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Albany solid waste management study: Incorporating Cladophora disposal study

Chambers, Fran (1992) Albany solid waste management study: Incorporating Cladophora disposal study. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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This report presents an integrated solid waste management strategy for Albany based on the principle of waste minimisation. It is the result of a request by the Town and the Shire of Albany to examine solid waste disposal options and to assess the most appropriate method(s) for Albany, and to investigate possible disposal options for the alga, Cladophora, which is being harvested from the Albany harbours.

Chapter One establishes the context. It provides background information on solid waste management in Albany and discusses the circumstances which led to the request by the Town and the Shire. The study objectives and scope are presented, as is a brief discussion of some recent salient reports which have been produced on waste management and which are relevant to this study.

Chapter Two examines the current situation. Solid waste management is under the control of the local authorities, the Town and the Shire of Albany. Current waste practices are examined, as are Albany’s special environmental constraints which accentuate the need for waste minimisation and environmentally acceptable disposal of non-recyclable waste.

Both authorities are involved in waste minimisation through recycling programmes, and both are actively seeking ways to increase efficiency and reduce the waste stream. The analysis reveals duplication in services and administration which could be avoided if the two authorities joined forces for the purpose of waste management.

Albany does not have an inordinate solid waste problem. If waste reduction targets are met over the next decade, less waste will need disposal than is generated today, even if the population expands at a medium-high growth rate. Targets could be more effectively achieved through amalgamation, and the primary recommendation of the document is that the Town and the Shire of Albany jointly establish a Regional Waste Management Council for the purposes of waste management. This key recommendation is presented early in the report as the proposed waste management strategy is based on the premise that such a body should be formed.

Chapter Three proposes a waste management strategy which builds on the waste reduction achievements already attained in Albany. The theme of the strategy is waste minimisation, defined as any activity that minimises the generation of waste and thus avoids the problems of disposal. The strategy involves an operational, or management plan, and an organisational, or administrative structure. Targets are in accordance with National and State waste management strategies, with a proposed 50% reduction in the amount of waste that goes to landfill by the year 2000 as the principal target.

Increased community awareness, legal sanctions and financial incentives are the "tools" used to attain the waste reduction targets. The specific techniques proposed are source reduction, or reduction of waste at the point of production, and maximum recycling including composting.

Not everything is recyclable, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future, so it necessary to dispose of unrecycled waste in a manner that is acceptable environmentally, socially and economically. Chapter Four evaluates several alternatives to assess their potential as waste disposal facilities.

Options that are capital and/or energy intensive, such as pyrolysis, Neutralysis, incineration for energy recovery and whole refuse composting are rejected as it is considered that a centre the size of Albany does not generate the amount of waste required to justify their construction. They would simply not be cost effective. They are also rejected because they consume recyclable materials in their processing such as paper, cardboard, and timber, which conflicts with the waste minimisation ethos. If recyclables are disposed of in this manner there is little incentive for the householder to participate in recycling to reduce the waste stream. Finally, each of these systems leaves a substantial residue of waste which cannot be utihsed during processing, mainly plastics, metals, glass and hazardous components and which have to be disposed of separately.

Sanitary landfill is therefore considered to be the most appropriate waste disposal method for Albany. It is still the most economical method, and it has fewer environmental and economical uncertainties than the alternatives. The problems associated with landfill as a waste disposal method are not denied, but as environmental awareness increases, these problems are becoming better understood, and with proper management can be made environmentally acceptable, as is discussed in the body of the report.

The major recognised environmental issue for Albany is deterioration in the health of the harbours because of excessive nutrient input from various sources. The Hanrahan Road landfill site was targeted as a possible source of nutrients from leachate runoff and groundwater seepage by the EPA in 1990.

A study of surface leachates conducted this year by Murdoch University Honours student Tony Smith concluded that leachate ponding and surface export was unacceptable. Me recommended that "leachate seepage and contaminated runoff be retained and treated on-site, and that the disposal of leachate effluent be carried out in accordance with the relevant discharge criteria" (Smith, 1991).

Hanrahan Road landfill site has been the Town of Albany’s waste disposal site since 1970. It is a large site with predominantly suitable soils, and is close to the centre of waste generation yet does not impinge upon residential dwellings and it could accommodate all of Albany's waste until at least the turn of the century.

The findings of this study concur with the above recommendation, and as the Hanrahan Road site has many positive attributes, it is in the interests of both the Town and the Shire to control the leachate so that it can continue to operate. This solid waste management study recommends that, subject to environmental acceptability, the Hanrahan Road landfill site should be utilised as the single waste disposal facility for Albany.

For over two decades, the harbourside organic industries and smaller organic industries have disposed of their solid organic waste into the local landfill sites. In July 1990, Hanrahan Road closed the site to this type of waste. It is currently being dumped at the Shire of Albany's landfill site at Baker’s Junction. Chapter Five examines current practices and concludes that disposing of organic residue to landfill is unacceptable environmentally, socially and economically. It is also in conflict with the ethos of waste minimisation.

The environmental issues include (a) the production of high strength leachates from the biodegradation of the organic material which could enter groundwater and waterways, (b) the proliferation of disease vectors such as flies, rodents and mammals, and (c) the unknown impact of pesticides on the ecosystem. Dumping organic waste in this manner is also wasteful, economically unsound and aesthetically undesirable. Apart from throwing away marketable resources, the disposal of organic waste into the tip is reducing the lifespan of Baker's Junction landfill site. The recommendations of this chapter focus on proper management practices and enforcement of regulations to assist the local authorities and the industries to find acceptable alternative solutions to the ones currently being employed.

Chapter Six investigates the possible disposal options for the macroalgae that are being harvested from Albany’s harbours. The macroalgae, predominantly Cladophora species, are to be harvested from Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour for two reasons, (i) to allow greater light penetration to seagrass beds which will enable the seagrasses to photosynthesise more efficiently, and (ii) to reduce the nutrient pool in the harbours.

Community interest has been high, and several individuals have offered to take the algae for direct application onto farm land and gardens. The algae could also be composted, used as a base for potting mix for salt tolerant plants, and/or used as rehabilitation material for minesites and disused quarries within reserves.

Two major constraints with regard to these disposal options are (i) uncertainty about heavy metal levels within the plant, and (ii) salt and other contaminants entering the town’s water supply through seepage into the Water Authority’s borefield areas. Analysis for contaminants is one of the recommendations of this section.

The final chapter illustrates how Albany’s proposed waste management strategy is part of a broader picture. Regionalisation for solid and liquid waste management is occurring internationally, nationally and at the state level. It is recognised that pooled resources allow for better long term planning, and that fewer waste disposal facilities are more efficient and cost effective than are many smaller sites. Chapter Seven also presents a summary of the recommendations from this report.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): McComb, Arthur
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