Officeworks takes charge

Officeworks’ Ryan Swenson highlights the company’s smart approach to back-of-house and customer recycling.

As a major supplier of office products and solutions for homes, businesses and schools, Officeworks’ customer footprint is by no means small. Its 168 stores buttress more than 8000 team members, in addition to three distribution centres and two support centres.

Developing an overarching sustainability plan therefore necessitated smarter thinking about how it manages its waste internally, using concrete data and drawing on waste industry experts to identify environmentally friendly solutions.

In 2015, Officeworks launched its first Positive Difference Plan, which set a five-year strategy and targets issues most pertinent to their stakeholders. The plan outlined goals to reduce the company’s environmental impact, sourcing products in sustainable and responsible ways and supporting the aspirations of its team and communities.

Four years into the 2020 plan, Officeworks has made significant progress against the targets, including reducing carbon emissions by 15 per cent.

As part of this, it is also working towards ensuring all paper products are either Forest Stewardship Council certified or made from 100 per cent recycled materials by December 2020.

The company follows the principles of the waste hierarchy, avoiding or reducing the amount of waste that is generated in the first place. From FY17 to FY18, it reduced its total waste generated from 6975 tonnes to 5764 tonnes. Of that, waste to landfill decreased from 2513 to 1405 tonnes.

Officeworks has also increased recycling rates from 64 per cent in FY17 to 81 per cent this financial year to date and is working towards a target to recycle 85 per cent by 30 June this year.

Ryan Swenson, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Officeworks, tells Waste Management Review that reducing the company’s environmental impact is a priority for the business, its team members and other stakeholders.

“Setting a long-term target to send zero waste to landfill, with milestones each year, enables us to establish a roadmap that demonstrates continuous improvement and to monitor our progress along the way,” he says.

To support its ambitious targets, Officeworks partnered with Cleanaway in 2017. The partnership allows Officeworks to provide detailed data and reporting to help its teams understand their progress against the targets.

Ryan says that Officeworks then looked at three areas where it could have the most influence: service schedules, infrastructure and behaviour change.

“By analysing the data, we made changes to the general waste collection schedules across selected stores from weekly to fortnightly.

“This drove an immediate change in behaviour as our teams needed to ensure they had enough room in their general waste bin to last the fortnight,” he says.

He says that Officeworks looked at its infrastructure to ensure its stores had the right bins in the right places based on their waste streams.

“Thirdly, we put some of our team members through a waste and recycling workshop to help drive behaviour change at their stores,” Ryan says.

Over the past six months, team members from selected stores have conducted their own waste audits by spending a day offsite sorting through their own general waste bin, and then completing a cause and effect workshop to understand how recyclable waste entered the general waste bin and how to avoid it in the future.

Ryan says that this has been critical to imbedding a culture of zero waste to landfill and demonstrate that individual actions add up to make a big difference.

“Some stores have now moved their general waste collection to an on-call service since they are generating such little waste.”

Throughout March, more than 70 of its sites recycled at least 85 per cent of their waste, with many passing the 90 per cent mark – a testament to what is possible with the right initiatives and leadership.

To increase recycling rates at its support office, Officeworks has over the years implemented new recycling streams such as coffee cup recycling, organic waste collection and soft plastics recycling.


Ryan says that one of the highlights of the Positive Difference Plan is seeing how passionate its team members are to make a positive difference in their workplace.

As with any waste strategy, some challenges have sprung up.

Ryan says that Officeworks has a number of stores that have ongoing issues with illegal dumping.

To help address this, stores have moved their general waste bins to smaller bins that can be more easily moved into their receiving area each night.

With secondary packaging being a key input, Officeworks is focused on reducing the material used by optimising packaging sizes. It is moving to reusable solutions where possible, such as transit pallets, and working with suppliers to ensure all packaging is easily recyclable by removing materials from its supply chain such as polystyrene.

Officeworks takes a holistic approach when considering the environmental impact of the products it sells, which includes how they are disposed of at their end of life.

Throughout FY18, the company collected almost 700 tonnes of e-waste from its customers, which included ink and toner cartridges, computers and accessories, printers and mobile phones.

It also this year launched its largest ever recycling station at its Mentone Store in Melbourne that comprises recycling options for batteries, pens and markers.

To help its customers recycle, Officeworks developed the Australasian Recycling Label with Planet Ark in 2015 and it now features on over 3000 ownlabel products.

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Perth’s top 10 recyclers

For the first time, local council waste and recycling data is available on the Western Australian Government’s MyCouncil website.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the data offers an opportunity for local government communities to better understand their waste footprint and assess progress towards a more sustainable and low-waste future.

“Western Australians want to do the right thing when it comes to waste and by making this data publicly available we can all work collaboratively to reduce waste generation,” Mr Dawson said.

The data, sourced from the Waste Authority’s annual Local Government Waste and Recycling Census, includes the quantities of waste collected, disposed to landfill and recovered by local governments for each type of waste service offered.

“As we roll this out we expect to see improved resource recovery in metropolitan local governments that will be reflected each year on MyCouncil — helping us to meet the state government’s target of at least 75 per cent of waste generated in Western Australia to be reused or recycled by 2030,” Mr Dawson said.

According to Local Government Minister David Templeman, the data shows councils south of the river are significantly reducing waste to landfill, with East Fremantle, Melville, Cockburn and Fremantle all ranking among the top five recycling performers in the Perth metropolitan area.

“Making this data available in a central location on the MyCouncil website will improve transparency around local government waste performance and provide them with an increased incentive to improve their resource recovery performance,” Mr Templeman said.

