Waste experts say City of Ballarat is facing an uphill battle to dramatically change the recycling habits of 46,000 households - an immense educational effort for what may only be a short-term recycling solution.
Residents must keep glass out of their yellow-lidded bins from September 30, council announced on Thursday, as the city's new recycling contractor Australian Paper Recovery cannot process glass.
Residents will be encouraged to take their household glass waste to eight free drop-off zones that will be located around Ballarat, primarily at supermarkets, or put it in their landfill bin as a last resort.
Victorian waste management experts say it will take 'some time' and considerable investment in education for all residents to adjust to the change.
It is not going to be an easy fix and I think there is going to be a period of time where glass is still appearing in recycling bins.Dr Trevor Thornton, waste expert
The concern is the process may only be in place for 12 months before residents could be asked to change their recycling habits again.
Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group chief executive La Vergne Lehmann said the removal of glass from kerbside recycling was not an ideal option, but was better than sending recycling to landfill as neighbouring councils had done.
"Finding another processor that can continue the same service at a reasonable price has been extremely difficult for a lot of councils," she said.
"Without doubt we are going to have to work very hard in the future to get people back on track."
There is a precedent, according to the company that agreed to take the recyclables.
Australian Paper Recovery received a $470,000 grant from the state government's Recycling Industry Transition Support Fund fund to help set up its Truganina facility, which opened in June.
The company's managing director, Darren Thorpe, said the $2.5 million facility would have "no problem" in processing Ballarat's 46,000 bins worth of recycling, as long as it was not contaminated with glass.
"We audit the truck when it arrives and give feedback to the council, and if it's heavily contaminated with glass (we send it back)," he explained.
"We'll be isolating the load, looking at each load as it comes in, and if it has any glass - we have a no glass policy - then we'll be advising the council."
Previously, APR ran a trial with part of the City of Yarra in Melbourne, and Mr Thorpe said that showed no-glass recycling was achievable.
"The City of Yarra started their trial in the first week in June, and the first load tipped had 30 per cent glass, that was the typical kerbside mix - we rejected the load," he said
"After the first load we rejected, within four collections - on a fortnightly basis with 13,000 homes - within eight weeks it was less than 1 per cent glass."
The City of Ballarat is estimating it will send about 20 tonnes of household recycling to the site each day, which will become packaging cardboard, egg cartons, and plastic shipping pallets, among other products.
After it is picked up from the kerb, the material will be sorted at a Ballarat facility and checked for contamination, before it is packed onto trucks.
It's expected several jobs will be created to check the material - already, jobs ads for "Recycling Bin Inspectors" have appeared online.
When the trucks arrive at Truganina, the material is checked again.
Council is emphasising the plan will be a team effort - every recycling bin in the city will need to be free of glass, with plastics cleaned, for the plan to work.
Deakin University lecturer in hazardous materials Dr Trevor Thornton said it would take a lot of education and monitoring to shift resident's habits.
"We have spent a lot of time educating people about putting glass into their recycling bin and now we are asking them to do something different," he said.
"It is not going to be an easy fix and I think there is going to be a period of time where glass is still appearing in recycling bins."
While there are five sites for glass drop-offs already announced, including one in Buninyong, the council is expecting to finalise eight initial sites before September 30.
Officers will then watch volume levels at each site, and more could be installed.
See a map of the drop off points below. Source: City of Ballarat
It is not yet known what will happen to the glass that is collected.
Dr Thornton said government programs that force or encourage businesses to use recycled materials in their products was a key aspect to creating a viable recycling system.
He suggested City of Ballarat could mandate tenders for road works include a percentage of recycled glass in road material.
Mayor Samantha McIntosh said it was hoped the glass could be utilised by local businesses, or within roads and cement.
"There has been interest expressed, and from council itself, looking at the ability to use it for construction and maintenance of roads, but we are hoping that with our media campaign and education we'll get into a space that others will come forward," she said.
However, she demurred when asked if council would support mandating a minimum use of recycled glass in road projects.
"We're not putting regulation on businesses coming forward ... minimal regulation, minimal cost, and better systems allows a better outcome," she said.
Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group is currently developing a business case for a mobile glass crusher that could crush glass collected by local councils for use in road base or other council projects.
It is hoped the machine will be ready for trial in 2020.
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Dr Thornton said work to create a market for recycled materials needed to start now as even if City of Ballarat did establish an All Waste Interchange, it would not be viable if there was no market for the material.
While preparations to adjust to the new recycling process are underway, Ms Lehmann is continuing to work with City of Ballarat and other councils to establish a long-term solution for the region's recycling, that would include an All Waste Interchange, a local recycling processing facility and a waste to energy plant.
Meanwhile, residents are encouraged to consider how they can reduce and re-use their glass waste, take unwanted glass containers to council drop-off points and as a last resort, put it in landfill.
"Our goal is a long term response, at the moment, this is a short term plan, the short term part of our plan," Cr McIntosh said.
"We have a long term goal but we have to break it down into short term components - I think this is very achievable.
"I believe we have a very responsible community and I think most of the community will pick this new way up because it's such an environmentally responsible way of operating."
Cr McIntosh added she looked forward to seeing the state government's circular economy and recycling legislation, as other councils had expressed interest in Ballarat's plan.