Head garbos point to new opportunities in the local ‘war on waste’

Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

‘Head garbos’ across the region have welcomed the supermarket ban on light weight plastic bags but are looking to new opportunities and challenges in their ever present ‘war on waste’.

Woolworths and Coles were tripping over themselves in announcing the news last week, both committing to a phase out of single use bags over the next 12 months.

Shoppers will be asked to bring their own bags or be charged 15 cents for a heavier weight, reusable plastic bag.

“This will significantly change the number of bags going to any landfill or transfer station,” says Mandy Thurling, Rescouse and Waste Manager for Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

In the Eurobodalla, Amanda Jones, Council’s Manager of Waste Services says, “This is great news, keeping problem waste from entering the environment.”

While also welcoming the action, Toby Browne, Waste Services Manager for Bega Valley Shire Council has signaled a need for further change, “It’s a move in the right direction but definitely more needs to be done to reduce packaging and other soft plastic waste.”

Environmental groups have been campaigning for a plastic bag ban for decades, and while some states and towns have imposed restrictions, the ABC TV series “War on Waste” seemed to inject new momentum into the national discussion.

Clean Up Australia estimates six billion plastic bags are handed out every year, with just 4% recycled.

Let loose in the environment they choke, smother, and tangle wildlife.

The supermarket ban doesn’t go far enough according to Clean Up Australia, who continue to lobby the Premiers of New South Walse, Victoria, and Western Australia for an out right ban.

“Hopefully more commercial premises will come on board and ban the bag,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

Given their ‘last for forever nature’ all three South East councils will have to continue to manage plastic bags and soft plastics into the future.

A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.
A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Apart from taking up tip space, the Eurobodalla’s Amanda Jones says, “Plastic bags at landfill sites get caught by the wind and need to be managed by catching them in litter fences and manual litter picking.”

Toby Brown is frustrated by plastic bag contamination of other waste streams at his Bega Valley facilities.

“When they contaminate recycling and organic waste streams, they must be manually removed,” he says.

With that Amanda Jones jumps in.

“Please don’t put your recycling in plastic bags!” she says.

“The bags don’t always fall open to allow recyclables to be sorted.”

The recent introduction of  REDcyle bins at Coles supermarkets in Bega, Eden, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla, and Cooma is part of the equation Mandy Thurling is hoping locals might take up.

REDcycle bins not only take plastic bags but the soft plastic wrapping and packaging many products come smothered in.

REDcycle askes you to do the scrunch test, “If it’s soft plastic and can be crunched into a ball, it can be placed into a REDcycle drop off bin,” their website says.

The material collected is transformed into a range of products including street furniture, decking, and bollards by Replas.

“Council is always looking at the next step in reducing waste to landfill, this could be by reducing all soft plastics and finding alternate recycling avenues for this material,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

In the Eurobodalla, where Council runs their own recycling facility the ‘war on waste’ is reaching new heights.

Crushed waste glass is starting to be used instead of quarried sand in road construction projects.

The sand substitute has just been tested in Murray Street, Moruya where 63 tonnes of the local product was used to install new drainage culverts and reconstruct the road.

“The crushed glass has proven to be a viable product to replace sand in concrete mixes,” Council’s Works Manager, Tony Swallow says.

“It does need to be treated differently to bedding sand but our crews are happy with the performance,” he says.

Around 30 tonnes of sand like substance is produced each week at the Materials Recycling Facility in Moruya; glass represents 40% of the 5,200 tonnes of recyclables collected in the Eurobodalla each year.

“The savings to our environment and Council’s materials budget are significant,” Mr Swallow says.

Polystyrene is the other win in the Eurobodalla’s waste war.

Known for making a mighty mess, up until now polystyrene had taken up valuable landfill space at Surf Beach and Brou.

The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

With a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Authority, Council has installed a thermal compaction machine at its Surf Beach facility.

“The process reduces the volume and turns polystyrene into a hard white substance,” Mr Swallow explains.

“Our contractor is shipping it to China where the material is made into items like picture frames.

“What has made this such a success is that we have supplied local businesses that have a lot of polystyrene packaging with metal frames and wool bales to easily collect the material,” Mr Swallow says.

Council estimates the move will save them $100,000 worth of landfill space each year, with other savings spinning off to local electronic businesses and supermarkets in reduced waste disposal fees.

Bega Valley Shire is looking to do more with waste and is currently developing a waste strategy.

“Our key areas are likely to be addressing food waste recycling and improving local economic opportunity in recycling and resource recovery,” Mr Browne says.

“It’s great to see business making meaningful change in response to community concern. Change creates opportunities.”

At the start of July, Snowy Monaro Regional Council introduced a fully commingled recycling service for the Cooma kerbside collection area

“This allows locals to place recyclable items in the yellow lidded recycling bin,” Mandy Thurling says.

“There is no longer a need to separate paper and cardboard into the black crate.”

Council is now considering giving households a larger capacity recycling bin – more room to recycle.

The action, appetite, and ideas that swirl in this discussion points us in the right direction and into a better position to win the ‘war on waste’ locally.

