SHIRE WASTE FUTURE: FORWARD TO THE PAST

UPDATE

The Monday 22 August council meeting decided to expand Rye tip and wait for the state government to build an Alternative Waste Technology facility, as recommended by Cr David Gibb in his Notice of Motion.

The vote was 6-4. Cr Hugh Fraser’s alternative proposal seeking a delay until September, when councillors could be fully briefed on the Gibb proposal, was rejected by the Rusted-Ons (Gibb, Shaw, Dixon, Garnock and Celi) and Cr Bev Colomb.

Cr Fraser argued that councillors were being asked to vote on the proposal without having received any supporting documentation for it. (Bandicoot is pretty sure that some Rusted-Ons are not too clued-up on what is meant by AWT.)

He said that, to make an informed decision, councillors needed information including:

* The current life of the waste cell now in use at Rye landfill; * the nature, extent and capacity of the mooted AWT; * what EPA approvals were necessary to extend the current Rye landfill cell and to develop a further cell to extend the landfill’s life; * any necessary planning permission to extend the life of the current cell and to develop a further cell; * the present state of preparation of tender documents for disposal of kerbside municipal waste other than to the Rye landfill (documents currently in preparation); * on what basis it was “expected” by Cr Gibb that Melbourne’s metro waste group would tender for an AWT facility next year; * the impact of this AWT on the market for disposal of municipal kerbside waste, which includes the existing market of landfills; * the cost of extending the existing cell at Rye and developing a new cell; * the life of landfills not on the other side of Melbourne; * and how the Gibb resolution dovetails with the shire’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2021.

Cr Gibb said that the state government was about to move towards an AWT and Melbourne’s metropolitan waste group the (Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group) was expected to tender for such a facility next year.

He argued: “Consistent with existing state government policy this [AWT] facility is expected to be regional in nature and accept waste from multiple municipalities.

In order to avoid any opportunity cost associated with potential capital cost subsidies and potential cost reductions through economies of scale achieved via maximising AWT throughput, it is necessary to defer any [shire] waste disposal contractual commitments until such time as the benefits and costs available through this MWRRG initiative are known to Council.”

Cr Gibb did not say where an AWT might be built around Melbourne’s vast circumference.

The first stage of further development at Rye “provides for the construction of a small cell with a three-year life span. This option allows council to retain flexibility in its ability to respond to the state government’s efforts to establish an AWT facility,” Cr Gibb stated.

Further, changed circumstances relating to landfill operations in the past year indicate that with current approvals in place it is very likely that Greater Melbourne will have only three landfills operating within perhaps 15 years, all operating on the other side of Melbourne.

There are strategic risks, a greater expense and environmental disbenefits when transporting the kerbside municipal waste of [the shire] across the city to another landfill.”

Cr Gibb made no reference to the Municipal Waste and Resource Recovery Services Strategy brought to council on 14 September 2015, which stated in part that “Critical drivers influencing the [strategy] review included the impending closure of the existing cell at the Rye Landfill at the end of 2017, changing State Government Policy and a lack of accessibility to alternative technologies [AWTs] to landfilling.”

Nor did Cr Gibb mention the significant community support for taking waste off the peninsula.

Neither did he refer to the 14 September statement that “It is unclear when an AWT for the kerbside garbage stream will become accessible for the Shire” – AWT being “a generic term provided for any technology that handles waste in an alternative manner than disposal by landfill”.

BANDICOOT COMMENTS

The long wait for an AWT is apparently within reach after more than a decade of waiting, Cr Gibb argues – splendid tidings for shire ratepayers who, like Papua-New Guinea Cargo Culters, have long been scanning the skies for the promised planes laden with goodies to appear over the mountains.

But will the AWT materialise?

With copious areas of potential landfill around Melbourne still awaiting the rubbish trucks, the state government is highly unlikely to commit hundreds of millions of dollars on technological solutions to waste for a very long time indeed.

