AMY WARNE worked in the waste industry for seven years and lives in Hamilton Hill. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, she takes Fremantle mayoral candidate Ra Stewart to task for proposing to feed plastic bags to incinerators in waste to energy plants.
ASSUMING Ra Stewart was not misquoted by the Herald, her comments about waste are gibberish at best, and utterly wrong and irresponsible at worst.
To say that we need to keep using plastic bags to feed the incineration machine totally contradicts the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ message where Reduce is the most important R.
Incineration plants do not use ‘micro bacteria’.
Ra may be getting confused with the existing Southern Metropolitan Regional Council facility which composts the contents of our general waste bin, diverting around 55 per cent of our waste from landfill.
Or she may be referring to new discoveries of bacteria that break down particular types of plastic—this is still very much in the research phase and anyway would not solve the problem of plastic bags becoming litter and causing damage to our natural marine environment.
I am not necessarily opposed to incineration technology.
It works well and safely in much of Europe and Asia.
However regulation must exist to ensure incinerators are constantly monitored for emissions and that they do not undermine the existing composting and recycling systems or initiatives to reduce waste in the first place.
An incineration plant is proposed for Kwinana, however it looks likely to be some years away.
The WA Waste Authority’s aim is to divert 65 per cent of Perth’s waste to landfill by 2020.
Fremantle currently sends all its waste to the SMRC Region Resource Recovery Centre which already diverts over 65 per cent of that waste from landfill by composting the general waste, mulching the garden waste and recycling the recyclables.
Perth only achieved 36 per cent diversion rates in 2015/16.
The current system is good, but is set to get better with Fremantle to introduce the bright green lidded FOGO (food organic, garden organic) bin which will be composted at the SMRC.
It’s anticipated that this will produce a much better quality of compost than now, due to reduced contamination.
The system of having one dedicated FOGO bin, one dedicated recycling bin and one general waste bin that will go straight to landfill or incineration is, I think, the holy grail of waste collection systems.
Sadly, we still need that third general waste bin because we make stuff that cannot be composted or recycled.
So that’s where “Reduce” comes in.
The City of Fremantle has never been shy of leading.
After listening to what the community (Plastic Free Freo) said about plastic bags in 2013 it took up the battle and has not relented, despite an unfriendly state government.
Fremantle has also embraced the idea of a container deposit scheme with one of the state’s first reverse vending machines.
Now finally, they have traction on these crucial issues with a more sympathetic state government.
The City of Fremantle also actively supports community Reduce initiatives like Boomerang Bags at the Growers Green, the Community Composting Bank at Hilton Harvest and Responsible Cafes.
To imply that Fremantle’s waste systems are unsustainable is profoundly ill informed. Waste is a fundamental service provided by any council.
I am not feeling overly confident that Ra is onto it.