The Queensland Government is currently considering the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017. While strongly supporting the Bill for what it may do for waste reduction generally, its implications for Fraser Island were not immediately apparent until I began working on a submission to the Parliamentary Committee reviewing it. Two key features of the proposed legislation are a ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags and the introduction of a container refund scheme for Queensland.
The bulk of K’gari’s waste and rubbish is left at waste transfer stations from where it is removed for mainland disposal. There are Waste Transfer stations at the villages, Central Station and along the beach. The substantial costs of this waste management strategy are shared between the Fraser Coast Regional Council and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Until recently, each station had a recycling component with bulk bins for general waste and yellow-topped bulk bins for recyclable material (paper, cans and bottles). Last year, the recycling component scheme abandoned because there was so much extraneous general rubbish was being mixed with the beverage containers in the bins that had been designated for recycling that continuation with this scheme couldn’t be justified. Now, all unseparated rubbish, including recyclable beverage containers, are all dumped in the same bulk-bins and delivered to a mainland landfill.
There has been a long tradition for Fraser Island (K’gari) fishers and campers to be accompanied by generous supplies of beer and other beverages all in small containers. The container refund scheme will provide an incentive for at least some Fraser Island visitors, campers and residents to retain their beverage containers and take them back to the mainland to cash them in and retrieve their deposits. This might help offset some of the costs of their K’gari holiday. This would also significantly reduce the bulk deposited at Fraser Island’s waste transfer stations on thus reducing the cost of waste removal. There is also an incentive for kids or some “bower birds,” to mop up containers of those unwilling to take them back to the mainland.
The issue of plastic shopping bags entering the marine environment is well documented, so while not as obvious on K’gari, the new legislation will improve the health of the marine environment that surrounds it.
It is interesting to consider just how relevant the new legislation is for K’gari and its immediate environs; and it will be more interesting to see just how much the volume of rubbish is reduced by. While litter from discarded containers into the bush on Fraser Island isn’t as serious a problem as elsewhere, it does exist. FIDO is constantly picking up improperly disposed containers while working on weed management. We believe that container refund scheme would reduce this.
Another aspect of the general waste management problem on K’gari is the visual impact of the waste transfer stations. This is especially true for the Happy Valley dump which is beside one of the only roads leading in and out of the village. It is a shameful visual eyesore unbefitting a World Heritage island inscribed for its great aesthetic value.
FIDO has proposed a landscaping scheme to screen the dump from the road. FIDO has the plant stock, labour and materials to do this, without disturbing the functioning of the dump. FIDO’s offer to do this work, at no cost to the ratepayers, awaits Council approval before FIDO can proceed.
Article and photos submitted by John Sinclair AO, FIDO