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ACT government told business green waste bin was 'unlikely' as late as January

Megan Doherty

Published: June 2 2016 - 4:15PM

  • Recycling in the ACT: the next step is totally organic

Environment Minister Simon Corbell advised a garden waste hauler as late as January that a third bin for Canberra was unlikely to be recommended for the ACT as it was "not cost-effective".

However, the Government announced last weekend it was introducing a third bin for garden waste across Canberra, starting with a pilot program in Kambah and Weston Creek in early 2017. 

In a letter sent in January to green waste hauler Rod Tarlinton​, Mr Corbell also pointed to the fact the government had previously knocked back a third bin for garden waste "due to the high costs for a marginal increase in resource recovery".

The minister also acknowledged that a third bin could have an "adverse impact on businesses like your own" - namely those businesses that already collect green waste for recycling.

The minister said in the letter that the government was most recently conducting an ACT Waste Feasibility Study and part of it would look at the potential impacts of any measure on small businesses.

"However, as a third bin service for households has been previously considered and determined not to be cost-effective in the Territory, it is unlikely this work will recommend the introduction of a third bin for green waste," his letter, dated from January this year, read.

Mr Tarlinton said he took this as assurance enough a third bin was not happening.

The government's third bin would only be for those residents who wanted the service and people would have to pay a $50 deposit for the bin. Pensioners and concession card holders will not have to pay the deposit.  The Government has said there would be no increase in rates as a result of the third bin.

Mr Tarlinton said once the bins were rolled out across the ACT: "My business will be no longer".

"It's devastating. I didn't sleep for a couple of days," he said.

Mr Tarlinton and other garden waste haulers including Tom Ballard from Tom's Trask Paks are seeking an urgent meeting with the government saying they were not consulted about the third bin.

The government says it does not know the full cost of operating a third bin and won't know until the pilot program is over.

Mr Corbell in his letter said previous research had identified "high initial establishment costs and significant operational costs" associated with services including a third bin.

Mr Corbell's letter has raised questions about the real cost of the third bin and whether there is any internal disagreement within the government over its introduction.

Municipal Services Minister Meegan​ Fitzharris said there had been no disagreements.

"We don't believe forcing everyone to have a green bin is cost-effective, but we have looked at a range of options for introducing green bins for garden waste in Canberra in recent months, and now believe the most cost-effective way to do this is through an opt-in system," she said.

Ms Fitzharris said the government had changed its tune on a third bin because it had listened to the community.

"We are introducing a green bin for garden waste because families across the ACT have told us that is what they want. This will be another great city service delivered by Labor, and an investment in our suburbs," she said.

"I understand there are currently businesses in the ACT that are filling in a market gap, and we want to work with them during the transition phase. We have also committed to a staged rollout to give current operators time to adjust and amend their services, as well as bid to deliver this project."

Mr Corbell, meanwhile, issued a short statement when asked about his letter to Mr Tarlinton.

"The ACT Government's green bins trial is designed to deliver a new municipal service to Canberrans. It is something Canberrans have asked for and the government is now delivering," he said.

"While the ACT already has high rates of green waste recycling the government's new green bin service will make disposal of green waste easier for Canberrans who choose to opt in.  Any increase in green waste recycling as a result of the green bins program is an added benefit."

Mr Tarlinton's businesses, ACT Greenwaste, has been operating for four years. It  relies solely on collecting green waste from households for recycling. A wheelie bin is provided to customers - like the one the government plans to supply to anyone who opts into the service.

Mr Tarlinton initially wrote to then TAMS Minister Shane Rattenbury in October last year when there was a push by community groups for a third bin for garden waste to be introduced.

He said in the email to Mr Rattenbury that he hoped that wasn't a consideration of the government because it would mean the end of his small business.

Mr Corbell wrote back to Mr Tarlinton in January saying his letter fell into his portfolio and suggesting no third bin was on the agenda.

Mr Tarlinton said he was also invited to sit on a commercial reference group to help advise the government on waste but there was "nil consultation or contact from the government before the announcement" of the third bin.

"I have yet to receive any contact from Minister Fitzharris, [despite] the fact that my business is primarily based in Gungahlin, which is her electorate," he said.

"I am hoping she will contact me to discuss the implementation of the bins and the options or lack thereof for my business.  A positive solution for both would be great, I have some proposals to put forward to her."

Mr Tarlinton said he was also concerned for other small businesses which relied on hauling away or recycling green waste.

"I also feel that when the green waste collection is contracted/tendered out, the small traders will have no chance of getting any sort of contract with the government and will go to the likes of existing multi-nationals," he said.

Mr Ballard, meanwhile, is the sole director of Tom's Trash Paks which has been operating for 38 years in Canberra and has 10 franchises, nine of which are in the ACT.

He said most of the waste collected in the trash packs was green waste and there were concerns about the viability of the businesses should a third bin be introduced.

"It's bound to have a big impact on our industry," he said.

Mr Ballard said the system now worked well with people either taking in their own waste for recycling or paying to have it taken away, without being a drain on public money.

He doubted rates would not go up if a third bin was introduced, regardless of what the government promised.

"Where is the money coming from to fund this thing?" he said

Opposition spokesman on urban services, Alistair Coe, said the Liberals were finalising their waste policies.

"The Canberra Liberals are planning to hold a forum on the issue of green waste soon. I'd be happy to hear from residents as well as green waste contractors to hear their views about the best way forward for green waste collection services across Canberra," Mr Coe said.

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