For some time, waste management has been recognised as a key global environmental issue, with communities and governments becoming increasingly aware of the need to more safely and effectively improve the management of municipal waste.
In 2000, the State Government introduced a new vision for the management of waste. Called WAste 2020, the strategy aims to achieve zero waste by the year 2020. The Mindarie Regional Council supported this principle, and has strived to reduce waste to landfill by implementation of appropriate waste treatment methods, for at least that domestic waste generated within the Region. With the release of the West Australian Waste Strategy in March 2012, this trend of reduced reliance on Landfill will continue.
Resource recovery facilities are essential if the Waste Strategy targets of reduced waste to landfill are to be achieved.
Currently, recyclable products which are being diverted from landfill (such as glass, aluminium and plastics) account for about 10 per cent of the waste stream.
With resource recovery facilities in place, another 30 to 40 percent of our household waste can be diverted away from landfill. Campaigns encouraging the public to generate less waste and recycle more are important.
More recently, growing community and industry support for the concept of utilising and treating waste to produce beneficial outcomes, in other words, recognising that waste itself is a resource, represents a significant shift in conventional attitudes.
Essentially, resource recovery or secondary waste treatment plants can process waste to provide valuable products such as compost, or to convert the waste to re-useable energy. In both cases, the processes produce a residue of about 40 per cent - much less than would otherwise be headed to a landfill site.
Resource recovery (also known as secondary resource recovery or secondary waste treatment) describes the range of activities characterised by the treatment and recovery (use) of materials or energy from waste through thermal, chemical, or biological means.
What is resource recovery?
Basically, the waste we put into our bins every week is a resource that can be recovered. Between 60 to 70 per cent of the waste is organic (such as food scraps, garden waste and paper), that can be recovered (recycled) as environmentally-friendly products such as compost or electricity.
Resource recovery is possible due to changes in technology that can viably turn waste into useful products. A resource recovery centre is a state-of-the-art waste processing facility which represents world's best practice in waste recycling.
Currently, the majority of Perth household waste is sent to landfill (rubbish tips) where it degrades over many years and can release pollutants into the groundwater and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Burying the rubbish is a waste, and a lost opportunity.
Resource recovery can divert most of that waste away from landfill and ensure that we deal with today's waste with new technologies, rather than leave future generations to deal with contaminated soils and unusable land.
The MRC recognised the need to implement resource recovery to divert waste from landfill and offer member Councils the best service. After extensive community consultation the MRC decided to build a resource recovery facility in the Neerabup Industrial Area and lead the way in waste reduction to landfill.
Sustainable Alternative To Landfill
The compost generated through the Resource Recovery process assists in improving moisture retention in soils where it is applied. Better moisture retention reduces the need for artificial fertilisers, thereby both slowing and lessening the leaching of chemicals into the groundwater.
In deeper ground, even more significant environmental benefits will begin to flow.
Each year, some 50,000 tonnes' less waste will be buried in landfill. Consequently, and again, leaching of chemicals into groundwater will be slowed and lessened.
The reduction in the volume of waste sent annually to landfill will, over time, impact substantially on the volume of greenhouse gas created within a landfill, thereby lessening the impact on global warming.
Statistically, for example, a reduction of 50,000 tonnes in the amount of waste landfilled each year would represent a saving to the environment equal to removing about 4,500 cars from our roads and also eliminating the consumption of about 50,000 barrels of oil, or planting about 3000 hectares of trees annually.