A Waste Problem Persists

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Posted by Des Menz on 21 February 2013


"Armagh waste bins" ... that's one of the snippets reported in the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council communication "From The Council Desk" in Northern Argus (20 February 2013).

I can't resist responding to that snippet, but first ... 


Some background 

For years, Armagh - just a couple of kilometres or so west of Clare on the Blyth road - was a sleepy little hollow that sat like an earlobe on the head of Clare. That's how it was when I (and my wife) purchased a very run-down property in the northern reaches of Armagh in late 1997.

The waste service for the community at the time consisted of two big bins that were located in the old church property in the middle of Armagh. It was a basic service - toss all your domestic waste in the bin, and it's gone - that was for households within 2 kilometres of the bins. The service - if it can be called that - was established back in the 1980's under the former District Council of Clare days.  

Two big bins for about 20 or so houses - it could be a few more houses, but that's about the mark. The bins were seldom full to overfilling. 

But then something changed.

Armagh suddenly got growing pains. People identified Armagh as a nice place to live. New houses started to be built.

Concerned that there was no action about waste management in the area, I alerted Council staff to the problem in about 2000 (I'd have to go back to a diary to check). But nothing happened for some years. The rubbish started overflowing from the two big bins.

By January 2010, just after the Christmas rubbish period, I was exasperated. I decided to get some facts, so I rode my bike around Armagh and did a count of the number of new houses that had been built during the previous 12 years. I counted in an area of 2km radius.

There were at least 40 new houses! It was staggering ... and alarming. 

The church property mentioned above was sold around 2003 (I'm not sure of the year), and the big bins had to be relocated off the private property, to their current position.

Now, as can be seen as you read on, nothing changed about providing an improved waste management service to the now much larger Armagh community. 

TWO BIG BINS ... for a community that had expanded substantially in size, at least doubling, if not more. Here's the result ... overflowing bins!

Armagh community waste bins


This photo was taken on 2 January 2010 (more than 3 years ago at the time of writing). This was a "good" day, and well after the Christmas waste horror period. It's been a mess on other days, with waste dumped around the base of the bins. If only I had my camera to capture that. 

At our home "Aristida", we recycle as much as we possibly can, so we seldom use the "facility". 

From time-to-time I have picked up a lot of wind-blown material from around the "big bin" area.

It's also suspected that people from outside the Armagh area are using the "facility", if it can be called that.

But what else are people to do if a service for the 1980's is all that's available 30 years later? 

Even the old and defunct "District Council of Clare" sign was relocated from the former site at the old church property. I won't comment on that, except to say ... WHY?

THIS IS NOT MANAGING THE WASTE PROBLEM.


What has happened?

Here's a copy of part of an email I sent to Council's Chief Executive Officer on 6 May 2008.

A long-running sore - waste at Armagh
As one who is much involved in waste management, I'm trying once again a suggestion to resolve the deplorable state of waste collection at Armagh.
On a number of occasions during the past 7 years I have suggested to Council and senior officers that a "neighbourhood" resources recovery/waste transfer station be installed. It is simple. Sorting at "source", recovery, and recycling have to be implemented. Attached are several photos of mini systems that are successfully operating in other Council areas. These are not expensive to establish, and will produce many benefits (I won't describe them here).
I hope this type of system will be given consideration at Armagh - it's desperately needed. The stuff that's going into those two bins is a disappointing reflection of the community.


Here are the photographs that were attached to the email, in the hope that something like this might be introduced at Armagh.


Small community waste recovery

 Two sites showing simple poly bag arrangement for separation of the waste stream

Simple rural waste recovery


The above simple systems have been operating successfully for years at small waste management depots in other communities in South Australia. 

Why has a similar system not been tried at Armagh? It doesn't need to be bales as in the photo, but surely a system that involves resources recovery is far better than one where everything is just tossed into bins and taken away for "transfer" to pollute another site.


SIDE NOTE - Today, I'm not a big fan of "Waste Transfer Stations" as all they do is remove a problem to another site. More on this at a later time.


Back to my email - note that the year was 2008. I also mentioned in the email that I had made suggestions during the previous 7 years about what could be done. 

I was concerned about waste being produced from a much greater Armagh population, and that there was little, if any, acknowledgement of the matter. 

It's now more than 12 years since I first tried to get action on Armagh residential waste.

It is little wonder that people despair at getting anything done that affects the general environment and local communities.


Action is well overdue 

Given my extensive background in consulting in waste management, here are three options.

Option 1

Remove the big bins

Provide a rural waste/recyclables collection service, the same that's provided to urban users, and some rural residents, in Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council. Problem solved ... nearly. But it's not the best solution.

Option 2

Remove the big bins

Run a pilot program involving a "neighbourhood" (i.e. Armagh) resources recovery system where every household is educated in maximising on-site recycling.

Provide a system where residents can swap materials with another. "One person's junk is another's treasure". Make this a weekly event at a suitable location in Armagh. (It could even pull the community together).

Make available suitable receptacles for the collection of recyclable materials that have monetary value. Could this be run by volunteers? The funds could be used for Armagh environmental projects.

Option 3

Remove the big bins

Get Armagh residents to separate their wastes into recyclable types. Educate them.

Provide a facility that allows the deposition of all different types of wastes (similar to the depiction in the photos above). This includes plastics, glass, metals, paper, cardboard. Other larger materials should be taken by residents to Clare Waste Depot/Transfer Station.

If people can not manage their organic wastes on their own properties - which they should - then provide an "Aerobin", maybe two, for composting purposes. Residents could then take the composted material and place on their gardens. See the video below. 


How to fund Option 2 or Option 3

In my discussions years ago with Council officers I suggested that a grant be sought to implement waste management changes at Armagh, if only to test a "neighbourhood" approach. 

So, let's have another go! In the same issue of Northern Argus (20 February 2013), there's a short editorial "Waste management funding now available". How timely! Here's what was presented.

Funding is now available for projects to help regional areas improve waste management.

With 20 per cent of South Australia's waste generated in country areas, where population densities are low, it's often difficult to deliver waste and recycling services to country locations.

Well, here's a great opportunity for Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council to try a real alternative in waste management for a small community.


Conclusion

It is time that the issue of managing the Armagh community's waste is solved. The "two big bin" service is a failed solution and in each of the three options above they don't feature.

Options 2 and 3 will empower the local Armagh community to step into the 21st century way of handling household wastes. It's as much about personal responsibility as it is a local Council one. Reducing the load at the Clare waste transfer facility should be a priority.

The problem has been that an alternative has not been offered in the past to the Armagh community. Now is the best opportunity yet.

External funding could be accessed to try a new way involving a "neighbourhood" approach to waste management, and using micro systems such as the "Aerobin". 

Substantial benefits can be achieved. It only takes a bit of vision, and the will. All it needs is to be given a fair go. Above all, an education program needs to be introduced to the Armagh community.

Maybe ... just maybe ... this idea could be used in many other communities. An Armagh "trial" would point the way.

Let your Council know of the alternatives in waste management. Give the big bins the chop! They only encourage a throw-away state of mind.


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