What a waste: Council halts recycling action at Yass Transfer Station

These passionate recyclers have been quick to hammer Yass Valley Council’s recent decision to stop residents taking items from the Transfer Station.

Yass Valley residents Al Phemister, Phil Power, Mervyn Carnall and Paul Storey have spent years renovating houses and selling artworks using recycled materials from the tip.

Kiah Hamaridis-Smith, Sophie Peer, Kate MacMaster and Al Phemister in the Trader & Co. work space, made from recycled materials.

Kiah Hamaridis-Smith, Sophie Peer, Kate MacMaster and Al Phemister in the Trader & Co. work space, made from recycled materials.

Old fridges have been turned into sculptures, antique wooden doors into tables, and spare sinks into garden planters.

Until now, the Revolve shed has allowed anyone to purchase items separated from the waste pile.

However, in a statement to the Tribune, Yass Valley Council said: “This shed suffered damage in early December, at which time it was rendered unsafe and requires replacement.

"The operation of Revolve is under review, with council likely to make a decision about its ongoing operation at the March council meeting.”

Mr Phemister is a local sculptor and has been sourcing materials from the tip for 22 years. He believes it is the council’s intention to not reopen the Revolve shed, which he said would be “appalling”.

Mr Phemister said he had collected windows, furniture, corrugated iron and timber from the tip. “People are throwing away good stuff,” he said.

Mr Power and Mr Carnall are tradesmen and said there were a number of unique materials thrown in the tip that would be hard to buy these days.

“It’s not just modern stuff,” Mr Carnall said. “There are timbers out there, like cedar and oregon (fir), in doors that aren’t used anymore.”

Yass Valley Council’s statement also said scavenging from waste sites “raised Workplace Health and Safety concerns”, and suggested organisations such as the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul and Circle of Friends could be better off taking and selling reusable items.

“If there are OHS issues to pick something up from the tip and put it in my vehicle, then in the same environment, there should be suitable supervision for people who are unloading goods,” Mr Phemister said, questioning the council’s statement.

He would like to see the council hire someone to separate materials from the waste pile for the Revolve shed, in a safe manner.

The council says its transfer station staff currently look for Revolve shed materials during their regular role; however, Mr Phemister said he thinks it could be a specified job.

“I think council could reduce its landfill by a third if it was someone’s job just to separate the materials full-time,” Mr Phemister said.

“Council has to pay the NSW government for every cubic metre of landfill, so everything saved, saves council money and everything sold, makes council money.”

Mr Storey also saw the financial benefits for council of residents using the Resolve shed.

"I don't understand these decisions and they seem out of touch with the community," he said.

Mr Phemister said he was friends with some of the people who started the Green Shed in Canberra, which has 73 staff sorting through unwanted items that could be resold. It had stopped 56,645,800 kilograms of ‘stuff’ going to landfill as of Tuesday morning.

Mr Power said he would visit the Revolve shed more often if there was someone regularly finding materials of value.

"I think the town would benefit from it, people who are building a chook house or a cubby house and just want three sheets of corrugated iron," he said.

Mr Phemister said he thought the council's decision was "ironic", considering it had received a $20,000 Environmental Education grant in 2017 to reduce waste, "including turning rubbish into art," he said.

The grant was given for the council to run workshops to encourage residents to reduce their household waste.

The council also said in 2016 that it was committed to reducing the amount of rubbish going to landfill by 80 per cent. As part of that, council said it would follow the NSW Environment Protection Authority's 'Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy', which targets increasing recycling rates between 70-80 per cent.