One the less glamorous but necessary jobs for staff who live and work on remote reserves, is the management of household rubbish and other waste. Another is keeping infrastructure (such as visitors' quarters, machinery sheds, workshops, etc.) well maintained. We call these jobs our 'Hector – trash collector' and 'Sadie – cleaning lady' jobs. Fortunately over the years we've had a lot of help with them from keen volunteers.
As reserve managers at Bon Bon Station over the past four years we’ve endeavoured to compost, recycle and re-use as many waste products as possible. We’ve tried to minimise the amount of rubbish dumped or burnt on the reserve (as some rubbish can be toxic to the environment as it breaks down (such as batteries, polystyrenes and plastics), or hazardous in other ways (such as broken glass).
Other waste can disappear from the tip and spread around the reserve with strong winds, while other waste such as food scraps can attract feral animals.
So we’ve tried to implement practices to help achieve a high standard of environmental management.
With a significant number of visitors each year, the amount of waste and rubbish accumulating is quite significant. Particularly as we seem to live in a world that is very over-packaged!
So we started our waste management system with a composting bin to enable efficient recycling of all food scraps (some house mice still manage to get into the bin… but we’ve found they do assist with the rapid breakdown of the food). Once the composting process is underway we transfer the oldest material into additional bins until the breakdown is complete. Then we recycle it into the vegie gardens.
We're very fortunate in South Australia to have a 10-cent deposit system for most drink bottles and containers. So we rinse all recyclable and deposit containers then sort and stack them in wool packs and old milk crates.
A local businessman, Graham Austin from Pimba (who supplies and delivers the gas annually), also operates the local recycling depot, so he very kindly takes away all our deposit bottles and cans and then sends us a cheque!
(We’ve been able to use the cash to buy some local native plants from the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens for planting around the buildings on the reserve and for setting up water wise auto drip irrigation systems to keep them alive).
We’ve also found when working out along the highway verges spraying buffel grass, that we can collect a whole ute load of deposit bottles and cans along the way; these add to our ‘clean up’ efforts and to our recycling 'cash' returns!
Our local recycling depot is also the recycling centre for Woomera and Pimba, so Graham also takes the rest of our (non-deposit) glass and plastics for recycling.
The remainder of our household waste we package up and keep in a secure place ready to take to the Coober Pedy rubbish tip every six months or so, which we can do for a small fee.
(Often visitors who have their own vehicles can take their own general household rubbish to the nearest bin once they leave the reserve – which is a huge help).
All other waste we can usually recycle through depots in Coober Pedy, Roxby Downs or Port Augusta (such as waste oil, printer cartridges and batteries).
Over the past four years we’ve also had many terrific volunteers, visiting students, contractors, Green Army teams and other visitors to assist us with infrastructure upgrades and maintenance; removal of old fences and other obsolete infrastructure such as broken down windmills. Plus cleaning / tidying workshops and storage areas; many a round of cleaning in the visitors cottages, office building, toilets, bathrooms, windows, ovens, BBQs, gutters and gardens (thanks everyone)!
Some of our volunteers are also keen rubbish collectors and travel around the reserve with a trailer or wheelbarrow, collecting up old bottles, tins and pieces of wire – there's an endless supply, especially along sections of the Old Stuart Highway. Some of the old pastoral era remnants are recycled into the 'museum' as they have interesting historical value.
As we move on from Bon Bon to a new phase of 'semi-retired' life, we're pleased to be able to leave the reserve with at least some of the tidy and repair jobs completed and hopefully some good waste management systems in place for the future (but there’ll always more trash to collect and cleaning to do!) – the next ‘Hector’ and ‘Sadie’ will have plenty to recycle, clean and tidy!