By KIERAN FINNANE
Recycling can no longer be a green option for council, it should become an “essential service”, says Kim Hopper, mayoral and councillor candidate in the forthcoming election.
As such, it would join the “three Rs” of council’s core business – roads, rates, and rubbish – to become the fourth R.
Ms Hopper is making on ongoing survey of voters’ priorities to inform her campaign.
It asks what voters think council could do better for their households, their neighbourhoods, and the town as a whole.
Thus far, with over 100 responses in just a few days, under the “household” heading she has found that respondents, who expressed a range of views on other issues, have universally said they want kerbside recycling.
Council recently trialled a FOGO (Food Organics Garden Organics) kerbside collection. Despite largely positive results and a recommendation from officers to consider expanding the service across the municipality, the initiative has been kicked down the road, for consideration as part of next year’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).
The trial was undertaken as part of council’s current CAP, and indeed expended the plan’s entire budget and then some.
And therein lies the problem, says Ms Hopper, whose main campaign focus is on climate action.
“Recycling should not be put into that CAP agenda but treated as an essential service.
“If it gets allocated to the CAP, it will dominate that conversation and we won’t get to talk about things like having a tree canopy target, and everything else we need to be doing to adapt to climate change.
“Get it done, that would be my take on the issue.
“If the argument is about money, that is not good enough, that means council is not managing its budget properly to fund core business.
“As a small business owner, when something is essential for running my business, I find the money.
“It means looking at your systems, looking for support from elsewhere, maybe drawing on your reserves because the service will pay for itself later.”
Part of the return to council would be avoided costs: by reducing the volume of waste, the life of the landfill would be extended – according to council’s FOGO trial review, 38% of current kerbside collection comes from household compostable organics, 23% being food waste.
Recycling the waste would reduce greenhouse emissions, which council has committed to doing, as part of its contribution to climate action.
When the ABC’s War on Waste host Craig Reucassel visited town, he said organics recycling would be the single most effective measure available to council, recalls Ms Hopper.
The review reported a saving of 62 tonnes of CO2-e (meaning CO2 and other greenhouse gasses) over the half-year trial period, involving 86 households and the hospital.
Recycling organics also produces a desirable product – compost for use in municipal parks and gardens and for possible sale to the public.
Ms Hopper points out the services offered by council that run at a loss, such as the town pool, but if council needs to make kerbside recycling pay, at least in part, perhaps it could be done commercially, she says.
Her business – a coffee roastery and cafe – would pay for the service. And here she is talking about not only organics, but other waste, such as, for her business, plastic milk bottles. (The cafe’s food waste is composted through a friend.)
“I pay a staff member to get our recycling out of shop – it’s a business expense.”
It would account for around an hour of staff time per fortnight, she estimates.
“And we’re tiny, think about what’s involved for hotels.”
Ms Hopper doesn’t want to come out with campaign promises. People “don’t buy them”, for one, she says, and being on council means you need to work with the other people on council.
In her campaign, she’d rather “elevate the issues that people say are important to them” and there’s no doubt kerbside recycling is one.
She recognises that the early respondents to her survey are likely to be people whom she engaged during her creditable NT election campaign last year.
In this campaign she’s working to extend the reach of her survey through professional media and social media, before summarising the results under the broader headings of “neighbourhood” and “whole-of-town”.
She’ll keep the survey open until the next council sits, she says.
Whatever the results at the booths, she intends to pass on the information she has gathered, with general feedback pointing to a level of community frustration with council around simply getting things done and not consulting sufficiently.
At top: Kim Hopper with the recycling load from her business. Photo supplied.