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.

Back to the Tasmanian Good Sorts

National Recycling Week an Opportunity to Close the Loop

Tasmanians are getting better at recycling with more than 242,000 tonnes of materials collected for re-use in the last year and a steadily declining rate of contamination.

According to Northern Tasmanian Waste Management Group member, Michael Attard the positive trend has been helped by the arrival of new recycling services and a change in attitude.

“Tasmanians are more interested in and aware of what happens to their waste than ever before.”

“Combine this with the arrival of specialised recycling services such as soft plastics collection bins in major supermarkets and the growing number of food and organics collections being introduced across Tasmania and you see less recyclable materials ending up in landfill,” Mr Attard said.

For this trend to be sustainable, the state’s three regional Waste Management Groups are encouraging people to seek out packaging and products made from recycled material or with high recycled content so that the good materials keep going around.

“Recycling as a system only works if we all make an effort to close the loop,” Mr Attard said. “Putting recyclable materials in a recycling bin is only half the story.”

“That means supporting companies that actually use recycled ingredients to make their packaging and products. If we all do our bit to generate demand for recycled goods, then waste will continue to be reduced and recycling can continue to thrive.”

“Demand for recycled products will also increase the viability of more Australian-based recycling processors. We should be aiming for a circular economy for recycling where materials are reprocessed and reused within Australia.”

Cardboard, newspaper and aluminium cans typically have high levels of recyclable content in Australia. Packaging increasingly shows the presence and level of recycled materials used and people can search online for directories of products made from recyclables, including on the Planet Ark recyclingnearyou website.

“You and I may be motivated to recycle for environmental reasons, but businesses also need to see that there’s adequate demand and lasting financial benefits in changing their production methods and materials.”
“It’s another example where individual decisions and actions can add up to make a big difference,” Mr Attard said.

National Recycling Week is being celebrated across Australia from 12 – 18 November.

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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