*Thank you to About Regional member Tim Holt for his contribution to local story telling.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council



Landmark Monaro tree hollow gets a resident

This old girl has seen a few Monaro winters and it seems she now has something to cuddle up to.

About Regional, podcast 13 – Reusable water bottles for every high school student

Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic Collage at Pambula.
Philanthropist Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula.

This week, one man takes on the garbage building in our oceans…

Every high school student in the Bega Valley will soon have a reusable drink bottle, cutting the need for single use, light weight, disposable plastic water bottles.

Over the last couple of months’ students at Eden Marine High School, and Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula have received a stainless steel drink bottle to refill at school taps and bubblers.

Kids at Bega High School got there’s today (May 16), and Sapphire Coast Anglican College down the road will soon have theirs.

This marine environment initiative comes from Bega Valley philanthropist Peter Hannan.

As someone who loves the ocean, Peter says he felt compelled to act after hearing of the impact plastics are having on the world.

Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.
Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.

Following last year’s Marine Science Forum, hosted by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, Peter made a pledge to buy 2500 reusable bottles and distribute them to year 7 to 12 students across the Shire.

Peter comes from a family of community action, his late mother Shirley, established a trust before she died to fund a national portrait prize that is held every two years, which has since grown to incorporate a youth prize in the alternate year.

See below for audio options to learn more.

My partners in this podcast are Jen, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps in Eden –  offering fully-supported hikes along Australia’s most spectacular coastline, it’s wilderness done comfortably.

Thanks for tuning in, your feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome, send your email to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Listening options:

Click play to listen here and now…

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom iTunes or bitesz.com

See you out and about!


The next step in the Eurobodalla’s local food economy. Have your say here!

The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The popular SAGE Farmers Market each Tuesday from 3 in Riverside Park, Moruya. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.

“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.

“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”

In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.

Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.

“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.

“It’s a movement whose time has come.”

The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.

Since 2009, when the community organisation Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) started working towards its mission of ‘growing the growers’, locally grown food has become easier to access.

The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.

The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
The bell that signals a start to trading each Tuesday in Riverside Park. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.

An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.

“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.

“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”

The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.

Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Moruya watermelons were a big hit over summer at the SAGE Farmers Market. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.

If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.

Local Harvest in the USA lists over 24,000 family farms on their website who are part of a CSA arrangement.

Local Harvest believes the element of shared risk creates a feeling of ‘we’re in this together’.

Their website says, “Some CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.”

However, they say the idea of shared risk creates a sense of community between customers and farmers.

“If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli,” the Local Harvest website says.

“Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their customers and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first.”

There is a yin and yang to that shared risk though. When the season is powering and a bounty or surplus of produce is created those involved with a CSA benefit.

In that situation, recipes are swapped to add some variety to the way abundant veg can be used in the home kitchen, that produce can also be preserved and used out of season.

Where a supermarket supply chain might struggle to cope with a surplus, the CSA model summons peoples creatively, extending the harvest and reduceing food waste.

As part of a Eurobodalla based group keen to establish the CSA model here, Kate Raymond says, “Consumers increasingly demand to know more about where their food comes from and how it was grown,”

Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.
Local growers selling direct to consumers. Pic from SAGE Facebook.

“Joining a CSA can answer their questions. A CSA connects the consumer to the grower in a very direct and transparent way,” she says.

To test the idea locally, a number of vegetable growers in the Eurobodalla are currently undertaking market research into the viability of establishing a multi-farm CSA program.

“This is significant, as it’s a symptom of a local food economy that is outgrowing the perception that local food is a niche enterprise and is in fact becoming a bona fide industry,” Kate says.

The next phase in the Eurobodalla’s agricultural heritage is well underway.

Click HERE to take the local survey and add your thoughts to the market testing that’s underway.

Flying-fox dilemma deepens ahead of Batemans Bay community meeting

The challenges around the flying-fox camp at Batemans Bay continue to deepen with Eurobodalla Shire Council accepting the problem has grown too big and residents increasingly distressed.

Calls for a dispersal program to break up the camp and move the protected species on have reached State and Federal Parliament with the Environment Minister at both levels consulted.

The scientist and planner behind the Eurobodalla’s current course of action has warned of legal risks around such a plan, despite dispersal success at a Sydney site she was responsible for.

Beth Medway from Eco Logical Australia helped develop the flying-fox management plan for Eurobodalla Shire Council and Sutherland Shire Council.

Ms Medway says any formal agreement around dispersal of the Grey-headed Flying-fox with the NSW Office of Environment would involve Council agreeing to accept liability.

“If the bats move to another place and cause a problem, whoever undertook the original dispersal would have to address the dispersal in the other locations, that’s part of the typical conditions,” Ms Medway says.

Given the nature of flying-foxes movements, proving the origins of a camp can be difficult, but none the less Ms Medway suggests liability needs to be a factor in considering a dispersal program.

Click play to learn more –

It’s another dynamic in this fractured and complicated stand off between the natural and human environments.

