Cowra Council is taking action to combat a surge in yellow bin recycling contamination.
Cowra mayor Cr Ruth Fagan and her fellow councillors discussed the contamination rate after receiving a report from its Director of Environmental Services outlining strategies to be included in the council's Waste Management Strategy to reduce contamination.
It followed a claim that Council was dumping recycling into landfill.
"I think recycling is a difficult issue, from the manufacturers to what is done with the recycled materials that are collected," fellow councillor Judi Smith said.
She further emphasised the importance of education in improving the recycling habits of Cowra residents.
"We certainly can through an education program, hope to influence people in the Shire in terms of better understanding the need of recycling and a better recycling rate," Cr Smith said.
"We can certainly acknowledge the past difficulties and mistakes, and commit to and continue to improve what we do," Cr Smith said.
Adding to the discussion councillor Erin Watt made mention of Cowra Council's dedication to environmental sustainability and the significance of efficient recycling at the town's Materials Recycling Facility (MRF).
"This motion is indicative of the passion that this Council has for environmental sustainability and the importance we place on ensuring the MRF does the best it can to recycle and reuse as much product as possible," Cr Watt said.
Council's Director-Infrastructure and Operations, Dirk Wymer, provided insights into the operational challenges faced by the Council.
"The average contamination rate over the past six years has been 43 percent," Mr Wymer said.
He described the contamination as "a really high contamination rate" saying it "comes about largely because there's a lot of confusion despite council's best efforts as to what can be recycled".
One of the major hurdles to recycling has been the introduction of the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).
The volumes of CDS material exceeded expectations, leading to operational challenges for Cowra Shire Council.
"Sometimes an entire truck full of recycling can be contaminated, as for example when someone has put oil in a bin and that's tipped in and it goes everywhere, so there are difficulties council did not anticipate," Mr Wymer said.
Mr Wymer further detailed the impact of COVID-19 health orders on staffing levels and subsequent operational issues.
"For the period from 2020 to 2022, the weighbridge records indicate a higher amount of unsorted yellow bin material was diverted direct to landfill," he said.
The Council's proposed strategies to combat contamination rates include an extensive community engagement plan.
Additionally, the Cowra MRF app, launched in November 2022, serves as a resource for residents to navigate proper waste disposal.
The Council remains an active member of NetWaste, a regional waste group, to collaborate on waste management projects, education, and community engagement programs.
Through these initiatives, the Council hopes to achieve a significant reduction in recycling contamination rates.
The community's active involvement is pivotal in realizing these goals, with education and awareness campaigns forming the cornerstone of these efforts.