Making sustainability child’s play

A Melbourne-based company is combining puppet-making and trash to share the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ message. 

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”

While Jim Henson’s famous saying may reflect a common-enough sentiment, but the incremental betterment of the world and humanity doesn’t usually cause puppets to spring to mind. For one Melbourne-based company, however, that is exactly what is entailed within its efforts to make the world a better place.

Jhess Knight worked within the local puppetry industry for the past five years before realising the joys of using recycled or reused materials. Alongside her good friend, Lucy Hedt, she has since developed the Trash Puppets initiative, which combines entertainment with education in the sustainability space.

“During my Master’s at the London School of Puppetry, we were encouraged to create mock-ups of our puppets. Quick and rough, a process that enabled us to see the design of our puppet and what the challenges might be,” explains Jhess. “Usually thrown together with basic materials such as newspaper or cardboard, I often found myself falling in love. Their simplicity was incredibly charming and made them even more magical when they came to life.”

The process of making Trash Puppets thus came about organically, and Jhess found the process to be therapeutic in its own right. “I knew this was something I wanted to share,” she says.

After having the idea suggested by a friend who works as a schoolteacher, Jhess and Lucy have gone on to create a profitable business in teaching kids to make puppets from rubbish – but it also has applications beyond the classroom.

To read more, see page 36 of Issue 10. 

Tying up loose ends

A New South Wales initiative is looking at how to recycle thousands of tonnes of textile waste – potentially creating a whole new business model along the way. 

The key to creating sustainable solutions to environmental problems is to build strong business cases around them. That is the approach Tom Davies and his team at Edge Environment took when they were tasked with finding an industrial solution to divert waste from landfill through the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Circulate program.

By engaging 1,000 medium-to-large enterprises, Circulate aims to divert some 160,000 tonnes of waste to landfill between 2014 and 2017 and generate $21 million in additional income or savings for those involved. The program is part of the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, which uses funds from the waste levy to drive behaviour change, infrastructure investment and innovation in new resource recovery solutions.

As a starting point for the project, Davies and his team analysed a range of NSW commercial and industrial waste audits to determine the most significant material streams coming out of the State. “We’ve been working with a lot of large corporates as part of the process and a common issue proved to be workwear,” he says – adding that large companies go through hundreds of tonnes of workwear every year. “So we started investigating textiles as a waste.”

Textile as a waste

As part of his initial research, Davies found that NSW generates about 153,000 tonnes of textile waste per year – the whole of Australia produces about 375,000 tonnes – and most of that is going directly to landfill. Of that textile waste, a massive 64 per cent is corporate workwear, a ratio too big to ignore, as Davies points out: “You need to find a starting point.

“To us, it quickly became clear that point had to be corporate workwear – it’s a huge volume of manmade bres that could be turned into new products.”

Davies points to the iconic Australia Post organisation as an example for smart bre-recycling: “Australia Post had 200 tonnes of textiles as redundant stock that it had accumulated over two years, as it’s constantly evolving its uniforms. To address the problem, they teamed up with Dunlop and turned the waste into carpet underlay.”

While highly effective, the solution was a one-off only, Davies says: “What we were looking for was a long-term, self-sustaining solution. We roughly knew the breakdown of those materials, so it was obvious it was all valuable stuff that was ending up in landfill,” he explains.

Read the full story on page 26 of Issue 10. 

Waste not, want not

With ever-increasing amounts of waste and decreasing resources, escalating environmental concerns and rising input costs, the waste management industry is expected to face some tough challenges in 2017.

As such, key industry players increasingly question whether or not they are operating as economically and efficiently as possible, knowing that an integrated approach to waste management could be the key to unlocking a myriad of benefits and achieving more sustainable success over the long-term.

With a growing number of stakeholders involved in the process of waste management – each looking to manage their resources as efficiently as possible – integration and knowledge sharing are thus becoming more important than ever before, says Bill Ambrose, Regional General Manager for WA and SA at AccuWeigh, Australia’s biggest supplier of weighbridges, weighing equipment and product inspection equipment.

“Business-to-business communication can lead to better economies of scale, more streamlined reporting and savings in terms of both money and time,” says Ambrose.

“What’s important to note here is that collaboration among partner companies doesn’t mean giving away trade secrets or opening up vulnerabilities for others to exploit. It’s merely a tool to facilitate lean systems and lasting success.”

According to Ambrose, advanced software and technological developments enable operations to do business in a dramatically different way nowadays.

“Digital communication makes it possible for data to be captured and shared wirelessly and remotely – for example from an unmanned weighbridge to a central processing system or between truck drivers in the eld and their home base – and waste companies should be actively pursuing ways of exploiting technology for both financial and operational gains.”

He adds that weighbridge integration is a case in point: “An integrated weighbridge software solution makes
it possible to centrally manage all your weighing operations, whether you operate a single weighbridge or have installations at several different sites,” he explains. “It can also be used as a comprehensive vehicle management system, a traffic management system capable of reducing bottlenecks and streamlining the flow of vehicles and an on-site security system capable of controlling security cameras, entry and exit barriers and checking number plates automatically.

“Systems can be fully configurable for each application, producing digital records of each and every vehicle entering and leaving the sites and providing operators with comprehensive data that can be used for a range of functions.”

Weighing systems expert Ambrose says integration takes much of the paperwork – and, consequently, the likelihood of human error – out of the equation and can provide operators with a wealth of information that can be used to optimise the business. From data on the number of vehicles entering the site each day, volumes (on an hourly, daily or weekly basis), vehicle turnaround time and revenues (by customer and sector) to profitability and resourcing, there are many areas where businesses can turn knowledge into operational and resourcing – and possibly revenue – improvements, he says.

“The waste industry has historically been characterised by multiple operators along the supply chain, but a worldwide trend is for larger operations to achieve economies of scale through mergers or by acquiring smaller players. The response has to be a renewed focus on integration and collaboration.

“Advancements in weighbridge integration enable much more productive outcomes among the partners in the waste process – even among competitors – and allow larger, merged operations to marry the systems of their multiple divisions together to achieve substantial savings in time and costs.”

This article has been produced in collaboration with AccuWeigh. With a portfolio of over 1,000 weighbridge installations throughout Australia and New Zealand, AccuWeigh has the experience to identify individual weighbridge needs and provide businesses with the best integrated weighbridge solution.

More information head to AccuWeigh.