Council to build recycling facility if operated by the community

WAR ON WASTE: Waste at a materials recovery facility in Hume. Photo: Karleen Minney
WAR ON WASTE: Waste at a materials recovery facility in Hume. Photo: Karleen Minney

Yass Valley Council is discussing building a community recycling facility next to the Yass tip after the Revolve Shed was damaged from high winds and closed in December 2018.

The council agreed at its ordinary meeting on November 27 to see if there was community interest in running the facility and to consider funding to build the facility during the 2020/21 budget process.

The facility is expected to cost about $120,000 to build in six months and $215,000 to run each year.

The council said it didn't have enough staff at the tip to also manage the recycling facility and volunteers would reduce operational costs.

Al Phemister was one of the Yass Valley residents disappointed by the council's decision to close the Revolve Shed late last year and has expressed an interest in running the recycling facility with others.

"It needs someone with the passion to make it happen. It needs someone to be able to look at the materials with an eye to see what you can do with it," said Mr Phemister, who is also a sculptor by trade.

Mr Phemister has set a meeting with the council's general manager Chris Berry to discuss how the community could run the facility.

Currently, the council wants anyone who runs the facility to have their own insurance and to pay for the facility's water, electricity and communication.

The operator would also be restricted to running the facility during the hours Yass Transfer Station is open to stop unwanted material from being illegally dumped and would be banned from taking materials from the tip for re-sale at the shed.

"The list of how to run it is so restricting," Mr Phemister said.

With the council estimating the recycling facility would make only $20 per day or $7300 per year, based on the former Revolve Shed income, Mr Phemister said they needed to look at ways to increase that return, including by taking materials from the tip for re-sale.

"You can't run a business that makes $7000 per year," he said. "By taking materials from the tip we would be reducing the council's waste pile and therefore the council's costs."

However, the council would be unlikely to change its decision after one of its trained staff members was recently injured by taking recycled materials from a waste pile.

The topic was hotly debated at the council meeting, with councillor Geoff Frost agreeing the facility should be able to take materials from the tip pile.

"The thing with Revolve is that one man's trash is another man's treasure. It's a matter of who makes the decision and my understanding of what works well at other sites is when scavenging is allowed to happen. This is a Clayton's Revolve because it's not revolving stuff presented to the tip," Cr Frost said.

However, mayor Rowena Abbey argued tip users would likely stop at the recycling facility first to separate their items. The council's director of engineering Stan Robb said that was exactly the idea.

"The assumption around the location is that people will go past the facility before they enter the transfer station and have the chance to deposit items they think are worthy of being recycled," Mr Robb said. "Injury is an issue. While we have $20 million public liability insurance, the point is to avoid injury in the first place."

Cr Abbey said the council would consult with the community and seek expressions of interest from the community to run the facility. She said feedback would be sought about how to run the facility through that process.

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