Remote community smashes its own glass
Flinders Island, just to the north of Tasmania in Bass Strait, has a waste problem — and locals in the town of Killiecrankie are doing their bit, one glass bottle at a time. Earplugs in, locals Anne Rae and Bronwyn Stubbs use a glass-crushing machine in a garage to smash through boxes of mainly wine bottles. After a year, they’ve crushed about 6,000 of them.
“It’s quite satisfying,” Stubbs shouts above the noise of the crusher.
Each bottle is put through individually and out the bottom into a tub falls the cullet, a sparkling material much like sand, coarse but not sharp.
Residents are using the sand in all sorts of practical — and fun — ways. “We are using it on our paths, we use it to mix into soil for gardening,” Stubbs says.
Neighbour Jude Cazaly is using it to smooth her driveway. “Slowly but surely my potholes are being filled. I have a gravel drive and with a bit of traffic the potholes appear. I’ve got to snaffle my share of the glass to fill my potholes,” she says. “It’s a very slow process, one pothole is probably six boxes and a small wheelie bin of bottles.”
“We’ve even had children use the sand as glitter in art,” Rae says.
The recycled glass is also being used in local cement manufacturing. Bill Godbehere, a retired industrial chemist, reports, “The concrete on our island is made from a coarse sand and we’ve found if you add about 15% crushed glass it makes it stronger and a better consistency and you can get away with less cement in the mixture.”
The recycling team has been assured the crushed glass is safe to use in the garden. “It’s really innocuous,” Godbehere says. “It has a nuisance value, as in you don’t want to breathe anything into your lungs. But if you do get some dust into your lungs while you’re crushing, it’s not going to cause silicosis.”
Efforts to recycle on the island are not before time, either. The Flinders Island tip is running out of room, and in three to six months it’s estimated to reach full capacity. “At the moment, despite our best intentions, everything really ends up in the hole as it gets called, all together in the ground because we don’t have the facilities to deal with our rubbish in other ways,” Mayor Rachel Summers says.
Summers has a plan for the island that involves finding a use for almost all waste. “We need AU$5 million to develop a rather radical plan,” she says. “You’ll drive into the tip and we want a thing called a waste wall. It has special slots for things like your toothbrushes, batteries. Hard waste would be your first stop, other people can take what you don’t want. The first priority will be reuse. There would be a spot for cans, bottles, organics, we would make compost. So after all these drop-off points, by the time you get to landfill there would be very little. You will only pay for what you put in the landfill.”
TOP Anne Rae and Bronwyn Stubbs
PHOTO Mim Hook
ABOVE Crushed glass used on garden pathways, in arts and crafts and as a snail repellent
PHOTO Lucie Cutting