Hydro Group – Too Good to Waste

Hydro Tasmania is a Tassie icon with inspiring ambitions to be a good sort with waste.

Across their three business arms – including Momentum Energy and Entura – they’ve set themselves a waste diversion target of 95% by December 2021. Central to achieving this goal is finding ways to avoid generating waste from the outset, by changing the materials used and mindsets of staff in all aspects of the business from procurement policies to lunch-room operations and everything in between.

As a business with strong sustainability credentials, Hydro Tasmania felt it could do more in waste reduction beyond meeting its obligations for hazardous waste management. So in October 2019, Environmental Scientist Lauren Maher took on the challenge to build a waste minimisation and innovation roadmap with a virtual team of seven, each bringing insights and practical experience from different areas of the business.

What they created was a detailed plan known as Too Good To Waste, which defined goals and focus areas, and categorised actions as easy, moderate or difficult to ensure quick wins could be achieved and more complex waste challenges could be appropriately planned and resourced. The roadmap was endorsed by the Hydro Group Leadership Team in March 2020 and implementation is well underway.

Three principles underpin the roadmap:

  1. Make and use products smarter (not through more recycling, but by generating less waste)
  2. Extend the life of products and parts (by seeing waste as an opportunity for repair, refurbishing, remanufacture and repurposing); and
  3. Only use the bin as a last resort (acknowledging that recycling and recovery is better than landfill but still depletes valuable resources).

The entire project began with bin audits across 13 sites. Lauren says that understanding your current waste footprint – both volumes and waste types – is essential to create a realistic plan with measurable targets. The audits showed that up to 90% of the 275 tonnes of waste generated by the business each year could have been diverted from landfill with organics (34%) and plastics (32%) making up the biggest share of salvageable or avoidable materials.

The implementation of the roadmap was met with scepticism in some sites and by some staff, but Lauren found that actions spoke louder than the roadmap’s written words and people were soon inspired to play their part when those around them were stepping up and embracing the change.

One of the simplest, early actions was installing separate bins – including bokashi bins – for different waste types; each colour coded and with clear graphics and signage to make it easier to know what goes where. A future iteration of the signs is likely to include a QR code to provide additional detail as staff become more engaged in the waste avoidance project and site-based champions take the lead in the roadmap’s local implementation.

One of Lauren’s biggest sources of motivation is the ability of Hydro Tasmania to extend its waste avoidance values into the diverse communities where the business operates. Community grants programs, classroom education resources, and business collaboration and mentoring are all in the roadmap, reinforcing Hydro Tasmania’s vision to deliver not just economic and environmental outcomes, but long-lasting social benefits too.

Lauren and the Hydro Tasmania team are committed to leading by example and sharing their roadmap experiences to inspire others. Already they have grown their average landfill diversion rate from 9% to 29% and have almost reached 50% diversion across their office sites. With the roadmap to guide them and the passionate commitment of Lauren and other roadmap champions, Hydro Tasmania has their waste avoidance goal well within reach.

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Making the Most of What You Have

In December last year, Sinan decided to try and get through 2020 without buying any new clothes. At that time, he was often shopping for the sake of it, particularly online, spending and collecting new items that on hindsight, he felt he didn’t really need.  A growing awareness of climate change and some research into the way textiles are produced and garments are manufactured led the Northern Tasmanian to rethink his shopping habits and set himself the ‘no new clothes’ goal for 2020.

And so it began, first by rediscovering what was already in his wardrobe and then by appreciating and re-using items to their fullest. A pair of work shoes recently wore out and rather than replacing them, he received his supervisor’s permission to switch to a similar pair already in his cupboard. Win-win!

Sinan says that the first month was the hardest, particularly breaking the almost-automatic habit of online scrolling and shopping, but early efforts reminded him of the bigger, long term benefits for the environment and for his wallet!  With this new perspective and the restrictions of COVID-19 taking hold, Sinan also shifted his attention to shopping locally with some savings from his ‘no new clothes’ pledge being diverted into his local bookstore. It’s a positive change that he is keen to continue.

