has been the increasing occurrence of illegal dumping of waste on the roadside. Besides the fact that this practice is in most cases unsightly, unhealthy and very hard to police, the benefits of the increased levies have proven very beneficial in leading us to a more sustainable future.

The sustainability fund in its earlier stages has proven to be a proactive approach in tackling Victoria's mentality around dumping waste at the landfill without the feeling of consequence. Society is becoming more and more conscious of the lifecycle of the products that they purchase and discard.

Similarly, developers are seeing the benefits of reusing materials in their development projects particularly at The Commons which is currently under construction in Florence Street in Brunswick, where much of the materials from the previous structure have been reused in the new residential development. These sorts of material reuse initiatives are great to see, however the applicability and sustainable impact of such initiatives would surely be restricted depending on the size and scale of the development.

A skyscraper made from 100% recycled materials you say? I guess only time will tell...

Excavators dealing with commercial waste. Image © www.sustainabilitymatters.net.au

1 comment

MelbourneGuy's picture

Interesting article.

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