Here are answers to commonly asked questions about recycling and waste disposal.*
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Why do they dump waste?
We all generate waste. Every week, NAWMA takes the waste from over 100,000 homes and buries it in a landfill site. If we didn't do this, the waste would pile up around our homes, causing health problems.
Where do they dump waste?
For many years, waste from our homes has been buried at the Wingfield landfill, which has been operated by the Adelaide City Council. However, this landfill became full and it was closed in December 2004. Consequently, NAWMA has established a baled landfill site at Uleybury.
What do you mean by landfill?
We used to call them dumps, but landfill is a more descriptive and appropriate word.
What do you mean by baled landfill?
A special machine compresses and ties waste into bales, making it easier to transport and place in the landfill. Each bale is one cubic metre of compressed waste and consists of approximately 150 of the red lidded 140 litre bin loads.
What was at Uleybury before it became a landfill?
Uleybury is a best practice landfill developed on the site of an old quarry.
An engineered clay and synthetic liner at the base of the landfill prevents leachate, or liquid that seeps through waste, from reaching natural groundwater.
The landfill will be developed in stages and progressively filled, capped and revegetated.
A network of groundwater monitoring sites will regularly monitor and test to ensure landfill operations meet environmental standards.
Based on receiving 100,000 tonnes of baled waste per annum, the Uleybury landfill will have an operational life of 16 years with a commitment to on-going maintenance and monitoring of the site for at least 30 years.
Is it true that gas from landfill sites can be used to generate energy?
Yes, methane gas builds up in rotting waste and this can be a threat to the ozone layer that protects us from some of the sun’s harmful rays.
Each year, the extraction of gas from the Uleybury landfill will divert almost 40,000 tonnes of so-called greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent annually to taking 9,000 cars off the road or planting nearly 4,000 hectares of trees.
Landfill gas extracted from the site can be converted to energy to power over 1,000 homes.
What can we do to stop the hole in the ozone layer getting bigger?
The ozone layer is a layer of ozone gas that surrounds the earth. It is important because it absorbs some of the ultra-violet radiation from the sun.
In the 1980s, a hole was discovered in the ozone layer. The hole had been caused by our use of certain gases in spray cans, refrigerators and air conditioners. These gases are gradually being replaced with safer alternatives.
Are there alternative measures of waste disposal?
In the past, loose rubbish was spread on the surface of landfills and compacted by large purpose built plants. At the end of each day, the rubbish was covered by a layer of soil.
This method of waste disposal has some problems. It produces dust and smells, rubbish blows around, and it attracts scavenger birds such as seagulls and pests, such as foxes and rats. These introduced pests kill native animals.
What about burning the waste?
Other methods of waste disposal include incineration and composting. With incineration, the waste is burned in a high temperature furnace and the heat used to generate electricity.
With the composting system, everything is thrown into a compost heap. The organic material breaks down in a few days and can easily be separated from the recyclable material and non-recyclable waste.
Incineration and composting systems are very expensive, and until people are prepared to pay the higher costs, we have no option but to bury our waste.
Having said that, NAWMA is a progressive organisation that is constantly looking at new technologies in waste management.
What's the point of recycling?
Recycling reduces the amount of useful material that ends up being buried in a landfill.
I recycle every week, make my own compost, and put out a rubbish bin once every couple of months. I started recycling before we had kerbside recycling by taking bottles and cans to a recycling station.
Would the environment be any worse off if we didn't recycle?
There are two ways recycling can help the environment. Firstly, by recycling we can reduce the amount of land devoted to burying our waste.
Secondly, products made from recycled materials often require less energy to make than products made from raw materials. For example, aluminium cans made from recycled aluminium require 40 per cent less energy to make. By reducing the amount of energy, we use we reduce the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases we generate.
What happens to the paper, bottles and cans we recycle? How much gets recycled?
NAWMA’s recycling collection service currently receives over 20,000 tonnes of material from member Councils and a further 8,000 tonnes from client Councils including Adelaide Hills, The Barossa Valley, Barunga West, Clare/Gilbert Valley, Copper Coast, Goyder Regional, Light Regional, Mallala, Mr Remarkable, Peterborough, Wakefield Regional and Yorke Peninsula.
A combination of manual and leading edge technology is used to sort and package material suitable for recycling. Recycled products are manufactured and dispatched to locations locally, and all over the world.
How many different ways are there to recycle? How does NAWMA collect recyclable material?
Most Council areas now have kerbside recycling, using bins or special split bins, with one side for recyclables and the other side for other waste.
NAWMA uses a short squat 140 litre red lidded bin for the weekly collection of rubbish because it encourages recycling. We also have a fortnightly collection of recyclables in a dedicated 240 litre yellow lidded bin. Simply throw all of your clean recyclables into the bin with the yellow lid, and we do the rest.
Why don't we get money for all bottles and cans?
Years ago, a 5c deposit on drink bottles and cans was implemented in South Australia to reduce the amount of roadside litter.
Due to the success of this sceme the refund was increased to 10c in September 2009. You can get your 10c back by taking your drink bottles and cans to a Scout Recycling Centre. If you put them out for NAWMA to collect, we use the 10c to help pay for the recycling service and keep costs down for ratepayers. So either way, you are rewarded for recycling.
*Thanks to the students from Paralowie R-12 School for some of these questions.