News / Council

Weekly garbage collection on the way out in drive to cut landfill

Moreland Council has adopted similar changes to those which have caused a ratepayer backlash in other municipalities

Mark Phillips
Friday, July 16, 2021


HOUSEHOLD garbage collection in Brunswick and its surrounds is set for a major overhaul with a greater emphasis on green waste and reducing rubbish going to landfill.

Under the plan adopted by Moreland Council, the weekly garbage and recycling collections will be reduced to a fortnightly service, while collection of green and food waste will be ramped up to once a week.

The changes have been largely forced upon the council by state government policy to cut the amount of waste going to landfill, which is reflected by an increase in rubbish collection charges in the new council budget for the 2021–22 financial year.

All municipalities in Victoria will be forced to introduce a four bin service by 2030, with paper/plastic and glass recycling to be collected separately. The other bins will be the standard non-recyclable landfill, and for food and garden waste.

However, Moreland’s move to change its waste collection comes at the same time as some councils are reconsidering similar changes following a backlash from ratepayers. Hobsons Bay Council has reversed an almost identical policy to Moreland’s and Yarra Council is dealing with similar opposition.

Comments on Facebook suggest it will not be smooth sailing for Moreland either.

The main changes adopted by the council at its meeting on Wednesday night are:

  • Food and organic waste collection to be increased from fortnightly to weekly.
  • Landfill garbage and recycling to be collected on alternate fortnights, rather than weekly.
  • The introduction of a new glass recycling bin which will be collected once a month.
  • Updated standard bin sizes to reflect the new collection cycle, with the standard garbage bin to grow from 80 litres to 120 litres, and the recycling bin doubling to 240 litres.
  • Ending the twice-yearly hard rubbish collection and replacing it with a hard waste booking service.

Shared communal bins for apartment buildings and fee-for-service options will also be introduced.

The changes will begin in the second half of next year with the introduction of a booked hard waste collection service.

The proposed changes underwent community consultation earlier this year and there will be a final round of feedback before the policy is implemented.

During the earlier consultation, the change to a weekly food and garden waste collection and switching to a fortnightly garbage service was the preferred option for 57% of more than 1000 people who completed a survey. Thirty-two per cent wanted to retain the current system.

In the same survey, 65% said they preferred booked hard waste collections to the twice-yearly system now in operation.

However, the survey turnout was considerably higher in the southern parts of the municipality, such as Brunswick and Brunswick East, than it was in northern parts such as Fawkner.

Under a schedule of costs provided during the consultation period, it was estimated that the average cost to households of delivering the new collection system would be $306 a year — an increase of just over 10%. This compares favourably to the cost of maintaining the current system, which would be forced to rise to $340 a year.

The state government has set a target of diverting 80% of waste from landfill and cutting total waste generation by 15% by 2030 through an increase in councils’ landfill levy and the introduction of a container deposit scheme, for glass, plastic and aluminum drink containers by mid-2023.

By switching to a weekly food and garden waste collection, and reducing the garbage collection to once a fortnight, Moreland Council believes it could divert an extra 6000 tonnes from landfill each year.

Acting Mayor Mark Riley

“It might actually cost us more initially to set this up and roll out it out but in the long term it will be costing us less.”

Council modelling suggests that switching the food and garden waste collection to a weekly pickup and reducing garbage collection to fortnightly could halve greenhouse gas emissions caused by organics going into landfill. This would in turn cut the council’s total carbon emissions by almost 40%.

At the Moreland Council meeting on Wednesday night, Cr Adam Pulford said the proposed policy was the most cost-effective and the most popular.

“It’s cheaper, it’s supported by the community and this option is actually the best for environmental outcomes as well because it diverts a lot of stuff from going to landfill which can help reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and means we can turn our food scraps and garden scraps into fertiliser and make use of them into the future,” he said.

Cr Angelica Panopoulous said a key consideration in the development of the new rubbish collection policy was to ensure that no residents were disadvantaged by making available extra or larger bins at no cost where they were needed.

Perhaps mindful of the reaction in other municipalities, Acting Mayor Mark Riley said council resources would need to be invested to educate residents about how the new four bin system would work and to ensure compliance with the correct recycling rules.

“It might actually cost us more initially to set this up and roll out it out but in the long term it will be costing us less,” he said.

“And reducing the amount of waste going to landfill is going to reduce the waste levies that you pay as residents so it’s going to be important that we get it right and we get the best outcomes for all of our communities.”

A move by Cr Sue Bolton to maintain the twice-yearly hard rubbish collection was defeated, but Cr Bolton ended up supporting the new policy.

Because of the increased state government landfill charges, average household rubbish collection charges are already set to rise by 25% this year in Moreland to $247.03.

The council’s waste expenditure will be $20.3 million this financial year and $21.4 million next year, reflecting a higher state government landfill levy of $105.90 per tonne. The council will also be investing in replacement garbage trucks.

Our view

Judging by comments on Facebook, Moreland Council faces an uphill battle convincing some ratepayers to support its new waste collection policy.

People don’t like change, and make no mistake, these are big changes which will require a major education and awareness program during the implementation stage.

It would be difficult enough just to smoothly introduce the concept of the fourth bin for glass. But then there are other changes like the transition to fortnightly garbage collection, the greater emphasis on separating food and garden waste, and the end of the beloved twice-yearly hard rubbish collection.

But remember that just a few decades ago, all of our rubbish went into the one big bin that was then dumped as landfill. Now we recycle without a second thought.

The council staff have been sensitive to how difficult it will be for some groups by building a range of concessions into the new policy such as for families needing to dispose of nappies, apartment residents and people living on their own who don’t need a large bin.

But even then, there will be a vocal minority who will just refuse to accept the change.

Part of the problem is a lack of communication. Whenever major reforms like this have been introduced in the past, they would be debated ad nauseum in the pages of the local newspaper. But until the arrival of Brunswick Voice, the area hasn’t had any serious media for a year.

Moreland Council needs to stick to its guns and not waver in its determination to shake up the waste collection service.

For a start, it has no choice. Waste management costs will skyrocket by 35 per cent this year because of a state government levy that charges $105.90 councils for each tonne of waste they send to landfill, and is set to rise steeply over the next few years. That charge will increase by another 19 per cent next year.

But it also makes common sense to reduce the amount of rubbish going into landfill, to encourage recycling and to turn organic food and garden waste into re-usable compost.

This will have massive environmental benefits, including potentially cutting the council’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent.

Unfortunately, some other councils have blinked in the face of a ratepayer backlash and reverted to their old ways of waste collection.

Let’s hope Moreland Council shows the determination to see this important and necessary change of policy through to the end.

What do you think of the changes. Let us know at editor@brunswickvoice.com.au.