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Bendigo Waste Dilemma

The Bendigo Landfill in Eaglehawk is set to be closed in 2021 which poses the question, where will our waste go beyond 2021? 

The thing that scares me: we don’t have an answer to that question. And we only have a year to answer it. That’s 100,000 tonnes of waste that we won’t have somewhere to deal with every year. In addition, our city currently sends approximately 20,000 tonnes to the Patho Landfill near Torrumbarry every year to help alleviate our burden of waste. Surely that’s not a long term sustainable solution. Sending our waste to the Patho landfill incurs half the levy charges from the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) compared to dealing with it locally however although we remove operating costs involved locally, logistically the costs related to transporting our waste over 90km away to have someone else deal with it is still a huge constraint. 

Before we get too deep into the frustrations of the current management of our waste, we need to acknowledge why we have the problem we now face and what we want to achieve moving forward.

Landfills are not sustainable. Environmentally nor financially. And the time it takes for landfill sites to deal with our waste, not to mention the sites being rehabilitated to the point of re-use is far too long. I mean, we’re literally burying/ignoring our problem and waiting for time to deal with it for us. These reasons are why the EPA incur a levy of ~$63 per tonne on our council. We need a more sustainable solution.

In 2016 the City of Greater Bendigo introduced a third bin to our households to help ease the pressure of its inability to deal with our waste dilemma however rate payers were the ones asked to share the bill for this inability. Now we have the State government announcing the introduction of a fourth bin (purple lid for more effective recycling) which again will cost us more money. BUT, it still doesn’t deal with our landfill expiry. These are just bandaid solutions to a haemorrhaging wound.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against recycling nor taking on the responsibility of our own waste we encourage and create. I think these are great common practices in our lives. However I am suggesting instead of finding solutions, we have just deferred our problems to another generation.

In 2016 this was one of the biggest issues our city was facing and I felt it important as a candidate to have an answer when our city did not. So I further investigated our options considering these key factors; time, environment, cost, ethics and overall sustainability.

I started my search in Europe to understand common practices and I consistently found the same answer. Waste to Energy Plants. Which I know as you read it, some people’s minds will go straight to the term ‘Incineration’ plants. The Stigma and image around these through the 90’s were similar to a coal plant. Shovelling our waste into a furnace to produce energy and black clouds into the atmosphere. But as our technology has evolved so too should our understanding.

I admit that I carried this archaic view myself but at the end of my search for answers I found a surprisingly local resource in Brian Stanmore. Now residing in Junortoun, Brian spent years in France working in the Waste to Energy industry and I had a great opportunity to hear first hand about his experiences and how the plants actually worked.

Not only has Europe been using Waste to Energy Plants sustainably for decades to deal with their waste, they provide many other benefits. Generating power to support cities as large as our own, creating by-products that can be re-used in local industries, cleansing the gas released to environmentally friendly levels and offering more job opportunities for our region are all possible.

Additionally some indirect benefits could be addressing our power shortages in the hot summers and our rising power bills.

To help understand them yourself, please review this basic video explaining the operations of a plant in Amsterdam

Another factor to consider is that Bendigo is not the only city facing this problem. It’s consistent for all regional areas in Victoria and is now considered a State Government responsibility and they are expected to take the lead in strategies moving forward. 

But I say no. I see an opportunity for Bendigo. I want us to be on the forefront of this issue. If we could be the first to engage in a Waste to Energy Plant, we have an opportunity to service the municipalities around us. And if it’s currently common practice for us to pay just to send our waste nearly 100km away, it’s reasonable to think we could start making money of the rest of the state while we deal with their waste. That’s the benefit of being first.

How do we deal with our waste? 

The problem that is like a bag of flaming poo on our doorstep. The one that we can’t avoid anymore.

For me, it’s clear. A Waste to Energy Plant. 

Not only would we deal with our problem of time, costs and the impact on the environment. We’d be generating energy, making money, addressing our unemployment figures and putting ourselves at the forefront of industry in Australia.

A Waste to Energy Plant = A Big win for Bendigo

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