On a mission to increase retailers’ environmental awareness, integrated services contractor Millennium High-Tech Group and Mirvac shopping centre (Sydney), Rhodes Waterside, have partnered in a week-long recycling initiative with what they believe are astounding results. INCLEAN’s editor Kim Taranto reports.
Currently, Rhodes Waterside offers four waste options for retailers and Millennium cleaners to utilise – a recycling bin for cardboard, a comingled bin, an organic waste Pulpmaster machine and a general waste compactor. After attending a Mirvac engineering and operational conference earlier this year, Mirvac’s senior facilities manager, Tony Taylor, decided it was time Mirvac took a stance against retailers’ wasteful habits.
Mirvac’s resource recovery manager, Kim Host, enlisted the help of City of Canada Bay’s sustainable business officer, Samantha Bones, to carry out Bin Trim Assessments at each of the food retailers at Rhodes Waterside to gain an understanding of their current waste and recycling practices. Bin Trim is a business program that provides waste assessments for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The assessors, of which Bones is one, are funded by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) with the intention of providing education and support to businesses to reduce waste and increase recycling.
“The idea was to find out what is being put into the general waste and to engage the tenants to take responsibility and work with us to make some changes,” explained Host. “It’s been a huge learning curve for all of us. The amount of soft plastic alone we have collected from our usual waste has gone from the standard two bags a week to eight big bags in two and a half days. We also found that some retailers were discarding clothes, so we’ve collected them from the waste and put them aside for The Smith Family Foundation collection.”
Millennium’s contract manager, Diego Canavero, agreed the operation had revealed some surprising results. “The three cleaners I put in charge of this exercise had a very tough job on the first day as retailers weren’t getting the message that they had to sort their rubbish,” he shared. “They had to really push the onus back onto the tenants for them to do their part, so our cleaners could do their job. And it has been such a rewarding process.
“It highlighted the issues we face with people’s attitude towards waste. Within the first three hours, our cleaners filled up four organic bins and by the end of the day they had filled 21,” explained Canavero. “All of that organic waste can now be processed properly instead of contaminating other waste that could – and should – be processed through the PulpMaster organics technology and diverted from landfill.”
“We’ve implemented a very heavy and intensive program to encourage the food court retailers to use the organics processing stream, and we expect to get an extra 15 tonnes if we get everyone on board,” revealed Host. “We had to request extra comingled bins from Veolia as we usually have two 1,100s [litre bins] onsite but we needed another six 660 litre bins which shows just how much comingled waste was being thrown into the compactor. We have literally tripled our weekly collection within three days.”
“It was something we had to do,” stated Taylor, the man behind the idea. “We wanted to show our tenants what can be achieved if we do it together and if we do it properly,” he stated. “It’s something that has been in the back of everyone’s mind for years, but the issue is how to do it. It still costs us to get rid of the sorted and recycled waste, but it’s better than seeing it all dumped into landfill,” he added. “It’s about changing people’s mindsets.”
Although the auditing initiative isn’t sustainable on a long-term basis, the benefits are ongoing and it has opened the eyes of the people involved with outstanding results. It has also offered incentive for Mirvac to incorporate random recycling audits throughout the year. “They will be done randomly without notice with one cleaner checking waste bags so that the retailers don’t get complacent and revert back to old habits,” revealed Taylor. “People need to be continually challenged for real change to happen.”