A group of 13 councils in Western Australia’s south west have joined forces to accelerate their transitions to a circular economy. 

The group is asking companies in local, national and international markets to come up with ways to use waste that will benefit the region.

According to Nick Edwards from the City of Busselton, who is the project officer responsible for the South West Regional Waste Group.

It’s an informal move that will put the councils ahead of the game in the transition to a circular economy.

The idea is to explore the growing array of new and emerging technologies that can potentially turn waste into valuable by-products and reduce the volume of waste to landfill at the same time. 

He told The Fifth Estate the “time is right”. 

There’s also been a high level of public enthusiasm to get involved and find solutions to waste problems. 

“The ABC’s War on Waste… it comes up time and time again. It’s often on the tips of people’s tongues, it’s like a touchstone for these types of conversations.

 “The work they’ve done is profound. People are informed, people are starting to follow the supply chain of their products…”

He says community interest is influencing the project but it’s not the only driver.  “There’s also council economics to consider.”

Edwards’ group is not the only local governments exploring waste alternatives. NSW’s Tenterfield Shire Council is working with Moree Plains Shire Council, the NSW Country Mayors Association and Regional Development Australia – Northern Inland to explore a waste to energy plant. 

Nick Edwards

But as far as Edwards understands, his group of councils is the only one in the country banding together to explore waste alternatives in such a non-prescriptive manner. 

He says it’s not unusual for Western Australian councils to collaborate where it makes sense to do so. Working together means leveraging economies of scale, which opens doors for smaller councils that would otherwise struggle to instigate change. 

Waste to energy is one technology that’s attracting attention as one component of the solution further down the waste hierarchy, with a number of proposed projects in Australia. WA’s Kwinana, 40 kilometres south of Perth, will soon be home to the first major waste to energy facility in Australia.

But the WA councils are doing their best to keep an open mind to all options. 

For example, one option is for one operator to service all councils from a central plant and facility. Or smaller processing spots for each council, depending on how the economics stack up. 

“We’re interested in looking outside the normal disposal methods because there’s all sorts of risks associated with landfill.”

Western Australia’s waste revolution

Reforming waste management is currently a priority in the state. The state government released the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 earlier in the year, which has “given [local governments] a direction to run in”.

“We are different to a lot of places in terms of distance and travelling times and population, all that means is we need to be creative. 

“It’s going to be a challenge, but the solution will most likely be long term.”

The urgency to reform waste management practises is ramping up in some of the metropolitan areas because landfill space is running low. 

Alternative waste ideas can be submitted online to the group for assessment.  

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