Ten north-western Queensland councils have worked together to develop a new regional waste and resource recovery management plan which is set to modernise local waste services.  

North-West Queensland is home to around 30,000 people across 380,000km², or around 20 per cent of Queensland’s landmass.

The ten participating councils are Burke, Carpentaria, Cloncurry, Croydon, Etheridge, Flinders, McKinlay, Richmond, Mt Isa City and Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire Council (DASC).

The councils are committed to overcoming local challenges like rapidly diminishing landfill capacity, legacy waste management issues, lack of regional processing capacity and minimal current diversion from landfill.

Initiatives identified in the plan include:

  • Mapping abandoned vehicles and tendering for the removal of these vehicles and other scrap metal across the north-west
  • Food organics and garden organics (FOGO) collection services for more than 9,500 households in Mt Isa and Cloncurry, with home composting arrangements in other areas
  • Capping and closing 14 landfills and building new transfer stations, including remote access systems for unmanned sites
  • Determining legacy stockpile quantities and organising regional contract arrangements for tyres, concrete, green and wood waste
  • Opportunities for sharing equipment and mobile operations across council boundaries around the North-West region

The plan also identifies the investment needed in resource recovery infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions, including greater education and promotion of behaviour change activities for north-west Queensland.

The Queensland Government has recently announced $7 million in funding to employ regional waste management plan coordinators across Queensland, including in the north-west, to assist in the implementation of regional waste and resource recovery strategies and improve environmental and economic outcomes for regions.

Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Innovation, Leanne Linard, said that the Queensland Government’s vision is for the state to become a zero-waste society by 2050, where waste is avoided, reused and recycled to the greatest extent possible.

“In recent months, thanks to funding from the State Government, regional organisations of councils (ROCs) have come together to develop waste and resource recovery management plans to guide enhanced waste management and future investment in resource recovery infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions, including greater education and promotion of behaviour change activities,” Minister Linard said. 

“The plan developed by councils in the north-west is pragmatic and progressive in recognising the limitations and challenges in the north-west region while still striving to deliver world class outcomes.

“It will tackle legacy issues such as abandoned vehicles and scrap metal that can be found across these delicate landscapes and identifies opportunities to divert some organic material from landfill through FOGO and home composting.” 

Minister Linard said that the councils have considered the significant structural and logistical difficulties involved, and the genuine collaboration between the councils has created a real blueprint for success.

“Resource recovery contributes to economic growth by fostering innovation, creating jobs and reducing the costs of raw material acquisition.

“The State Government is committed to the sustainability of our regions, and this investment will help regional councils modernise their waste management facilities and practices.”

North-West Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (NWQROC) Chair and Carpentaria Shire Mayor, Jack Bawden, said that North-West Queensland is a vast area and collaboration on waste management and resource recovery was a challenging task without a blueprint for the way forward. 

“The funding provided to the NWQROC by the Queensland Government has now resulted in the development of a plan which comprehensively lists the range of issues to be addressed,” Mayor Bawden said. 

“The stockpiles of tyres across the region present an opportunity for a coordinated approach to recovery, reprocessing and reuse along with the other legacy wastes of concrete, green and wood waste.

“We are now keen to get on with the task of taking our historical waste management practices to a new level.”

Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire Council CEO, Troy Fraser, said that Doomadgee has always had to deal with its waste in isolation given its location and the frequency with which it is cut off from its neighbours.

“Now with the waste and resource recovery plan for the north-west we can work with our neighbours to better manage our necessary landfill activities and also be part of a region-wide approach to resource recovery and the development of a circular economy for the region.”

Image credit: CynthiaAJackson/shutterstock.com

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