Canberra leads the world in garden waste recovery and recycling rates that are ‘International best practice’. How does the ACT manage to recycle 97.5% of its Garden waste?

The ACT has, over a period of thirty years, evolved a near perfect mix of community attitude, private contractors in the trash pack industry, private contractors in the garden maintenance industry, private processing companies and local government involvement all working together to create a world class garden waste recycling system that is second to none. Or to quote the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2015 ‘International best practice.’

The most critical aspect of the success of this system is that the garden waste delivered to the processing sites is clean and free of any contaminants such as rubbish and general waste. This ensures the quality of the end product once it has been processed into one of many reusable forms. The ingredients going into the system have absolutely everything to do with the quality of the end product. The 5 leading factors in the success of the system are:

  1. A large number of Canberra residents privately deliver their garden waste to the processing facilities run by Canberra Sand and Gravel (CSG) in Mitchell and Parkwood and Corkhill Brothers at Mugga Lane. All residents are aware that the facilities are for garden waste only and dumping of general rubbish or junk is prohibited. Social consciousness plays a major part in keeping loads free of contaminants such as plastic pots, glass bottles, paper and junk. Users of the facility know it is not permitted and do not want to be seen dumping prohibited waste as the other users or the operators of the facility may bring to their attention, what they are doing is not allowed. Therefore, this form of peer pressure helps to keep these loads clean and free from contaminants.
  2. Trash pack operators deliver vast amounts of garden waste to the local recycling facilities. Approx. 70% of what ends up being delivered to these facilities through the trash pack operators needs to be cleaned of contaminants before it can be unloaded at the facility. This means that each trash pack bag is gone through individually on the truck it arrives on, to extract all of the rubbish, (plastic pots, bottles, newspapers, parking tickets and plastic garbage bags) from the load before it is emptied on site. This is to ensure that a clean load is left onsite free of contaminants.
  3. Gardening contractors cut branches and mow lawns therefore creating their own clean non-contaminated garden waste to be dropped off at the recycling facilities.
  4. 100% of this clean, non- contaminated garden waste is then processed by Canberra Sand and Gravel or Corkhill Brothers into various composting products and garden mulches and then resold to the Canberra community. Both of these local companies have made massive investments in plant and equipment for this recycling process and have spent decades perfecting their products and creating the markets to on sell this final, high quality product into, thus creating the perfect recycling circle.
  5. Over many years the local ACT government has played its part in creating this success story as well. It had the foresight to contract private processing companies to process the garden waste generated in Canberra and create the end product. It also relied on Canberra residents and local businesses to provide quality clean, non-contaminated garden waste to the processing facilities which they have done. The introduction of landfill fees in 1999 and the introduction of the Waste Minimisation Act 2001, banning garden waste from government bins, also added to the success of this outcome.