Conlon, who took on the role of CEO and managing director on July 1, is well known in the industry. He’d been tasked with overseeing continued growth and success of the company’s
expansive portfolio. Veolia said his appointment is “a clear reflection of the company’s current state: ensuring ongoing long-term stability, yet poised for growth.”
Prior to Veolia, Conlon was working with the Transport Workers Union and played a key role in negotiating the Ku-ring-gai collection contract to successfully transition employees from the previous contractor to Veolia (then Collex). It was not long after that he moved to Veolia, starting out as waste collection operations manager and moving up the ranks over the years to his most recent position of executive general manager for Veolia’s East Coast operations, which he’d held since 2014
In the August/September issue of Inside Waste (IW), which can be found here, Conlon reflected on the early days in the sector and outlined the plans he has for Veolia.
IW: 20 years is a lifetime. Any highlights?
Conlon: Projects like the Woodlawn Bioreactor have been really satisfying. We’ve just done about 12 months of operating the MBT down at Woodlawn and it is a $100 million investment in mixed waste processing and organic recovery so that’s significant for us. But there are still huge projects in the context of the industry in 2018.
In terms of changes, the industry has always been regulated but regulation, not just in the waste industry or the water industry or the energy sector, continues to increase. There have also been numerous technological advances, from the changes in technology in collection methodology to the way we process commodities and materials. All of this continues to evolve and evolve very quickly.
IW: You mentioned projects in 2018. What might some of them be?
Conlon: There’s the transfer terminal up in Banksmeadow, the feeder network to Woodlawn and the MBT, and also managing ever increasing demands of Sydney’s waste treatment requirements. We’ve also started early works in Camellia at our C&I processing facility and we are preparing the site for the development of the facility. In WA, we’ve been recommended as the preferred operator for the waste to energy facility that’s proposed there. Waste to energy is a pretty current topic at the moment and certainly Veolia’s capability in that regard through operations globally, more particularly in the UK and France, puts us in a very good position to develop those sorts of facilities when and where appropriate.
There are a number of other things going on as well, including our organics processing network in Victoria through our Bulla and NRS facilities. We’ve also expanded our regional capabilities through acquisitions over the last 24 years in Townsville and in northern regional Victoria along the Murray River. These are investments not just in municipal and commercial collections networks but also in liquid treatment capabilities, kerbside recycling processing and other such investment. The future is very bright and it’s certainly a continuation of Veolia’s prior record of developing technologies, capabilities, facilities, infrastructure and solutions for this industry, now and into the future.
IW: Are we likely to see further consolidation of the sector through mergers and acquisitions?
Conlon: I can’t really speak for the industry but there are opportunities and that has been Doug Dean’s record over 20 years. For Veolia, where acquisitions of business, technologies or capabilities are consistent with the strategy of group of then yes, we will continue to look at acquisitions.
IW: As the newly-appointed CEO, what are your key priorities for the next 12 months?
Conlon: The first priority is delivering on our 2018 [strategic] plan – that’s an absolute priority for us. Personally, I’m very keen to quickly hit the road and connect with our major clients. My focus over the last couple of years has been on managing the group’s operations in the eastern region but we’ve got a national network that spreads the length and breadth of this country, so I’m focused on connecting with our major clients quickly. Then, it’s about recalibrating the strategy of the Veolia Australia New Zealand business and communicating that not just to our stakeholders but making sure our staff, our contractors, and our suppliers are well connected to our strategy going forward.
IW: When you think about the challenges the sector is currently facing, how do you think we can – alongside stakeholders such as governments – move forward?
Conlon: The key here is coordination, collaboration, and decisive action where all stakeholders are involved and committed and contributing. As the industry evolves, it’s no longer a national problem and we’re looking at global solutions for the challenges that we’re facing.
Veolia’s activities do not only focus on the waste sector but also the water sector and the energy sector and if you look at the key challenges moving forward, including availability and affordability of energy and water, it comes down to managing and conserving consumption of scarce natural resources through a greater focus on recycling and reuse. Certainly, these things have been picked up by state and federal ministers and industry over the last few months.
For Veolia, we are focusing on meeting the challenges of our clients. That’s our external commitment. Our internal commitment is to continue our proud track record of developing great people who have the best capability to meet our stakeholders’ and clients’ needs. It’s also about focusing on acquiring, developing, bidding, and securing opportunities and working with private and public sector on their challenges and how we can meet those challenges with our capabilities. It’s about a continuation of our services and capabilities now and into the future.
Also in the August/September issue
- The IFAT special: the idea of not working alone and breaking down silos was evident at the 2018 IFAT in Munich. The one thing that struck us was the ongoing collaboration and discussion between equipment manufacturers. Inside Waste’s IFAT report can be found from pages 22 to 29.
- Dubai makes great strides: Dubai is known for many things – it’s a luxury shopping destination, has some of the most modern architecture in the world, and of course, it is home to Burj Khalifa, the 830m-tall skyscraper that dots the skyline. Soon, Dubai will also be known as the city with the world’s largest waste to energy project.
- Zero emissions collections: Early this year, Superior Pak delivered its new electric vehicle (EV) side loading compactor truck to New Zealand’s EnviroWaste for its waste collection services.