Shire Notes with councillor Josh Brown

When it comes to rubbish and waste everyone has a responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Previously much of Australia's recycling waste was shipped overseas for processing. More recently large volumes of Australia's recycling have been rejected by Chinese authorities which have imposed new strict contamination controls on imports of recycled materials, including those picked up in kerbside collections. Material with a contamination rate of more than 0.5 per cent is no longer accepted. There have been news reports of recycling product being dumped into interstate landfills, amid fears that kerbside collections will cease and piles of rubbish will mount on street corners.

Whilst these fears are exaggerated there is no doubt that we must all do better in minimising and eliminating our waste footprint.

We no longer have the option of opening new landfill sites, as it is near on impossible to obtain the necessary environmental licences and it is frankly bad policy.

There are alternatives to landfill, and around the world new technologies and behavioural change can reduce the waste ending up buried in the earth and dumped at sea.

The NSW Government collects an environmental waste tax / levy from some councils, including Upper Hunter Shire, on everything that goes into landfill.

Last year the NSW Government collected $727 million through the environmental waste levy, with the bulk going to consolidated revenue. A tiny amount is returned for community education but councils are left to manage the growing problem and increasing cost of waste management. At the same time the high cost of the waste levy and therefore fees at Waste Management Facilities, is resulting in more illegal dumping with 14 known new cases in this Shire in recent months.

Each of us can make a difference now by minimising the volume of waste we generate, reusing materials we might otherwise put in the bin, and continuing to recycle plastics and glass through kerbside collection and the container deposit scheme.

Upper Hunter Shire Council has a draft policy on public exhibition which aims to reduce the amount of single-use plastic used at events held on Council land. No one is saying this won't be a challenge and it was agreed to give a longer than usual exhibition period - until 8 August - to ensure everyone has an opportunity to comment. Council will work with the community including sporting groups to reduce plastic waste, whether or not the policy is adopted.

I encourage you to read the full policy on Council's website or at Council offices.