By Paul Hemsley
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, however Queensland’s Bundaberg Regional Council has gone one step further after the plucky local government salvaged the state’s most prestigious sustainability award for how it teamed-up with industry to remove a soggy mountain of rubbish dumped on it by the devastating floods of January 2013.
The council’s collaboration with resource and waste management company SITA Australia has been recognised for recycling more than 40 per cent of the waste and debris created by the massive floods after it took out the sought after at the Queensland Premier’s Sustainability Awards.
While the accolade is undoubtedly welcome, a more tangible benefit is that it offers a highly pragmatic example for other local governments to follow in trying to reduce the environmental consequences of disposing of waste caused by unwelcome extreme weather incidents.
The floods that swept through Queensland following Tropical Cyclone Oswald not only caused major inundation in the Bundaberg region, but left behind a damages bill of $2.4 billion for the state to absorb.
However before much of the essential post-flood repair, rebuilding and disaster prevention work commences, affected areas and infrastructure first need to be cleared of washed-up debris and water damaged goods for health, safety and environmental protection reasons.
Bundaberg’s approach was to swiftly collaborate with SITA (which operates around half of the Advanced Resource Recovery Facilities in Australia) to establish three temporary disaster waste stockpile stations located as close as possible to the flood-hit areas.
At the stockpile stations, teams sorted through the immense amounts of incoming disaster waste to sort and extract valuable resources to be reused and recycled.
The innovative partnership also required the sourcing of special machinery for the process, which made it possible to extract mattresses, roofing and fencing metals, white goods, tyres, green waste and safely separate more hazardous items like animal carcasses and meat products, gas bottles and hazardous wastes.
Bundaberg Regional Council Mayor Mal Forman said it was imperative that the clean-up of flood damage began as fast as possible whilst ensuring the focus was still on resource recovery.
“SITA came to our assistance almost immediately following the flooding, combined with Council’s own waste management resources were able to remove incredible tonnages of rubbish during the clean-up period,” Mr Forman said.
He said the work SITA did and the rubbish it cleared in a few weeks was the equivalent of a year’s worth of waste removal locally.
SITA’s Queensland State General Manager, Peter Hudson, commended the council for being “very proactive” about wanting to minimise all the waste to landfill and recover and recycle everything possible.
“SITA’s strength lies in our resource recovery expertise, so we were delighted to be able to contribute to BRC winning this award,” Mr Hudson said.
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