Bega Valley's recycling shipped to Shoalhaven

Glass bottles on their way to being recycled at the VISY plant in Broadmeadow. Fairfax file photo.
Glass bottles on their way to being recycled at the VISY plant in Broadmeadow. Fairfax file photo.

Do you know where your recycling goes once it’s collected from your driveway?

Questions about recycling and waste recovery have been raised in the wake of a Four Corners investigation into stockpiling and dumping of recyclables, particularly glass.

In response to last week’s report on problems within the waste industry, the Bega Valley Shire Council assured residents the shire is not directly nor indirectly involved in landfilling in Queensland. 

And despite a lingering perception that recycling collected in the Bega Valley just goes to landfill, the council says “that’s certainly not the case”.

In the Bega Valley, recyclable material is collected by Cleanaway as the BVSC contractor and transported to Shoalhaven Recycling for processing.

It’s estimated around 5000 tonnes of material is transported out of the Valley for sorting and marketing each year. 

Shoalhaven Recycling sorts glass products before crushing them, with one resulting product a fine grain “crushed glass sand” which can be used in construction materials and concrete.

However, BVSC waste services manager Toby Browne said finding markets for recycled glass was a key issue.

“There are problems getting acceptance from some sectors in using recycling glass in construction and so on,” Mr Browne said.

“They aren’t insurmountable problems though; people’s attitude needs to change.

“Recycling employs more people [than landfill operations] and it recovers finite natural resources. But materials that are recovered for recycling like all other resources are subject to market realities.

“At the moment there is a glass glut.

“Markets fluctuate, innovations are introduced and we keep finding solutions to a very large and complex problem,” Mr Browne said.

In his view, a better option would be to have a material recovery facility here in the Valley – an initiative Mr Browne said is currently under active consideration by council’s waste strategic working group.

“Glass is typically being crushed at material recovery facilities (MRF) for use in civil engineering applications,” he said.

“It’s not technically complex, the issue is finding an avenue for use of the material.

“Council has significant options for making use of crushed glass sand so we’d be controlling the supply chain.

“At the end of the day I’d be delighted if council built its own MRF down here – there would be huge benefits, including local jobs; a looming income stream through the NSW container deposit scheme, and a greater degree of control over what we collect and what happens to it.”