We’re all used to throwing our used soft drink cans and cardboard boxes in to the recycling bin, but are businesses doing the same on an industrial scale? Waste management is a huge expense to Australian business, and many lack the motivation to introduce more efficient recycling and materials-use processes because of cost and difficulties associated. One Tasmanian firm is taking on the challenge of converting Aussie businesses into recycling champions with their range of recycled products and buy-back options.
Commercial and industrial waste in Australia
Industrial waste is a huge cost to businesses in Australia. Among the major producers of waste are the construction and manufacturing industries. Purchasing and eventually discarding of used materials is an expensive and often inefficient process. A study by Encycle Consulting (on behalf of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) released in 2013 concluded that (conservatively estimated) the cost of waste services to Australian business is over $2.2 billion per year. Astoundingly, the value of materials that end up as waste is over $26.5 billion per year.
The study also found that many businesses are reluctant to innovate their recycling processes, and invest in recycled materials because of perceived high costs and minimal benefits. Many stock-standard recyclables such as freight packaging are still not being recycled effectively and, interestingly, small and medium enterprises are overrepresented in terms of waste and landfill.
Benefits of recycling
Across the industries studied, the recycled portion of waste generated was around 46%–but with wide variations between industries. Some saw as little as 9% of their waste recycled, while others were as high as 86%. While manufacturing represented a high percentage of overall waste generation throughout their sector, the industry is also generally better at recycling than others; the retail and food production industries, for example, which account for over half of general waste produced. However, there is much room for improvement across all industries.
The benefits of recycling cannot be overstated. Using less of our finite resources is not only appropriate future-planning, but avoids greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and reduces the costs of waste collection. Recycling products can even earn businesses a few extra quid, instead of sending waste to landfill and paying for the privilege. Purchasing recycled products can also be cost-effective, as their production does not require extraction and processing of natural materials.
“If someone comes to us and says ‘can we recycle’ we need to find a market for that product,” Jenny Brown, Envorinex managing director.
The Tasmanian firm are recycling the state’s farming, fishing and mining waste into a range of building products. Their demand is so strong that there are calls to set up new plants in other states. Envorinex are turning salmon pens, silage wraps and even irrigation piping into useful, re-purposed materials such as fencing posts, sound barriers, and even road safety products which can be purchased from their website. They’re also currently acquiring fertiliser bags and silage wrap which will contribute to a $1.6 million processing line to be installed shortly.
One of the many farmers contributing to the collection is Brian Baxter of Pipers River, who says:
“We don’t want to burn it and landfill is a waste. But in here, they’re doing such a wonderful job. Well, they’re going to when they get this line going; it’ll all be recycled.”
Envorinex have also been approached by the New Zealand salmon industry, and Port Lincoln’s tuna farmers. They are conducting feasibility studies into the prospect of these new locations and it’s clear that as word is getting out about this innovative and ingenious business, the demand is building. As a part of their business model, Envorinex sells products which can be bought back for further recycling once they’ve served their purpose, including their noise abatement fencing. This approach gives businesses yet more incentive to take up the practice of buying recycled products.
It’s catching on
There are many enterprises involved in the production and distribution of recycled goods in Australia, and it is becoming steadily more common for businesses to search for cost effective and environmentally friendly products in their operations. From recycled pavers and tiles, to direct re-distribution of used machinery, the recycling movement is no passing phase.
Federal and state Australian governments also offer a range of incentives for recycling, and implementing other sustainability practices. These incentives include a number of funding grants. You can find out more about these via these websites:
- Australian Government Environment Grants
- Australian Business Financing Centre’s Government Grant Finder
- NSW Environment Protection Agency’s Business Recycling Grants