Cherbourg Material Recycling Facility

Remote communities are subject to some of the same environmental problems as urban areas, although the scale and constraining factors differ. One such problem is the volume of municipal waste and the extent of recycling. In Australia, remote communities are disadvantaged by prevailing economic and social processes and by a lack of investment and infrastructure, meaning that the incidence of recycling is lower than in urban areas. However, some of these communities are working toward sustainability and actively building capacity for recycling by leveraging both internal and external resources.


The proposed Material Recycling Facility (MRF) in the remote indigenous community of Cherbourg in Queensland is an example of a community working towards sustainabilty.  This project studies the establishment of the Cherbourg MRF, the first such facility in a remote indigenous community in the country. The study examines the various stages involved in developing the project, including conceptualization, design, business feasibility, waste audit, environmental impact assessment, procurement methodology, project management, construction and operation. Environmental principles have been considered and applied to the process of establishing the MRF, meaning that both the facility and its function are sustainably based. Importantly, the MRF is being used as an educational tool for sustainability from school through to university levels.  The establishment of the MRF in Cherbourg should enhance environmental sustainability and also assist in economic development in the community as recycled materials are processed and sold. Implications and recommendations for setting up recycling facilities in other remote indigenous communities are drawn from the Cherbourg project.

Cherbourg community invites Dr Steve and University of Canberra students to Cherbourg



On February 25th through March 1st, Dr Steve travelled at the invitation of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Council and community to examine and develop concepts around the operation of the Material Recycling Facility (MRF).  The visit was to serve several purposes.  The first purpose was to introduce the University of Canberra Students to an aboriginal community.    Dr Steve felt that it was important for students to experience firsthand remote living conditions and the associated challenges for developing the MRF at the site.


The second reason for involving students in this project was education.  Dr Steve wanted to include the educatiion of the young children within the community about the recycling process as part of this project.  Dr Steve realises that it is the children who are the future of Cherbourg and they will influence others when it comes to recycling of materials.


Like so many indigenous communities and other communities within the surrounding shires, everyone is feeling the pinch of rubbish tips and keeping them open and the operations as they consume millions of dollars every year.   All communities, Aboriginal or not, would like to reduce their intake of rubbish that otherwise gets buried.    Therefore, the Cherbourg MRF is high on the agenda for this area to be developed and opened and run as a successful processing plant providing employment and training for local indigenous people and provide a service to the surrounding shires and towns.

Nesbit River Eco-tourism 

Flight over the Nesbit River


Dr Steve and Kim Macdonald were invited by Sam Zaro, Traditional Owner (TO) of the Nesbit River country, to the Nesbit River site.    Sam, the TO, is keen to develop an eco-tourism site and get his people back onto country.


The eco-tourism concept and people back on country would be developed in several stages due to money restraints.   Phase one would be development of site and concept plans for the construction.   As part of this stage materials would be moved onto site to establish the basics of living during the first phase of construction.    As well as establishing the site, an assessment of the flora and fauna onsite would be conducted as there is no intention to upset the ecology of the landscape.    Sam is keen to establish a ranger program for his people so that his rangers could live on site and his people could come and go from site as they wished to visit.


Dr Steve suggested that the development take advantage of the existing materials on site and within the traditional lands to be used in the construction phase and bring as few materials into site as possible.    Because of a lack of funds Dr Steve is hoping that he might run a landscape architectural studio on site for a few University of Canberra students.    This would give the students personal insight into construction problems in remote locations while developing concepts that blend the environmental landscape into architecture.    More details on this in coming months.