Council hopes vouchers ease waste logjam

Valmar client Jeff Dunn at the Tumut Waste and Recycling Centre, Gilmore. Photo Jack of Hearts Studio

The popular free waste weekend program collects the equivalence of a year’s worth of rubbish in just two days and is placing such a strain on resources that Snowy Valleys Council is now looking at phasing them out, to be replaced with a voucher system.

About 900 cubic metres of waste, making up about 90 truckloads, are received at the Gilmore tip during just one of the free weekends, costing the council about $50,000 each time, or $200,000 a year.

Executive Director of Infrastructure Heinz Kausche said the council will be measuring how and when excess waste is taken to the transfer station to determine whether the voucher system is a success.

“[We’re] definitely [looking for] a change in behaviour,” he told the council on Thursday, “so we don’t have the mass traffic issues that we have in the facilities not being designed for that amount of waste arriving in a couple of days… Gilmore transfer station just certainly wasn’t designed for that.”

Mr Kausche said the voucher system would be trialled for six months while the waste weekends continue, allowing SVC to return with a report in June and make further recommendations about tailoring the vouchers or providing vouchers for specific types of waste, such as mattresses or compost (when the new food and garden organics collection services are operational). 

“We’re hoping that the voucher system will also assist people recycling more in that they’re not in a rush… and can actually sort their waste and it will reduce the amount of waste going into landfill… and will reduce those staffing requirements as well whilst providing the community with the same – if not better – service,” he explained.

The current waste weekends have caused problems with requiring additional staff and raising safety concerns, particularly at Gilmore.

“One of the main outcomes of the waste weekends was to educate residents around responsible waste disposal and highlight material re-use and recycling, but was largely not achievable due to the popularity of the free waste weekends,” a council report stated, noting its logistically impossible for staff to monitor what’s coming in on those days due to the volume of waste.

From next year, the council will implement a six-month trial providing vouchers to residents for one free access to the waste centres, to be used at any time the centres are open.

The council would spend about $100,000 implementing the system, which will also improve the recording and management of the sites in line with the council’s zero waste strategy.

“These costs will be offset by more controlled reception of waste and increased recycling of each load, reduced staffing costs, and increased scrutiny of each load to check for non-acceptable waste,” the report states.

Spending will include $35,000 on a new software system and vouchers, about $6000 on computers, scanners, tablets and printers, and $64,000 to implement off-grid solar power at four sites.

Following the weighbridge installation at the Gilmore site, overweight loads can be charged the difference between the accepted weight and additional weight. The vouchers can also control resident’s disposal points to the closest transfer station in the area of the resident’s property, limiting the same resident disposing at multiple sites. Vouchers will also restrict out-of-district or non-resident material being accepted, the report states.

“I think this is just excellent that we’re looking at probably a fairer system and one that may stop people stockpiling their waste around the district, so I’m all for it in a trial,” said Councillor Julia Ham.

“I think that really puts that into perspective that we need to do something better about how we manage these free waste weekends which cost our ratepayers a significant amount of money,” added Councillor Cate Cross.

The council unanimously approved a six month trial, with further discussion to come about ways to reach the SVC ‘Aero Waste Strategy’ for 2030.