The Torres Strait is an archipelago of small and geographically isolated islands spread over more than 35,000km2 between the northern tip of Australia and the southern borders of Papua New Guinea. Of the 17 inhabited islands 14 are locally governed by Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC).
Over the past few years waste management has become a serious issue in the Torres Strait due to the increased waste and diminishing space available on these remote islands. Previous methods of waste management have revolved around landfill and on many islands it is clear that this is unsustainable. With approximately 50% of the waste sent to landfill being organic, a push for change in waste practices is evolving.
In 2010 a waste pilot plant was established on Warraber Island. This plant began composting organic waste and removing recyclable material such as aluminum cans off the island. Today, in conjunction with TSIRC and the University of Queensland, student engineer Erin Hughes is creating a dynamic model of solid waste on the island as a fourth year thesis. This model will evaluate waste movements and analyse the effectiveness of the pilot plant. The aim of the study is to investigate aspects of the waste pilot plant which can be used on the other islands under the TSIRC and improvements which can be made including methods of removing white goods from the islands.
One of the major factors being explored within this report is reducing the organic waste going into landfill via composting. Education is essential as these island communities have not previously undertaken any self-separating of waste to the extent required in order to reduce organic waste going into landfill. From the Warraber waste pilot plant it is evident these communities can self-separate organic waste with education. Initially, approximately 70% of households were self-separating their organic waste for composting. However, one year on, the rate of self-separation has decreased and issues with the composters have occurred. Composting is an effective way to reduce organic waste as not only does it remove waste from the landfill, it gives something back to the community. Observed in the outcomes of the pilot plant was that continuous education lead to constant participation in self-separation of organic waste. However further study is taking place into different composting solutions for these remote communities which have restricted access to facilities.