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Educating for recovery

Long term environmental protection requires more than just resource recovery, it also requires cultural change.

Australia has more than 500 active landfills, and hundreds more which are closed and require remediation. The vast majority of these landfills are owned by local government, meaning that in many cases, the long-term burden of remediating these sites falls to the communities in which they operate.

With this in mind, Cleanaway provides a diverse range of technologies and services to recover more, and from this process reduces the impact of landfill. However, recycling infrastructure alone is not enough. The company’s material recovery, composting and collection services are supported by tailored education programs focused on resource recovery.

Forward thinking

Waste problems can be remarkably long lived - the average age of an active Australian landfill is 34 years. Including aftercare - landfills can remain active assets for 70 years or more. Looking forward to tomorrow’s costs, long term education which leads to lasting behavioural change makes sense, financially as well as environmentally.

Michelle Mandl-Keating is the NSW Education Manager for Cleanaway. Mandl-Keating describes that whenever Cleanaway offer Councils a kerbside collection service, they always offer to support this service with an education program, targeting both communities and schools.

“By educating school children, we can create a culture which will last a community a lifetime.”

In the majority of cases, Cleanaway’s education programs are delivered in conjunction with its kerbside collection services. “Where we offer kerbside collection services, our education services help to identify and mitigate community barriers to recycling, this ensures the service is being used effectively.”

While all environmental metrics are important, resource recovery is the most significant activity affecting the sustainability of a local government region. The NSW EPA calculates that for every tonne of waste recovered, 600kgs of greenhouse gases and 16 kilolitres of water is saved. For a region diverting 50,000 tonnes, this is the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road permanently.

For now and tomorrow

With this in mind, Mandl-Keating explains how Cleanaway’s recycling services are both reactive and proactive, considering today and tomorrow.

“Our reactive services are designed to respond to spikes in contamination.” Examples include a Christmas period or where a new bin service is rolled out.

This responsive service is designed to create value for Councils and Shires. “In NSW recycling is cheaper than landfill. So, by getting recyclables into the recycling stream, and out of the landfill stream, we are able to reduce costs for Councils and save landfill space.”

"The difference between our educational services and other forms of environmental education is that we are solely focused on resource recovery."

Supporting these responsive services, Cleanaway also provides pro-active education, designed to help the community create a culture of recycling. It does this by offering tailored education programs to both primary and secondary students - as well as tours of Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and its other facilities.

“Our education services provide an important bridge between the community, the Council and Contractor, who ultimately pick up the bins. The difference between our educational services and other forms of environmental education is that we are solely focused on resource recovery.”

“This is important, as ultimately, it is the local community who will pay the costs for landfilling waste, so when we save landfill space we save the community over the long term.”

One of the keys to reducing the impact from landfill is diverting organics, which are the main cause of water and air emissions from these facilities. In this regard, Cleanaway is also a leader in providing source separated kerbside services for food and garden organics, as well as the associated composting services which return these collected organics to the soil as high quality compost.

Supporting progressive businesses

Effective resource recovery relies on more than just households doing their bit, so Cleanaway also offers its education programs to businesses, although as Mandl-Keating explains, this engagement process works differently.

For businesses, educational engagement typically means engaging staff in large and small organisations to ensure that processes are in place to recycle effectively.

“This process begins with a waste assessment, where we identify areas of opportunity and make recommendations.” Tailored services can then be offered, which can also reduce costs for businesses.

For those companies focused on reducing their footprint, Cleanaway also offers deeper engagement. For example, in NSW Cleanaway, in partnership with Veolia, runs EarthPower, which provides food retailers with an effective and sustainable option to divert all their organics from landfill.

More businesses are looking to reduce their waste to support their own sustainability goals, as Mandl-Keating explains, “we also have a unique program available to help businesses achieve a zero waste to landfill goal.”

For Australian businesses, zero waste to landfill is the fast growing sustainability trend. Whichever path businesses and councils take to reduce the residual waste ultimately sent to landfill, quality educational programs play a critical role to ensure they are implemented as effectively as possible.

Resource Recovery News is proudly sponsored by Cleanway