Top 10 metropolitan recyclers

East Fremantle (Town)61%
Cockburn (City)61%
Melville (City)60%
Joondalup (City)55%
Fremantle (City)54%
Wanneroo (City)53%
Nedlands (City)52%
Cottesloe (Town)50%
Stirling (City)47%
Vincent (City)46%

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WA Govt releases draft strategy to reduce 20 per cent of waste by 2030

The WA Waste Authority has released a draft of its Waste Strategy 2030 for comment, outlining key strategies to reduce waste by 20 per cent by 2030.

Other key targets include increasing material recovery to 70 per cent by 2025 and 75 per cent by 2030, and to only recover energy from residual waste.

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It also sets a target of sending no more than 15 per cent of the waste generated in the Perth and Peel regions to be landfilled by 2030.

Strategies to reach these targets include a food organics and garden organics (FOGO) kerbside collection system across the Perth and Peel regions by 2025, provided by local governments with support from the state.

The draft outlines implementing sustainable government procurement practices that encourage the usage of recycled products and support local market development.

A review of the waste levy will also be undertaken to ensure its scope and application meets the objectives of the Waste Strategy 2030.

Statewide communications to support consistent messaging on reducing waste will be developed as part of the strategy, alongside implementing local government waste plans to align planning processes with the new targets laid out.

Data collection and reporting systems will be updated according to the strategy to allow waste generation, recovery and disposal performance be assessed quickly.

A strategy to guide future infrastructure development includes a review of WA’s waste infrastructure and landfills to occur by 2020.

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said in the report WA has an obligation to its current community and future generations to generate less waste, extract more resources and better manage the disposal of waste.

“Waste Strategy 2030 rises to address that challenge and the opportunities that better choices and better waste management present,” Mr Dawson said.

“We will have to work hard to meet the ambitious targets set out in this strategy and deliver against long-standing issues in the waste community. We won’t, for example, be able to meet our 2025 recovery targets without all metropolitan local government’s adopting a three-bin FOGO system, and I will work with those local governments to achieve this.

“Waste is everyone’s business – individuals, households, neighbourhoods, community groups, schools, small and big businesses, local governments, waste managers, the state government and the media,” he said.

Comments on the Waste Strategy 2030 should be sent to wastestrategyreview@wasteauthority.wa.gov.au and are due by Tuesday 6 November.

Cleanaway secures seven-year contract with City of Sydney

The City of Sydney has selected Cleanaway as its new waste and recycling provider with a seven-year contract beginning 1 July 2019.

Services for the council will include general waste, recycling, garden organics and bulk or hard waste and electronic waste kerbside collections.

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The contract also includes 25 new vehicles which have Cleanaway’s integrated data platform installed. The system uses on board cameras to track collections and service events like missed pick-ups, broken bins and can be used for single-call customer service response. Cameras can also provide insights that aim to reduce contamination, improve recycling and increase truck safety.

Cleanaway’s education team will also provide the City of Sydney with sustainability training which aims to reduce waste sent to landfill and improve recycling rates.

Cleanaway Regional Manager – Sydney Metro Michael Sankey said the company looks forward to bringing its expertise to Sydney.

“As part of the contract, Cleanaway will be setting up a new facility and implementing new operational teams and some educational resources,” he said.

“Over the next seven years we’ll be working closely with the council’s waste management team to add value for the community and help the City of Sydney achieve their sustainability goals.”

Industry input sought for VWMA economic report

Victorian waste and recycling companies are being called on to contribute to an industry report on the economic and social contributions the sector provides.

The report, commissioned by the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), aims to provide specific metrics the waste and recycling industry generates for local, regional and national communities.

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It will also aim to help improve communication between the industry, government and community to help build confidence and trust in the sector.

The VWMA aims to highlight the importance the environmental and health benefits of the sector to the community as well as the economic contributions from jobs and investment.

Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions Economist Nick Behrens is working with VWMA to complete the project, which is similar to work carried out in Queensland and currently in the Northern Territory.

A survey is currently open until 14 September to gather data to create anonymous, aggregated high level industry statistics which will be drawn upon to prepare various positions, communications and policy formation in the future.

The survey also includes questions about insurance to, general questions about government guidance and accessing government support.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said it is important for the waste sector to come together and start to shape its own story for the government.

“An important element in that story involves the contribution made to the Victorian economy,” Mr Smith said.

“Most industry sectors publish their own data sets and reports into economic contribution and employee numbers to communicate and express their importance to local and state government and to the community. It is important our industry does the same.

“With an election this year and a new four year-term state government elected, this report will be a useful resource for our sector in advocating for industry support, regional development and regulatory and insurance challenges into the future.”

To complete the survey, click here. Results are anticipated to be released in the first week of October 2018.

How many recyclables are affected by China waste ban?

Cans for recycling in a container deposit scheme

Consultancy firm Blue Environment was asked by the Federal Government to analyse the amount of waste being sent to China before the ban on contaminants began.

China’s ban on waste with contaminants of more than 0.5 per cent have led to commodity price reductions, stockpiling and instability in the provision of recycling collection services, according to Blue Environment.

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The data showed that 1.25 million tonnes of waste was exported to China in 2016-17, with 920 thousand tonnes made up of paper and cardboard, 203 thousand tonnes of metal and 125 thousand tonnes of plastics.

Blue Environment also report that 99 per cent of waste from the 2016-17 period were affected by these new restrictions.

According to the data, China made up the majority of exported materials in plastics and paper and cardboards, making up 68 and 63 per cent of the total recyclable material exports.

Blue Environment said the data should be considered preliminary and may change with further consideration.

You can read the full data set here. 

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