Katherine gets $7.2m for recycling facility but kerbside sorting still years away

Every month, a semi-trailer worth of crushed beer cans and glass bottles is picked up from a sorting center in Katherine and driven south — as far as recycling goes in the town, that’s about it.

Residents toss everything from milk bottles and plastic packaging to newspapers and food waste into one green bin.

That is, unless they sort and store what can be recycled until they next make the 300-kilometer journey north to the nearest collection facility in Darwin.

In the remote communities surrounding Katherine, recycling opportunities are even more limited, with almost everything going to landfill.

But that could soon change.

The Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, has announced $7.2 million to fund a materials recovery facility (MRF) in Katherine to “ensure people have access to recycling facilities, particularly, in this case, for glass, tyres, plastic and paper”.

As part of the $190 million Recycling Modernization Fund, the NT government has deemed it the biggest single investment in recycling infrastructure in the Territory to date and a key initiative of its draft Circular Economy Strategy.

Elisabeth Clark says Katherine is perfectly positioned to become a recycling hub.(ABC Katherine: Roxanne Fitzgerald)

Mayor Elisabeth Clark said plans were in the works to overhaul how Katherine dealt with its waste.

Outdated and nearing capacity, the current landfill site needed to be closed and covered within five years, Ms Clark said.

She said the council was planning to build a new landfill site south-west of the town at Manbulloo and a new sorting center to recycle tyres, car batteries, scrap metal, e-waste and drums.

“We had plans that were a few years down the track … this funding will accelerate those plans.”

And possibly expand them.

The council says an MRF is a critical first step to establishing a red, yellow and green bin kerbside rubbish collection, which it says is a possibility in the future.

A pile of mattresses at the Katherine Waste Facility
Mattresses pile up at the Katherine tip. (ABC Katherine: Roxanne Fitzgerald)

“It’s a huge opportunity for Katherine,” Ms Clark said.

“People have always wanted recycling — with all of the products we have these days, they want to see them recycled.”

Diverting waste in remote Australia

Surrounding Katherine, more than 20 remote Indigenous communities, including Barunga, Kalkaringi, Ngukurr and Borroloola, could also benefit from the new recycling site.

The Katherine council is embarking on a study to examine the volume of waste going to — often unlicensed — landfill sites in these communities and the logistics of bringing what can be recycled to town.

And the NT government has recognized there is a major waste gap that is not only hurting the environment, but also thwarting opportunities to turn waste into valuable resources.


About the author


Leave a Comment