People often ask “Is MRA doing any Circular Economy work?”. The answer is “Plenty”. The waste and recycling sector has an enormous role to play in achieving economic circularity. There is so much going on in companies and government, that is both exciting and transformative. And what I am particularly proud of, is that much of the work MRA does, is structural.
Every year Australia is generating more waste. The country’s need for waste solutions is urgent. Up for the challenge is recycling contractor Davis Earthmoving & Quarrying Pty Ltd, offering mobile waste processing for various waste streams. Davis specialises in mobile recycling across New South Wales. The company uses high-powered equipment including mobile horizontal grinders and shredders to efficiently recycle wood, timber and green waste for beneficial re-use as mulch, soil conditioners and compost in landscaping and gardens across the state.
When it comes to crushing Davis Earthmoving knows a thing or two. With over 45 years experience in the industry, Davis Earthmoving & Quarrying Pty Ltd specialises in mobile concrete crushing, soil screening, glass crushing and concrete recycling. The company recognised the value of waste as a vital resource early on, purchasing its first mobile concrete crusher back in the 1980’s. And they haven’t looked back since. In fact, recycling operations are ramping up with over 100 pieces of equipment in its fleet for hire or contract in NSW.
For many years, the availability of integrated design and process simulation packages has not serviced industrial, reuse and drinking water plant designs as well as it has for biological treatment plants. Engineers and designers in many cases still rely on manual, repetitive spreadsheet-based processes. Design packages, when available are based on mathematical simulation products that have been repurposed from other industries and difficult to learn and based on desktop pcs that are limited in terms of processing power, data storage and tools for collaboration. Emerging technologies for industrial water treatment and drinking water are often not covered at all.
It’s not often that you get second chances in life, so when Ben Harris and Suzanne Magro got the opportunity to re-boot their waste collection service last year in South Australia, they didn’t think twice – and Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions was born.
In this month’s Young Professional article, we profile EnviroCom Australia’s Environmental Consultant, NSW Jo Smith.
A degree in Conservation Biology and Zoology at the University of Western Australia combined with a passion for the natural environment were two key factors in leading Smith into the world of waste and resource recovery.
She told Inside Waste that new technology and educational approaches which enable society to think about its attitude to waste and the environmental and human impacts were deeply inspiring for her.
“When I was offered the chance to enter the waste sector, I leapt at it. Not only for the opportunity to make real, positive change at a local level, but to view and measure that change, knowing that my efforts and those of the community could make a difference.
“I was also very keen on being able to work within the close-knit, supportive EnviroCom team and learn from experienced supervisors and colleagues,” she said.
Co-ordinating in the Pilbara
Smith’s first full-time role in a waste-related sector was as association coordinator with the Care For Hedland Environmental Association. Based in Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region of WA, she coordinated staff and volunteers to assist with conservation and environmental programs. These included sea turtle monitoring during turtle nesting season, litter clean ups, recycle days and shorebird watching events.
“It was here that I first gained experience and exposure to the world of waste. Having run a monthly ‘recycle day’ as the Town of Port Hedland didn’t have a kerbside recycling service, I learned more about the recycling industry and its challenges in a regional area. I also had the opportunity to liaise with companies such as Cleanaway and Toxfree, and the Waste Services Manager of the Town of Port Hedland,” she added
Challenge to change behaviour
Smith told Inside Waste that the most challenging aspect of her current role was igniting behaviour change around waste and recycling.
“I manage Envirocom’s waste education contract with Orange City Council. The Council provides a FOGO service to residents but excludes the use of compostable bags with this service.
“Although this means contamination is very low, it can be difficult to encourage residents to use the FOGO service for their household food waste, as for many people this is a big change in disposal habits. It is crucial that food waste is diverted from landfill, to avoid excess methane emissions and potentially toxic leachate, while simultaneously providing a valuable resource in the form of compost,” she said.
A COVID re-think
Smith is candid when she says that COVID-19 forced herself and the EnviroCom team to “think outside the box” about waste education programs.
“After a several weeks of working from home when the pandemic first hit and rethinking some of the initiatives that were originally planned, we came up with new ideas. We started focusing on delivering webinars, creating media campaigns (with focus on events such as National Recycling Week and Plastic Free July) and I even started making cartoon videos for various councils with their preferred waste education messages.
“The videos were fun to make and a great new skill that I now have under my belt, plus they have been effective in communicating information to the general public, and councils have received positive feedback from residents.
However, COVID-19 had a significant impact on Smith, who wasn’t able to visit family and friends in Perth.
“I feel lucky to have a permanent position with EnviroCom, and since moving to Orange in November 2019, I hope to stay for several years to build up my skills, meet fellow waste educators and assist new staff joining the team. At some point in the future I would like to spend time in Germany or France, ideally working in waste education.
If Smith was the Prime Minister or Environment Minister, her top three priorities for the WARR industry would be to mandate that all products be made from recycled materials. She believes this would expand the market for domestic recycling product and reduce Australia’s dependence on raw, virgin materials.
“This could apply to products across all streams (MSW, C&I, C&D) and bring about an expansion of current recycling technology and demand. I would also streamline production, particularly with regard to plastics, and eliminate the need for multiple plastic types as well as focusing on diverting organic waste from landfill, as the methane emitted from landfill contributes to three per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“The use of commercial composting facilities or even home composting can make a huge difference to the quantity of waste entering landfill.
“However, technology is becoming more advanced and it’s great to see fantastic solutions popping up all the time,” she added.
In this series of interviews of WARR industry leaders, Inside Waste talks with Vinyl Council of Australia’s chief executives Sophi MacMillan.
Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) is working with industry partners to launch a program to build the capabilities and capacity of new recruits to the industry and waste educators. The aim is to enable the educators to consistently and effectively deliver waste education and litter reduction initiatives in schools, local communities, public places, apartment buildings and sporting grounds.
It was while she watched a documentary at the University of New South Wales that revealed the impact that e-waste from western countries was having on the health of the population of African countries, that Celine El‑Khouri made a deep commitment to the WARR industry.