His advice to others? Consider the implications of what you buy. Start conversations to raise awareness of what could be re-used and don’t think it requires extreme action because every bit helps.

Well done, Sinan – you’re a true Tassie good sort!

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St Mary’s College – Hobart

St Mary’s College has been making positive changes to reduce its waste, with particular focus on the school canteen and the introduction of a package-free policy. Initiated by the College’s student-led sustainability group, The Footprint Project, the College is aiming to serve healthy, tasty meals while doing away with single-use products and packaging.

In addition to phasing out bottled and carton drinks, plastic-sealed snacks and packaged icy poles, the College has also introduced re-usable plates, bowls, cups and cutlery for the 900+ staff and students to enjoy their meals before being returned to the canteen for washing and re-use.

The changes were introduced at the end of October 2019 and have led to a significant decrease in waste volume, with only one garbage bin of rubbish now coming from the canteen each day. What a great achievement!

College Canteen Manager Phil Shanny, who has been a supporter of the sustainable food movement for more than 10 years, said he hopes to make the canteen “as sustainable as possible”. With its onsite fruit and vegetable garden used in the canteen menu plus the College’s bi-annual Sustainability Fair, compost program and Plastic Free July activities among others, they are well on their way to success!

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The Poulton Family’s Bread Bag Challenge

The Poulton Family from Westbury are truly good sorts. They set themselves a ‘Bread Bag Challenge’: to reduce the volume of their household garbage so it fills no more than one bread bag per week.

The idea came after the family of four decided to start recycling their soft plastics via REDCycle at the supermarket. When they went to add a soft plastics collection bag at home they realised there wasn’t enough space for the regular garbage bag too and so they switched from a big garbage bag to a bread bag instead.

This temporary fix became a household challenge and before long they were composting, avoiding products with too much packaging, and sorting all kinds of recycling to keep their garbage waste to a minimum.

They’ve made so many changes for good that they’ve been able to fit their landfilled garbage in a bread bag every week for several months! It’s a great example of positive action and well deserving of being named overall winners in the 2019 North TAS Waste NoT Awards (pictured accepting their award from Northern Midlands Council Mayor Mary Knowles).

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Travis the Tasmanian Garbologist

With Good Sorts like Travis, Tasmania’s future is in great hands!  Travis lives in northern TAS and says that when he grows up, he wants to be a “Garbologist”.  He even dressed up as one at a recent Book Week event at his school.

He’s got his family’s waste and recycling sorted and helps out with his neighbour’s bins too – rain, hail or shine.  Travis knows what can and can’t be recycled and is very particular about what items go into each bin.

He’s encouraging his family to avoid – reduce- reuse and recycle as much as possible; well done Travis!

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Bridgewater Gagebrook Clean Up Group

Mark and Ange’s energy, passion and action towards waste avoidance in Tasmania puts them firmly in the ‘good sort’ category.
Four years ago they voluntarily started cleaning up litter in Bridgewater and Gagebrook after walking over the Jordan River Bridge and noticing the extraordinary amount of debris polluting the waterway.

More than 250 shopping trolleys, 86000 cigarette butts and 38000 recyclable containers later, the Bridgewater Gagebrook Clean Up Group continues to make a significant difference to their local streets, parks and reserves. Not even a blackberry infested riverbank can deter them from hand-cutting their way to litter trapped in the vegetation!

Mark and Ange are strong advocates for a container deposit scheme in Tasmania and are motivated to make their neighbourhood look great while leaving a positive legacy for future generations. The Group has harnessed the interest of followers on social media and regularly share the volume and types of litter found to raise awareness and to stimulate behaviour change.

