Commitment underlies career vision

In this month’s Young Professional article, we profile MRA Consulting Group senior environmental consultant and acting general manager, Matt Hyatt.

It was a chance conversation with a family friend that initially attracted Matt Hyatt to a career within the Waste and Resource Recovery industry. He told Inside Waste that the discussion eventually led to his first job in 2015 as an Environmental Scientist for Pulpmaster Australia, a food waste recycling company based in Sydney.

“I have been in the waste industry since and was warned ‘once a wastie, always a wastie’. But I am passionate about sustainability and the recycling/waste sector is somewhere I can make a real and practical difference.

At Pulpmaster, Hyatt’s role ranged from helping to build machines, educating clients, liaising with the NSW EPA and preparing grant applications. He described it as “a great first professional job because it was in a relatively small but experienced team from whom I learnt a great deal.

“I had two great mentors in Noel Mancuso and Steve Geraghty who were patient in answering all my stupid questions and encouraged me to be an active participant in discussions with clients and in the growth of the business,” he said.

Comprehensive role
Hyatt explained that the most challenging aspect of his current role with MRA is ensuring that he is across all the major developments within the waste industry.

“The industry is evolving rapidly, with regulatory/market changes including China National Sword/export bans, Container Deposit Schemes, Extended Producer Responsibility, Energy from Waste, FOGO services and of course levy increases driving new services and infrastructure investment. I expect the rate of change to only increase in the future, with the new 80 per cent diversion from landfill target by 2030.”

Like most WARR industry executives, the main impact of COVID-19 on Hyatt has been videoconferencing and working from home.

However, he explained that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have not been good for many of MRA’s clients.

“COVID has resulted in up to a 20 per cent drop in C&I waste generation. Consequently, some C&I infrastructure projects have been postponed.

“On the other hand, as the lockdown has kept people at home, domestic waste generation has increased by up to 15 per cent in 2020. I have spent quite a bit of time working with clients and the EPA to resolve tonnage and licencing limit issues.

“For example, MRF’s are seeing a big spike in recycling tonnages. There are only so many MRFs, so the additional tonnes either go to these MRFs or to landfill.  Thankfully the EPA’s have taken a practical approach to resolving these issues,” he explained.

Moving forward
In 2025, Hyatt sees himself holding the position of general manager at MRA.

“I aim to help waste generators, processors, technology providers and governments achieve Australia’s ambitious new waste targets, especially the halving of organics to landfill and the 80 per cent average recovery rate by 2030. These two targets alone will create thousands of jobs, lots of investment and plenty of world-leading initiatives.”

Ultimately, the WARR industry is governed by the policies developed and promoted by the government. If Hyatt were either the Prime Minister or the Environment Minister, he is very clear about the top three priorities he would tackle for the WARR industry.

“Apart from lifting recycling/waste management up the political agenda, my top three priorities would be:

FOGO: I would mandate the provision of FOGO bins to all urban households and all commercial premises (generating more than say 250kg of food waste per week).

This will achieve significant GHG savings in the order of 10MT / year or 40 per cent of our Paris target. The recovered organic outputs (compost and digestate) can be applied to land to improve Australia’s nutrient-poor agricultural soils. It would generate 10,000 jobs and many in the regions.

Infrastructure: I would require state and territory governments to establish “Resource Recovery Precincts” in major cities to protect critical infrastructure, close to the point of waste generation.

Waste facilities suffer acutely from ‘Not In My Backyard’ planning approval disputes. Waste infrastructure is either not built or is pushed to the urban fringe of our cities increasing transport costs (thus reducing financial viability of recycling initiatives), increased GHG emissions and traffic congestion.

Asbestos in waste: I would develop a program to remove asbestos waste from the economy through a proactive campaign to identify asbestos waste in buildings that are proposed to be demolished and provide levy concessions and other incentives for its lawful disposal.

C&D recycling facilities face significant financial penalties if asbestos is identified in their recovered products. At the moment they bear all the risk. We need to take a more strategic approach to identifying and capturing asbestos before it gets into the recycling stream.”

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