Climate change: NSW towns become rubbish dump during floods

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva


Over the past two weeks, record-breaking rain on Australia’s eastern coast has caused devastating floods, destroying homes and properties – and leaving thousands of tonnes of rubbish. The same region was hit by catastrophic wildfires last year, both disasters at least worsened by climate change.

With much of Sydney still battling floodwaters, clean-up has begun for the townsfolk and the council.

Brisbane mayor Adrian Chrinner said the floods had generated a year’s worth of waste, with nearly 30,000 cubic metres being dumped into the council tips and recycling centres – and more debris still left uncollected.

The immediate impacts of floods include deaths, property damage, crop destruction, livestock loss, and multiple health conditions due to waterborne diseases. 

Nina Ridder, a research associate at the Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes University of NSW, stated that the intense rainfall is due to a very slow-moving low-pressure system pulling moist air from the Coral Sea onto the east coast. 

“Because it’s so slow-moving – it’s basically stationary – it’s dumping all the water that it has on the same area,” explains Ridder. 

Climate change is probably also a factor because it can hold more moisture as the atmosphere gets warmer. For each degree that the atmosphere is warmed, it can hold 7 per cent more water, and that’s 7 per cent more water that can fall to the surface.”

John Walker, GM at Lismore City Council, said the state was taking charge of collecting and removing the waste. The council anticipates it would take around two weeks before all debris is cleared. 

“Some of these problems are just unsightly. If there’s food, it rots, and then we can get vermin coming in,” said Walker. “I think recycling is off the agenda. It’s just a pile of mess.”

A council statement said that the amount of rubbish was unprecedented, and while it can still try to recover some items, the majority would end up in landfill. 

The proper disposal of rubbish is crucial during clean-ups, especially when handling hazardous waste. A rubbish removal service company, Cheapest Load of Rubber, offer a service to segregate and dispose of waste properly. According to the company, it will try its best to determine “salvageable” items that can still be re-used, or if they can still be recycled, will be sent to recycling centres. 

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.


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