Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Where is my main mulch man?

by Karin Geiselhart, March 2010

But of course, it could be a woman, too. The point is that my yard generates green waste, and that taking it to the tip where it can be left for free still requires a car, a trailer, time and petrol.

If Canberra is to become a greener city, with new clean green activities displacing our wasteful practices, wouldn’t a Mobile Mulcher be a good new service niche?

A smidgeon of research on this issue (that means I called one tree service that offers mulching services) revealed that even at economy rates, getting someone to our house to mulch existing green waste would cost a minimum of $200 for an hour’s work. That is a lot of mulching, I guess, but far more than the value/cost of me of a trip to the tip, since I already own a car and trailer.

But what about people who do not have such accoutrements, and isn’t one good goal to have fewer unncecssary cars, trailers and car trips?

Commercial quality mulching machines are expensive and maintenance intensive. I don’t want one. Servicing small scale customers is a niche activity. Just as getting a handyman to do small jobs is difficult and expensive, so servicing smaller blocks or gardens for mulch seems too hard. The cycle of go to tip and then bring back mulch might indeed be the best solution, although it leaves untouched the undesirable externalities of a) disadvantaging people without trailers or cars and b) not helping to get cars off the road.

In the ideal city/state that the Canberra of the future will become (at least in my dreams) there would be either curb collection of green waste, as is available in some places (suggestions, please) or commercial and affordable flexible services that would come and do this work on the spot. Only a number cruncher could say which option is better overall, either economically or socially. Politically no member of our government is likely to advocate such a step, but the commercial sector could try it and see if another franchise could blossom.

At the moment, the pressure isn’t there to solve this seemingly niggling issue. It just isn’t important enough. However, I have recently visited India and there even the most basic garbage collection services don’t seem widespread.  Do they feel the same way about all the plastic rubbish on their roads?

Taking the lead, showing more functional ways of both generating business opportunities and minimising road transport, are surely what we want our government to do.

There is an imperative, but it’s currently sleeping. It’s called Peak Oil and Australia is not doing nearly enough to face it.

If you don’t believe me, have a look at ABARE’s Energy Resource Assessment.

Even a glance at the exec summary will convince you that a stitch in time….well, til next time, happy mulching!

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government