Phytocapping a NSW first

Since 2007, Lismore City Council has been one of five trial sites Australia wide for a research program entitled the Australian Alternative Cover Assessment Program (AACAP), conducted in collaboration with several Australian universities.

The AACAP program trialled phyto (or plant-based) techniques for capping landfill and the concept of a ‘phytocap’ for modern landfills is now being increasingly considered in the United States and Australia. This involves placing a layer of soil over the landfill and planting it densely with site-specific vegetation, instead of simply covering the landfill with clay, gravel and dirt.

In 2013, we opened the first licensed phytocapping site in NSW on a 1.3-hectare old landfill site at Wyrallah Road. The phytocap has been planted chiefly with koala habitat species and as these grow, a diverse understory is being established.

Phytocaps control the drainage of rainfall into the buried waste. They remove the water from the soil by evapotranspiration, returning it to the atmosphere, and reduce the fugitive emissions of anaerobic landfill gas through diffusion and oxidisation.

Phytocapping is around half the cost of standard landfill capping and will enhance the existing koala habitat at our Wyrallah Road site, which is becoming a haven for local flora and fauna.