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'Waste Talk' ... with Pat Pathmanathan

After 25 years working with Queensland councils, most recently as the Waste Manager of Moreton Bay Regional Council, I would like to share the journey of waste in local government through a series of articles to help drive awareness and ultimately put ‘rubbish’ in the spotlight. Why it matters, why we need to do more and most importantly on a practical level how we can make a difference.  

There are loads of big consulting firms out there, they all have a part to play but we also need to be realistic on our limitations in terms of what we want to achieve, what we can afford to achieve and what is the best way of going about it.  

Geographically, Queensland is a massive area and that brings with it its own challenges. What works in South East Queensland, doesn’t necessarily work in the Far North, it certainly won’t all work in the outback. We have varying degrees of in-house capabilities – a council in South East Queensland such as Moreton Bay have a waste management team of more than 70 staff and contractors and the annual waste budget is in excess of $50M. So, we can afford to have state-of-the-art waste management facilities including environmental compliance and multiple waste collection services such as recyclable waste, organic waste and general waste to maximise resource recovery and reduce waste to landfill. Further afield however, this is obviously not the case and due to this, opportunities are lost.  

So, why should we care? Why can’t we just create more pits and bulldoze as much rubbish as we want. This is where I want to start, share with you my passion and why I think it should be part of your agenda.   

When we have poorly managed landfill sites, not only does this release significant pollutants into the air and water, this affects the health and well being of humans, animals, and marine life. Interestingly, this also has a negative impact on the tourism industry largely due to unsightly accumulation of rubbish and pollutants. 

So where does the problem lie with addressing these issues, what are the barriers to change? Waste management can be costly, in many cases it may represent the single highest budget item for councils. However, it makes economic sense to properly manage waste in a cost effective and efficient manner.  

Uncollected waste, illegal dumping and poorly managed landfill sites have significant health and environmental impacts. The cost of addressing these impacts is many times higher than the cost of developing and operating simple, adequate waste management systems. 

Waste reduction is one method of managing landfill. Reducing waste is reducing the amount of trash that goes to landfills. This allows us to conserve space in our landfills and as a result, reduce the need to build landfills which take up valuable space and are a further source of air and water pollution. Uncontrolled leachate that escapes from a landfill can contaminate groundwater, surface waters and soil, potentially polluting the environment and harming human health. By reducing your waste, you are also conserving resources as you are keeping them in use for as long as possible, therefore extracting the maximum value from them. 

Waste reduction is part of an overall waste management strategy. It is important because waste recycling helps to reduce the existing landfills, increase employment, helping to create a greener and cleaner environment for all. It needs to be practiced because the entire population’s health and protection depend on it.  

Proper waste disposal methods make for a cleaner, safer region with less diseases and lower potential harm to both human and animals. When done right, waste management can also reduce financial impacts to your council, conserve energy and natural resources.  

Waste data collection, management and planning are also part of the solution for waste management and recycling (more on this in my next article). It is important to understand how much and what types of waste are generated within your region. This can help your council create more effective waste management policies and waste reduction plans for your region. 

Your council may play an important role in managing your waste by implementing the principles of the 5Rs:

  • Refuse 
  • Reduce
  • Reuse  
  • Repurpose
  • Recycle

We are increasingly working with remote and regional councils to find practical and cost-effective methods to achieve sustainable waste management. This is by overcoming your challenges related to manpower support, infrastructure planning, environmental compliance, maximising landfill capacity, full cost pricing, strategy, governance, project management and tender process including waste and recycling collection contracts. 

We have the expertise of RPQ certified engineers, combined with operational experience in managing councils' waste operations and environmental compliance assessment of current and closed landfills. With this experience and knowledge, we are here to support local government to find practical solutions to managing their waste, reducing the impact to the environment in a cost effective and practical manner, even in the most remote and far reaching areas of Queensland.  


If you would like to know more about this issue or anything waste related, contact Pat Pathmanathan on 0406 552 708 or via email spathmanathan@wearepeak.com.au.