I have been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Waste Management Association of Australia’s (WMAA)
annual conference in the wine-growing Hunter Valley area of New South Wales near Newcastle. I am to address the Industrial Ecology conference on July 28th and talk about Wales’s attempts to create a resource management system that mimics the closed loop systems evident in nature.
Fortunately, since Wales has adopted its “Towards Zero Waste” Strategy in 2009 I am able to point to many examples where that is happening here but we’ve a long way to go before we catch up with the intelligent approaches to change that are typical in the Antipodes, both New Zealand and Australia can point to achievements that typify their relish for seeking change and implementing rational, evidenced based plans to create a more sustainable future for their citizens.
I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand annually since attending the first Zero waste conference in Kaitaia in December 2000 – a real millennia even for me, every time I visit I’m struck by the difference in attitude there with regard to getting things done, making changes – there is far less vested interest and support for “the old ways”, more confidence, more welcoming of real change. There are the same mistakes being made of course but very often that traces back to links with the UK – they read our journals. Matters have followed the same path in the antipodes WITHOUT the Landfill, WEEE or Waste Framework Directive or any need for overarching legislative drivers.” People don’t like waste – as we all don’t – but there they are far more hell bent on eliminating it completely because they are mission-driven – home from home for me again.
Australia and New Zealand are much more vision focussed –they see where they want to end up and go for it. Zero waste has real meaning so it is not surprising to visit South Australia last year to witness firsthand how Vaughan Levitsky and his colleagues in Zero waste South Australia achieved an overall recycling and composting rate of over 70% for the whole state – no cheating, no fiddling the data, no whinging about what can’t be done, no blaming the general population for being lazy b**tards so common in the bar-room parlance of the waste industry in the UK.
It was the key turning point for the creation of Zero Waste Scotland,
an organisation mimicking Vaughan’s outfit. In Adelaide, Iain Gulland and I saw vast resource recovery parks containing all the efforts for all the sectors of the recycling industry in South Australia. People learning from each other no matter which sector they inhabited.
We were shown round a collection depot, part of a simple container deposit scheme where producer responsibility and community benefit are successfully juxtaposed to yield large tonnages of every type of container, spotlessly clean, being very simply collected and sent back for reprocessing. Everyone we talked to about the Container Deposit scheme said it was the best thing that South Australia was doing for recycling (and for South Australia of course because every bottle/can/jar produced and distributed in Australia carries the legend “If you are in South Australia right now you can get 10cents back on this container” which is really good Green PR for the state.
We were impressed – but Vaughan was aiming higher, getting into that last 20% with real zeal, backed by a young and enthusiastic, mission-driven team whose eyes were alight with eagerness to learn about any scrap of info that might help them achieve that goal – again, home from home.
Vaughan Levitzke, Chief Executive, Zero Waste SA, believes that sustainability is most likely to be achieved when a vision – in this case a society free of waste – permeates all aspects of the organisation.
'Practicing zero-waste policy within Zero Waste SA itself demonstrates and reinforces our commitment to the vision, and enables us to show leadership,’ says Vaughan. Measurement of progress is important too: ‘We can foster commitment to sustainability through the use of measurable outcomes. Part of the job satisfaction here is achieving and making a difference – a difference that you can see and measure.’ Zero Waste SA specified that our fitout was to be designed using materials, fixtures, appliances and furniture that, where possible:
- satisfy Green Star criteria by sourcing products and services that contribute to improved environmental outcomes, including energy and water conservation and efficiency
- are designed for disassembly, resource recovery and diversion of materials from landfill at the end of any product’s useful life
- stimulate market demand for products with recycled content
- achieve standard longevity, given that the life cycle of the fitout is expected to be at least 10 years.
- Highlighting some of the green strategies employed, the CAD-based images below provide a bird’s-eye view of the fitout design.
Also we were privileged to hear a speech by the Waste Manager of San Francisco who also reported that his whole state had reached over 70% recycling and composting – so the achievement of South Australia is not unique and what was clear was the common ground of a vision driven implementation path with a goal of Zero waste.
I've reported some interesting synergies with his Zero Waste visions whilst planning this visit and it's really strange planning your route from Sydney to Newcastle and passing near Cardiff and Swansea within minutes of one another – home from home indeed.
This time my visit will include meeting with the Community Sector and Zero Wasters in New Zealand and Australia to bring them together under the Zero Waste banner somehow – there is an appetite for collaboration it seems. Life has been pretty disrupted in New Zealand of late with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake – aftershocks and other earthquakes still abound on both islands – the most recent on North Island only last week.
is something new and I’ll be bent on encouraging international links so that knowledge transfer can occur. I am also on a mission to link up our Zero Waste Academy with those in New Zealand and Australia so that our new Resource Recovery Industry can be founded on the best possible training. New Zealand’s Zero Waste Academy in Palmerston North at Massey University will be one of my first ports of call.
Finally I will be stopping over in Penang to help Ken Bellamy of VRM
– (Cylch conference in the Holland House Hotel in 2009) launch some impressive food waste reprocessing equipment that I’m hoping will become a real money-earner for Community Recycling projects in the future. We will be looking closely at that very soon in the UK – so watch this space.
This is the first time I’ve visited in their winter – normally I duck out of ours – so its woolly coat time for me.
Watch this Blog for more as I travel.
Mal Williams, CEO Cylch (Wales Community Recycling Network)