As the 14 September strategy report cautions, “it is noted that if an AWT facility is put forward, it would not be available in the short term”. And it would be more expensive than landfill. And it might be built nowhere near Mornington Peninsula Shire.

No mention of, or an analysis of, the cost factor in Cr Gibb’s argument – but he made much of the expense of trucking shire waste to the other side of Melbourne, ignoring closer available landfill sites.

He leaves us with questions, questions, questions and more questions.

Cr Gibb is now confident that the blessed AWT day will arrive next year. The news that a tender for an AWT could occur in 2017 could be either a sensational news scoop for Cr Gibb or a very big surprise for Spring Street.

Again, a question: what sort of AWT? Most people – perhaps even some of the Rusties – think of an AWT as a sophisticated high temperature incinerator. And they are right, in a very narrow sense. But do they think of the humble worm farm, a vast compost heap? Is that what Cr Gibb is thinking of when he thinks AWT? He gives us no details.

A 2009 ̔Municipal Waste Management Strategy’ report from the shire was full of detail on the bright new AWT future – aerobic and anaerobic composting, vermiculture, bio-digestion, mechanical biological, Ur-3R, ArrowBio, fermentation, incineration, cogeneration, pyrolysis … all sparkling possibilities seven years ago.

Are any of these the AWTs of which Cr Gibb now speaks? If not, of what does he speak? His silence leaves open all or any of these possibilities, or post-2009 developments.

That 2009 report had to conclude that the shire did not produce enough putrescible waste to make an AWT viable. We would need to work with neighbouring councils to provide the 50,000 to 90,000 tonnes of waste then required for an AWT.

Such discussions were proceeding in 2009, according to the report. Who are we talking to in 2016? These are a couple more questions requiring answers from Cr Gibb.

The 2009 report concludes its AWT assessment: “[The shire] has assessed a number of AWT options and is open to establishing a facility that provides all the environmental benefits available.

This would include recovery of recyclables from the kerbside putrescible waste stream, methane gas capture and the option to trade any future carbon credits.”

And the result, seven years later? Cr Gibb is not exactly shouting success from the rooftops. Bandicoot’s worm farm is doing fine, by the way.

Cr Gibb has been running two concurrent arguments on waste for well over a decade. When he was el supremo of shire company Peninsula Zero Waste his mantra was “keep peninsula waste on the peninsula”.

His second argument was to assert that the peninsula must remain independent of metropolitan Melbourne. He fought off several attempts for the shire to be subsumed into the metro body before finally losing the fight a couple of years ago.

Which might help explain why he is fighting so tenaciously to preserve his sole rubbish legacy – to keep peninsula waste on the peninsula, no matter what, no matter whether it still makes sense, no matter that the world is moving on.

But now is the time for answers, not memories, mantras and platitudes.

CR GIBB’S MOTION

Part A

That in view of the uncertainty of timing for securing an alternative option for the disposal of kerbside municipal waste before the completion of the current cell at the Rye landfill, and to maintain self-sufficiency until options are fully explored and costed:

* That Mornington Peninsula Shire Council resolves to continue to operate the landfill at Rye in a staged approach, until the availability of an Alternative Waste Technology (AWT) facility that is an economically and environmentally viable option for the disposal of municipal waste;

* That MPSC immediately engage with the Environment Protection Authority to continue to operate the Rye landfill in short, limited duration tranches, in accordance with the first stage (Stage 5) of Option 2B contained within the ‘Business Case for Options for the Disposal of Landfill Waste’ (MPS, February 2015) report, until the availability of an AWT described above;

* That MPSC does not proceed with the development of its own tender documents for the disposal of kerbside municipal waste for a Bulk Haul facility, AWT facility, or an alternative landfill option, at this time; and

* That MPSC engage with the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) to participate in the group tender for the provision of an AWT in the South East Melbourne region area, noting the option and opportunity of locating such a facility at Council’s Tyabb waste facility adjacent to Western Port Highway.

Part B

That officers, in conjunction with MWRRG, provide further briefings on developments in the Waste Management infrastructure network in greater Melbourne, as they unfold.”