A local government’s main responsibilities in managing community waste is to:
Other roles include educating and informing their community of ways they can help manage waste.
Councils in smaller communities can improve the quality of their waste management services, and cut their costs, by developing waste plans with nearby councils. A regional waste plan could allow councils to share staff, equipment, and facilities. For example, two or more councils could work together to:
A regional waste plan can also help deal with waste problems along a council boundary, such as a creek or river.
In larger regional centres, local governments contract commercial operators to collect household waste. For small communities, it can be difficult to interest commercial operators in providing a regular collection service. If your council provides the local waste collection service, the following points can help make it efficient.
A council levy can be placed on each household to help pay for the collection service.
Special collections help households get rid of larger items or dangerous goods rather than let them rot or rust in yards, pollute the land or harm the community. Special collections can be done at intervals throughout the year. Advise households well in advance of the date for these special collections and the types of waste being collected.
You could tie these collections in with a special event, such as Clean Up Australia day or the Keep Australia Beautiful - Tidy Towns campaign. A clean-up could also be held the week before a sporting or cultural gathering hosted by your community. This will have many positive effects, including increasing the sense of pride the community has in its town and impressing the visitors!
Every council must provide a safe, secure location where collected rubbish can be dumped, and where community members can take extra household rubbish. More information and links are on the Rubbish Tip Management page.
Before you build, open or run a tip, you need to find out what environmental laws you need to comply with. These laws aim to protect the environment (the land, water, air and other things) from pollution and contamination.
Important: To run a council tip, you may need an environmental licence from the Environmental Protection Agency in the state government. This licence lists the things the council must do to make sure its tip doesn’t pollute the environment.
Contact your local office of the Environmental Protection Agency for more information.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, local governments must identify and manage contaminated land in their areas. Councils must also notify the Environmental Protection Agency about that land.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, operating a council rubbish tip is classed as a Notifiable Activity. The land where a tip is located is ‘Contaminated Land’. Your council must register the location of a rubbish tip with the Environmental Protection Agency. You’ll find links to information about notifiable activities and registering Contaminated Land on the Environmental Protection Agency website: Guidelines and Information Sheets.
Also on the EPA website, you’ll find: Draft Guidelines for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Land. Please note: These Draft Guidelines refer to ‘Department of the Environment’ (DOE). The name of DOE has been changed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
After your council registers land with the EPA as ‘Contaminated Land’, the Council must maintain a record of this land (for land-use planning and decisions on development applications). Community members who want information about land recorded on the EMR or CLR should be asked to contact the EPA.
There are laws against littering, and councils can fine offenders. However, the best long-term strategy for beating a littering problem is community education, especially with anti-litter programs for school children.
Litter creates hazards. Broken bottles and tins, for example, can injure people. Dengue mosquitoes breed in water trapped in bottles.
People are more likely to drop litter in places that already have litter lying around. As well as community awareness campaigns on litter, councils can reduce litter by providing permanent or temporary bins in places such as:
The bins should prevent animals or birds scavenging in the rubbish, and keep out rain and wind. You can find suppliers of outdoor rubbish bins through a search on the Internet or maybe through your local telephone directory.
Councils that own houses in their communities are responsible for repairs and maintenance of the buildings. Councils need to be aware of what is required when repairing or demolishing a house that contains asbestos.
Asbestos can create serious health problems if the fibres come loose from sheeting and are breathed in. Asbestos is most likely to be found in the roofing or walls of buildings built before the late 1980s. Demolishing or repairing buildings that contain asbestos should only be done by suitably trained and licensed professionals. These contractors must now hold a licence to work with asbestos. You might also find asbestos in an old rubbish tip or it could be brought into the community in second-hand building material. The state government’s Workplace Health and Safety website has important information on:
The Public Health Act 2005 and the Regulation also legislates about asbestos under public health risks. There is information on the Queensland Health asbestos website for home renovators and also Local Governments.
When hiring a building contractor to work on a project in the community, the council should demand that the contractor removes all rubbish after the project is completed.
To ensure this is done, the council could get a cash bond from the contractor, or withhold final payment until the site is inspected by the EHW or other officer and declared 'clean'. These conditions should be clearly written into the contract so that the contractor knows what is expected. A building contract should also state that the rubbish is to be disposed of legally at a proper waste or recycling facility or even taken back to where the contractors come from. This will increase the life of the council tip.
Removing building rubbish is especially important for island communities where land area is limited.
When ordering material or equipment from suppliers, the council should require the supplier to minimise packaging. Where possible, council should require that the supplier take back the packaging for recycling or disposal. This will also increase the life of the council tip.
If you or your council needs additional resources or advice on waste management, first consult your Environmental Health Coordinator. Your EHC might recommend you also contact other agencies for funding or expert assistance.
State and Commonwealth grant and subsidy information can be found at:
You may also get additional advice and assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency.