Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Two local waste facilities have been affected by safety issues, with an investigation underway in Gunnedah into asbestos in the recycling, and the popular ‘Rocket’s Resources’ tip shop in Armidale closed due to an unspecified safety issue.

The Gunnedah Shire Council is calling on the local community to exercise better care with recycling after 24KG of fibro sheeting suspected to contain asbestos was found within material from residents’ kerbside recycling collection in one of the bunkers and on the conveyor belt used for hand sorting at the Material Recycling Facility (MRF). As a result of the discovery, the MRF was immediately shut down and all workers were removed from the area while special contractors cleared the site.

Council notified the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) of the incident, as well as its Work Health and Safety (WHS) business partner and kerbside collection contractor JR Richards who sent representatives to the site to conduct their own investigation. This investigation will include a review of footage provided by the in truck camera to identify the alleged offender.

The MRF workers that were placed at risk exposure to this material are from the Gunnedah Workshop, a non-profit organisation providing NDIS services and supported employment opportunities to around 40 people with disabilities in Gunnedah.

In response to the incident, Jasmine Alloway, the General Manager of Gunnedah Workshop Enterprises, said he hopes this is a case of ignorance rather than intentional.

“This beautiful community is incredibly supportive of our mission and of our people, which makes the thoughtless actions of one person so much more heartbreaking.

“They have endangered the health of some of Gunnedah’s most vulnerable people, and probably their own as well.

“I hope that this is a case of ignorance, rather than malice: that they were somehow unaware that Gunnedah’s recycling is sorted by hand, and not that they just didn’t care,” he said.

Safe Work has cleared the site for operation, and advised that in this instance, the risk to the health of workers was well-mitigated.

Meanwhile, Armidale Regional Council has advised Rocket’s Resources – the very popular store at the Armidale tip also called Rocket’s Recycling, the Armidale Resource Recovery Centre, or just ‘the tip shop’ – has been closed due to an unspecified safety issue. Little information is available about what is going on there, only that the tip shop will be closed until further notice. The shop is well supported by the local sustainability loving community, but has changed hands a couple of times and the shop’s Facebook group has been long abandoned.

Local Jo McCulloch is a big fan of the shop, and hopes Armidale Regional Council will put the effort in to resolve whatever the issue is. 

“The tip shop has been performing an invaluable role, saving goods from landfill, enabling a repair and share community.”

“They were allowing clothing to be redistributed at no cost, and had very moderate pricing for other items – they have a heart for the people who need it most,” she said.

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