To get behind their efforts or to lend a hand with clean-ups, visit the Bridgewater Gagebrook Clean Up Group on Facebook

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Circular Head Aboriginal Corp

Dutchy and his work-team at Trawmanna are truly good sorts. Not only have they converted used 1.25L plastic bottles into a functional and stylish greenhouse, but they’ve also managed to salvage a wide range of materials to complete the job from a screen door, to bricks and old tent poles.
The idea to build a greenhouse from recycled materials was devised by the Circular Head Aboriginal Corp (CHAC) after Smithton won the 2017 National Tidy Town Award. While attending the Award ceremony, CHAC members were inspired by similar projects that combined waste minimisation with community nutrition and nurturing programs.
The greenhouse sits within a community garden at Trawmanna and will be a valuable addition for the young families who come together to raise fruit and vegetable seeds and propagate cuttings of native plants. The roof is half salvaged Perspex sheets and half plastic bottles, allowing for both wet and dry areas to suit different growing needs. The bottled-wall design also allows airflow while retaining warmth. The unused part of the bottles are being converted into planter pots and waste cardboard is frequently used as a weed mat under pathways. The team has also been experimenting with mulched polystyrene waste and concrete to create insulated pavers for the hothouse floor.
What a great example of ingenuity that is turning trash into nutritious and tasty treasures!

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The Local Coffeehouse

The Local Coffeehouse in Huonville is a classic good sort kind of place.

Not only does this community-minded business sort their waste for kerbside and soft plastics recycling, but they also gather handy items such as jars and egg trays and promote their reuse in the café and via the Reduce Reuse Huon Valley group.

The menu is kept deliberately simple to minimise food waste and any food scraps either help feed their own livestock or go into compost at the nearby Honeywood Farm, along with the café’s compostable napkins. Coffee grounds are put aside for collection by local gardeners to enrich their soils.

It’s been a gradual journey to minimise waste at The Local, motivated by wanting to make a difference in practical and achievable ways. They’ve harnessed the local community where possible, using social media to find solutions for their waste and establish themselves as a TerraCycle collection point for hard-to-recycle items.

These simple but important actions have helped The Local reduce its garbage volume by around 75% – now there’s a good sort!
See how The Local goes about its business at www.facebook.com/thelocalhuonville/

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Plastic Free Launceston – Trish Haeusler

Meet Trish Haeusler.  She’s a good sort because she’s the founder of Plastic Free Launceston, a community group dedicated to ridding the city of single use plastics.

Plastic Free Launceston was started in early 2017 after identifying a need to respond to the growing concerns of plastic pollution. A Facebook page launched a community conversation and it quickly progressed into an active working group of TamarNRM.

The aim of Plastic Free Launceston is to promote practical ways to reduce single use and unnecessary plastics and to invite the community to increase their understanding of plastic pollution and share their own ideas to combat this problem.

The dedicated group has helped raise awareness and change behaviours towards plastic straws, shopping bags, balloons, coffee cups and a host of other one-off plastic wonders that we could all learn to live without.

Trish and the Plastic Free Launceston team regularly host workshops to sew cloth bags as sustainable alternatives to plastic, encourage businesses and individuals to get involved in Plastic Free July and The Last Straw campaigns and promote sustainable alternatives to plastic around the home, in workplaces and schools.

Find out more and follow their inspiring efforts at www.facebook.com/plasticfreelaunceston.

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Gaia’s Nest Childcare

They’re good sorts at Gaia’s Nest Childcare…not only have they halved their garbage waste by switching to compostable nappies, wipes, gloves and bin liners but they also encourage families to drop off compost at the centre if they don’t have access to a compost bin of their own.

Michelle Beakley is Director of Gaia’s Nest and she has been rethinking waste and identifying what they can recycle and reuse right across the centre.  They have developed a culture of conscious thinking towards zero waste.  Where possible they source pre-loved quality toys and games (too good to go to waste!) and avoid petroleum-based materials instead choosing lovingly home-made dolls, wooden toys and items left by nature.

They’re even starting to stock the pantry from wholefoods stores to avoid purchasing unnecessary packaging and they make their own hand soaps which they refill in to re-usable dispensers.

Families are encouraged to bring their children’s lunches in bento style lunch boxes to reduce packaging waste too.

Over the last 12 months they have saved over 23,000 nappies from going into landfill.

Located in Mornington, Gaia’s Nest is an inspiring setting for the Tassie waste warriors of tomorrow!

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verticaldividerRethink Waste aims to improve our efforts at reducing, reusing and
recycling in order to decrease the amount of waste that ends up as landfill.
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