Dispersal worked in Sutherland…

To date the strategy from Eurobodalla Shire Council  has centered around actively managing vegetation at the camp which is based at the Batemans Bay Water Gardens.

Since 2015 a buffer between the camp and surrounding homes has been created and the flying-foxes favourite palm trees have been removed but the camp has continued to grow. The number of animals is estimated to be around 100,000, which accounts for 20% of the national population.

The increasing anxiety and pressures human residents have been feeling are significant. Locals talk about feeling sick with the smell, contaminated tank water, property stained and damaged by droppings and sleep interrupted by screeching.

Eurobodalla Mayor Lindsay Brown told Radio 2EC this week that residents are at the end of their tether.

More dramatic action is now being called for along the lines adopted by Sutherland Shire Council where a dispersal program began in August last year at the Kareela Camp.

Mayor Brown says dispersal was investigated for the Water Gardens before now with the cost at the time put at between $500,000 and one million dollars.

“Today we have four or five times as many flying foxes in Batemans Bay,” Cr Brown says.

The Shire’s State MP Andrew Constance has suggested the Baird Government would help cover the cost as they did in Sutherland Shire.

Beth Medway warns against comparing the Water Gardens and Kareela Camps.

“Overall the numbers of flying foxes at that (Kareela) site have dramatically reduced,” Ms Medway says.

However she says the geography and situation is very different to the Water Gardens.

“Kareela is a very small area of bush land in a gully, compared to the Water Gardens which is much, much bigger with a big body of water in the middle,” she says.

“It is doable (at the Water Gardens) but the resourcing involved would be significant,”

“At Kareela we had 10 Council and consulting staff involved in the dispersal on any one day,”

Ms Medway suggests the number of people needed for a similar course of action at Batemans Bay potentially makes it not viable.

Click play to learn more –

Given what is trying to be achieved, dispersal methods are disruptive – equally so to residents within 150 to 300 meters of the camp. At Kareela loud music, smoke and bright flashing lights were all used in a  pre-dawn effort.

“Occasionally they do came back and there is further dispersal action that is needed,” Ms Medway says.

Nine months on and $250,000 later Council staff are still involved at Kareela four to seven days a week monitoring the site, which a Sutherland Shire spokesperson says will be the case for the next 3 years at least.

“It’s not a case of just anybody going along and flashing lights,” Ms Medway explains.

The guidelines from the NSW Office of Environment point to the need for a dispersal team that consists of trained, inducted and vaccinated personnel, along with the presence of a qualified flying fox expert and licensed wildlife carer.

Odds are dispersal won’t work…

The success at Kareela stands in contrast to the current scientific advice and the experience other communities have had with dispersal.

Based on research quoted by Eurobodalla Shire Council, in 16 of the 17 dispersals studied flying-foxes stayed in the local area, normally moving only 600 metres from the original camp.

“We just never know where the flying-foxes could end up,” Ms Medway says.

“There have been cases where dispersals have caused a bigger problem than where they (flying-foxes) were originally located,”

“When we did the consultation for the Water Gardens, a lot of people from the community were very concerned about the potential of moving the camp into an even less desirable location, where more people would be impacted,” she says.

A spokesperson for Eurobodalla Shire says 10 sites have been identified in the Batemans Bay urban area where the flying-foxes could relocate to following dispersal.

In this challenging and difficult situation the humans living in the midst of the Water Gardens Camp have often felt that concern for the endangered Grey-headed Flying-fox seems to be greater than the concern expressed for them and their situation.

Ms Medway says she feels for residents around the Water Gardens and is confident that with time the flying-foxes will move away and locals will have relief.

“In Sydney at the moment camps are empty and it’s not about dispersals, it’s because food is not available,” she says.

Click play to learn more – 

Until the flying-foxes move on Ms Medway encourages residents to make the most of the relief options Council has available, including clothes line and car covers and access to high pressure water cleaners.

Why the Water Gardens?…

Flowering spotted gums and fruiting rain forest species along the South Coast are thought to be the main drivers behind the Water Gardens Camp.

The water in the gardens itself is another plus for flying-foxes who struggle on days of high temperatures. The cooler environment is key for the species survival, with the potential for mass deaths on days where the temperature hits the high thirties.

Speaking on ABC South East this week the author of the Australian Government’s 2009 National Recovery Plan for the Grey- headed Flying-fox, suggested that the problem in Batemans Bay and in a number of communities around Australia is one that has come home to roost.

Ecologist Dr Peggy Eby pointed to the wide spread clearing of flying-fox habitat as being central to this problem, with the animals forced into marginal areas like the Water Gardens to survive.

In terms of a resolution Dr Eby believes dispersal is a high risk strategy.

“The reality is it’s much easier to adapt the behaviour of humans than the behaviour of wildlife,” she told the ABC.

The next step…

Eurobodalla Shire Council has called a community meeting on the issue and is inviting mayors from other affected communities  around the country. That meeting will happen on May 16 between 5pm and 7pm at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club.

An opportunity perhaps for the Batemans Bay community and Eurobodalla Shire Council to drive solutions and ideas that move this forward for people and flying-foxes.