Concerns mount over the removal of flood-damaged waste in NSW and Queensland

Piles of flood-damaged goods and rubbish in southeast Queensland and New South Wales are now becoming a potential health hazard and environmental hazard.

Stacked collections of stained items from flood-ravaged homes and businesses will shift from paving streets to accumulating in landfills and temporary storage.

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Brisbane Mayor Adrian Schrinner said about 30,000 cubic meters have already been dumped in municipal landfills and recycling centers, a stock typically generated over 12 months.

While in the rivers of northern New South Wales, Lismore Council has estimated that over 1,000 tonnes of flood waste is collected and moved to a temporary site at a tip each day.

Lismore Managing Director John Walker confirmed that from Wednesday the state government will take over waste collection and transfer rubbish to a quarry near Teven, 30km east of the flood-ravaged area.

“People there are traumatized” he said. “It is right on the street. At the end of the day, it’s totally depressing and it’s really important that we clean it up.”

“I don’t think recycling is on the agenda. It’s just a bunch of mess.

-John Walker

Meanwhile, concerns are mounting over saturated waste becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes and mice, following an increase in creepy crawlies, pests and mold in 2021 after La Nina bought wet weather on the east coast of Australia.

There is also the possibility of an increased risk of bacteriological contamination, from sewage, general waste, human and animal waste, as well as chemical and physical contamination of drinking water and food.

Waste industry groups have decried a lack of disaster planning, with an insufficient number of landfills being kept in case of major events.

Corn, Queensland Environment Minister Meghan Scanlonreassured the public that municipalities had emergency plans in place, while the state provided advice and support for waste management.

“With unprecedented flooding across large swaths of Queensland and New South Wales, the problem here is not the capacity of our landfills, but the ability of municipal contractors and industry to pick up the waste” , she says.

Scanlon added that representatives of the waste sector were consulted “determine their processing capabilities to help manage the cleanup.”

Cleanup in both states is expected to take weeks.

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