Winning the war on waste
Published on 19 November 2023
For the past 20 years, our Waste Management Officer Josephine, has been driving our award- winning campaign efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle.
How did you get started in waste?
Moving to Kiama in 2003 I was looking for a job where I could use my public relations and horticultural experience. I started with Council as a casual administration assistant with the Environment and Health team before being offered the position of Waste Management Officer, a position I hold to this day.
Kiama Council, and our community, are consistently recognised for our waste reduction efforts. Just how good are we?
We are very good! I am proud that Kiama is recognised as leaders in the field thanks to our unique approach to waste management and the efforts of our residents embracing change.
We were one of the first councils in NSW to introduce a food and garden organics (FOGO) waste service.
Eleven years and many environmental awards later our FOGO service is often used as an example for other Councils.
Our innovative Household Bulky Waste Drop Off Event has also been a great success, with 63% of all waste dropped off either recycled or reused.
Why the passion for waste reduction?
Growing up in a family of seven, my parents were always mindful of saving money.
I was used to getting hand-me-down clothes and giving food scraps to the family cat/dog/ duck or using it for the compost for the veggie garden.
So, I have always been conscious not to waste things. When I started at Council, I got a true understanding of the environmental benefits of minimising and managing waste effectively.
I strongly believe it is everyone’s responsibility to ‘own’ their waste. But you need to be passionate to be convincing.
What work goes into all these initiatives?
I couldn’t do my job successfully without the support of my manager.
He allowed me to develop my passion for waste management, giving me the responsibility to develop our various waste initiatives and programs to address current and emerging waste issues.
Are people becoming more waste aware?
I have found at work and in my personal life that people are more waste aware.
At our Household Bulky Waste Drop Off Event, it’s wonderful to see so many residents coming through the Up 4 Grabs area to pick up pre- loved items for themselves.
Our other ‘second hand’ events have also been increasingly popular, from Second Hand Saturday to the newer initiatives such as Clothes Swap and Fabric Swap.
When I first started only 52% of our waste was recycled, now, we are at a very pleasing 73%.
But I know we can do better!
What are the next challenges?
While FOGO has been a game-changer in reducing the tonnage we send to landfill, we need to do more.
We need to look at packaging and the single-use plastic ban is definitely a step in the right direction.
Also, recycling puts the onus on the consumer, not the manufacturer.
So, manufacturers need to rethink the way they manage their waste by ensuring a percentage is reused/repurposed within their own production process or in other industries.
We are making small steps in the world of circular economy, but we need to make this a priority before it is too late.
Give us some trivia?
Our recycling operator only accepts items they can process, anything else is deemed contamination.
So, it’s very important for residents to know what can go in their yellow lid bin.
The same goes for the FOGO bin.
We’ve noticed our green lid bins getting increasingly heavy.
In fact, the side arm on one of our waste trucks recently broke while lifting one of these bins!
Please check out Council’s website for our A-Z list of more than 200 general household items and how to correctly dispose of them.
Photo: Josephine and Leon at work in the Up4Grabs shed