Coming from Sweden, Veronica Aster grew-up with one of the world’s best recycling systems.
Now almost 20 years after arriving in North Queensland, the Scandanavian-Aussie is leading a campaign to get Hinchinbrook to ‘Recycle right’.
Ingham Daily Press caught up with Veronica to find out more about one of the newest faces at our local council.
Who: Veronica Aster.
Where from: Swaussie (dual citizenship since 2011 but born and raised in Sweden).
How old are you: 38 years young (though you should never ask a lady her age).
What is your role: Waste and compliance coordinator with Hinchinbrook Shire Council.
How long have you been here: Since May of this year.
What is your background: I came to Australia to study marine biology in 2001 at JCU in Townsville, where I met my husband. Since finishing uni, work has led me on a different path, from working with landholders on natural resource management issues in south-west Queensland to strategic planning and environmental compliance with local government in Ipswich, – and now here.
How do people recycle in Scandinavia: I have memories from growing up of the Swedish container refund scheme. This started for aluminium cans in the early to mid-1980s, and started including plastic bottles in 1990s. As a kid in primary school I remember collecting containers from households as part of school and scout fundraisers. In my younger days, community recycling collection points were a common sight, especially for glass bottles and cardboard or paper. Now every waste stream is separated out. Within the cities, each apartment complex is provided with a waste facility which allows for this separation. What cannot be recycled, then goes to one of Sweden’s energy from waste facilities.
What were your first impressions about recycling when you came to Australia: That it didn’t exist.
What does your job involve: At this stage everything waste related. From community education on recycling and waste minimisation to the monitoring of landfill impacts, to contract management, illegal dumping, littering – and whatever else comes my way.
What inspired you to follow this career: I sort of ended up in waste by convenience when I was in my previous position (I had time available to help out as well as the capacity to learn quickly) – and I took a liking to it.
Why is it important to recycle: Not only are we running out of space to landfill, but landfilling comes with its own set of issues in regards to contamination of groundwater as well as generation of gas. Also, did you know that aluminium is basically a forever material?
What is your message to people who don’t want to recycle: What is the reason behind not doing it? Provided the recycling load is not too contaminated, it does go to the materials recovery facility in Townsville for recycling. So your efforts do make a difference. Also, the reality is we are running out of landfill space. So continuing to landfill is not a sustainable solution. In fact, upping our effort in reducing waste makes economic sense. With the introduction by the state of the waste levy back on the 1 July 2019, landfilling is becoming a financially unviable option. Council pays monthly fees to the state for all waste that has been landfilled at Warren’s Hill. Up to now this cost has not been heavily impacting upon households in the Hinchinbrook Shire, as the state has been providing payments back to council to mitigate direct impacts on households. But there is no guarantee that this payment will continue. Once the payment ceases, costs associated with waste disposal will increase for everyone.
What are your goals for Hinchinbrook: That recycling and waste minimisation becomes a habit and part of everyone’s day-to-day lifestyle. It really isn’t that difficult, or time consuming, once you get used to it.
What do you like doing in your spare time: Spend time with my family, exploring the wonderful nature around us or hanging at the beach, or even doing absolutely nothing (as long as we are together).
What is your favourite movie: Difficult question. There are so many and I love movies. I would have at least one favourite in every genre, but will say ‘The Outsiders’ from 1983.
What is your favourite food: I love a good caesar salad.
What sports do you like: I’m not much into the sports I admit, but ice hockey is always fun to watch.
Do you have a family here: I moved here with my husband and two boys. My oldest is 10 and attends Forrest Beach State School. My youngest is 3 and goes a few days a week to the lovely Cupcake’s Family Day Care.
What is the best thing about living in Hinchinbrook: I am absolutely in love with the views, landscape and lifestyle.
What else would you like to say: If there is still doubt about where our recycling goes, I am open to a chat with anyone.