Managing waste correctly is important in reducing pollution and providing a healthy environment. Problems for landholders and local residents have arisen due to waste being inappropriately dumped in waterways, farm dams, gullies or in old quarries, wells and mineshafts.
These problems can be avoided by practising waste separation, waste reduction and correct disposal methods.
While urban areas are generally well-serviced by recycling and garbage services, rural and rural residential properties typically have few services and a wider range of waste to deal with. Waste produced by landholders can include:
- domestic waste - kitchen waste, scraps
- recyclables - cardboard, paper, glass, some plastics
- household items - old white goods, furniture, electrical appliances etc
- vegetation - garden and lawn clippings
- dead animals - particularly larger livestock such as cows, horses and sheep
- chemicals - herbicides, insecticides and fertilisers
- large waste items - old machinery
- building waste - bricks, timber, concrete, asbestos
- other materials - paints, oil, batteries, tyres, oil drums.
Many of the problems created by waste can be addressed by separating your waste out and reducing the amount of waste you produce.
After minimising the amount of waste you bring home, aim to re-use, recycle or compost everything else. However, some materials may still need to go to landfill or be otherwise collected at a registered waste facility.
To reduce risk of disease and the contamination of land and water, it is important to separate your various waste products.
Reduce and re-use
The first step in managing waste is to avoid it in the first place. Select products with less packaging, and ask the retailer if you can return the packaging, or leave it behind when you collect the product.
Buying in bulk may also help reduce the amount of packaging you collect.
Avoid single use and disposable products where possible, and choose alternatives that can be used again. For example, use re-usable containers instead of freezer bags and take a refillable bottle of water from home instead of buying water when out.
Look for ways to re-use household goods and give unwanted goods a new lease on life. Give unwanted items to charity or your local second-hand shop, or use community noticeboards. You can also buy, swap and sell using various websites.
Look for products that use recycled materials or are recyclable. When you buy recycled products, you are saving resources and reducing the impacts of pollution.
When recycling, make sure only the items accepted for recycling in your area go in your recycling bin. You can usually recycle glass, hard plastic, aluminium and steel, paper, cardboard, and milk and juice cartons.
Check with your council about recycling pick-up and drop-off facilities in your area, including electronic waste and building materials. There are national programs for recycling items such as chemicals, drums and mobile phones.
Composting is nature's own recycling program. Organisms break down your domestic and farm waste into rich, dark, crumbly compost that you can use to improve the quality of soil in your gardens and vegetable patch.
Composting your garden waste also reduces the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill on your property, and helps the environment by reducing the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, produced by rotting organic material in landfill.
Domestic and farm waste that can be composted includes:
- 'Greens' - such as grass clippings, leaves, flowers, straw, non-woody garden prunings, kitchen waste, and herbivore animal droppings (horse, chickens and cows).
- 'Browns' - such as paper, cardboard, wood fire ash, sawdust, vacuum dust and hair.
Compost bins or worm farms are best for smaller amounts of waste. Compost heaps can handle larger quantities.
It is as simple as collecting ingredients from your garden waste, covering, turning the compost every week to add air and check it is moist, and then when it is ready after two to three months, use it to improve your soil. Compost bins and worm farms can be obtained from rural supply outlets and nurseries.
Check with your council about local domestic waste removal for your property.
If there is no service in your area, take care to minimise the amount of waste you create and do your best to re-use, recycle and compost. You will also have to arrange for a contractor to dispose of your putrescible waste or otherwise arrange for it to be taken to a waste management facility. Seek advice from your local council and nearest waste management facility. If you use a contractor, then you have a legal responsibility to ensure the waste is disposed of lawfully.
In the catchments, landowners have the responsibility to ensure that chemicals do not find their way into farm dams, waterways and groundwater. Landowners are legally responsible for the safe use and disposal of farm chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers. A national program called drumMUSTER helps farmers dispose of chemical drums while ChemClear has been set-up to help dispose of unwanted chemicals safely and without harm to the environment.
Any waste that you cannot re-use or recycle should be sent to an appropriate waste management facility in your local area.
Only as a last resort, consider disposing of waste on your rural property after consulting your local council. Choose an area away from water courses and drainage lines.
As a guide, items suitable for landfill may include glass, metal, plastic, and large items such as old machinery. Kitchen and other domestic waste, chemicals, paints and other contaminants should not be placed in the landfill sites due to land and water contamination risks.
Burning waste, like landfill, should be a last resort on rural properties. Restrictions apply to the materials that can be burnt, to reduce air pollution near towns and to prevent bushfires. Check the restrictions on materials that can be burnt with your local council.
Before burning waste on your property, seek advice from your local council and a permit from the Rural Fire Service.
Dead stock disposal
Disposing of dead livestock on your property risks spreading disease, producing odours and polluting farm dams, creeks and groundwater.
The decision to burn or bury dead stock may depend on the cause of death. Burning is mandatory with some exotic diseases. Seek advice from the Local Land Services to determine the cause of death and the correct method of disposal.
Stock should be buried at least 100 m from any watercourse.
What you can do
- Separate your waste products according to how they will be treated and disposed.
- Find out about you nearest waste facility and what waste materials it will and will not accept. Phone your local council for more information.
- Make sure only domestic waste goes into the domestic waste bins collected by councils and that the items accepted for recycling in your area go in your recycling bin. Never dispose of unwanted chemicals, oils, paints, and other contaminants in council bins.
- Never dump waste in waterways, farm dams, gullies, or in old quarries, wells or mineshafts, as it may pollute our drinking water and groundwater.
- Seek advice before establishing a landfill site on your property, and before burning waste and disposing of dead animals.
- Recycle mobile phones and batteries through MobileMuster.
- Dispose of unwanted agricultural and veterinary chemicals through ChemClear. Do not dispose of chemicals in any form down drains, gullies or watercourses.
- Dispose of chemical drums through drumMUSTER.
- For oil collection and to find about other recycling services in your area, contact your local council.