Sustainability allies: Veolia

Waste education, awareness and engagement are taking centre stage at major sporting events, as Veolia takes its relationships with stakeholders to new heights.

As a nation devoted to sport, the Australian sporting events industry showcases some of the world’s best athletes.

Tapping into this enthusiasm, forward thinking waste management organisations are using sport as a platform to demonstrate leading recycling practices and promote sustainable behaviours.

The scale, location and complexity of events means developing and implementing an appropriate waste management strategy can take months of meticulous coordination between stakeholders to ensure seamless operations on the big day.

Added to this, there are growing expectations around responsible waste management at events. It’s no wonder organisers increasingly rely on the expertise of forward thinking operators.

Companies such as Veolia are not only tasked with delivering a solution for general waste management, recycling and landfill diversion, but also providing value-added services like waste education and increased source segregation.

DRIVING CHANGE

For more than 20 years, Veolia has been working closely with event partners such as Incognitus to implement effective sustainable solutions. One aspect of this is incorporating waste reduction and recycling programs to improve diversion at major sporting events around the nation, such as the Melbourne Cup Carnival and the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

Veolia and Incognitus have been tackling issues like waste contamination and improved source segregation head on. These include introducing a range of proactive measures to increase awareness among event attendees, organisers and employees. However, the success of this approach is heavily reliant on its customer’s full support and shared vision for sustainability.

Anthony Roderick, Veolia Group General Manager – Victoria & Tasmania, says that one of Veolia’s strengths in the events space is its ability to build long-term partnerships with customers, allowing for a dynamic and flexible approach.

“Trust and transparency provide us with the ability to challenge each other for continuous improvement as we grow together,” Anthony says.

“We’re conscious that our customers are motivated by a range of operational factors, but it all boils down to value and wanting to partner with a ‘safe pair of hands’ that can facilitate effective and compliant waste disposal.”

SPORTING A NEW APPROACH

Francesca Stafford, Veolia Sustainability Coordinator, has a long-term passion for sport and its ability to bring people together and inspire collective outcomes.

“Sporting events are a platform for people to come together at any point in time and if we can capture that passion and sense of community, and communicate positive messaging that goes beyond the event, I think that is really important,” Francesca says.

“We work with businesses to help them understand the importance of best-practice recycling methods and how they can use these to reduce the environmental footprint of their operations.”

Francesca adds that by leveraging their enthusiasm, energy and business strategy to promote change, Veolia develops a long-term approach to sustainability and it grows from there.

THE RACE THAT STOPS THE NATION

The 2018 Melbourne Cup Carnival was a great example of stakeholders working together towards a common goal. As South-East Asian countries were tightening contamination tolerances around the same time, Veolia was spurred into action.

“One of the challenges is that people have lost faith in the industry and I think tackling this is about sharing a story that shows people that if they do engage in this correctly, there will be real outcomes and an impact,” Francesca says.

Veolia and Incognitus developed a collaborative approach working with James Reid, Executive General Manager Operations. Over six weeks, a specialised events team, equipment and source separation systems were deployed onsite at Flemington Racecourse.

Nine drivers, two-full time operations staff and 20 “Sustainability Champions” tasked with facilitating education sessions ensured maximum diversion was achieved for the 800 tonnes of waste generated at the event.

Francesca says extensive efforts were placed on educating cleaning and kitchen staff at the event to recycle food waste using aerobic digesters provided by ORCA, glass crushers by Bottle Cycler, as well as correctly sorting general and cardboard waste streams.

Over a four-day period, Veolia’s team of Sustainability Champions were able to build on staff knowledge and provide feedback on recovery figures from the previous day and any issues encountered. Francesca says immediate feedback was important to instilling behavioural change.

At the conclusion of the event, a comprehensive and instructive waste management report was prepared by Veolia, which provided an analysis of the success of the program and key learnings.

James says installing glass crushers onsite significantly reduced transport costs, particularly as Flemington has seen an increase in glass use with the site serving and using more premium beverages.

Food waste is also recycled on site using ORCA units, which break food down over a 24-hour period. The residual waste water is captured and used to produce biogas.

A VEHICLE FOR CHANGE

Earlier this year, Veolia and EventCorp commenced a five-year partnership with the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

Francesca says the timing of this event allowed Veolia to apply key learnings from its most recent Melbourne Cup Carnival service delivery.

“To maximise recycling at the Grand Prix, it was really important to offer patrons the ability to segregate their waste front-of-house.”

Veolia’s experience with other large-scale clients in the retail and commercial property sectors allowed it to educate retail, cleaning and kitchen staff on best source separation practice.

She says that quite often, Veolia is working with staff where English is not their first language.

“This, coupled with the transient nature of the event industry means we need to ensure our education strategy overcomes these barriers effectively. This was achieved by making sure that staff were empowered to feel as though they were part of the solution.

“We explain what happens to each waste stream and by equipping them with that information and supporting it with adequate signage, we can modify behaviour,” Francesca states.

Anthony says that if consumers go to the right efforts to separate the material, the onus is then on the recycling company to close the loop.

From an operational perspective, Anthony says that when it comes to waste collection, best practice is eliminating as much waste as possible and then driving collections with lean operations that minimise labour. He hopes to leverage Veolia’s global experience and advance Australia’s processes in areas such as waste to energy, water reuse and plastics recycling and remanufacturing.

LESSONS FROM THE FIELD

Craig Lovett, Principal/Partner at Incognitus, says understanding the infrastructure in the surrounding environment and tailoring a service around that is crucial.

“I think the answer is total control of waste streams, engineering the outcome right from the outset and working out what ends up inside the venues front-of-house,” Craig says.

He recalls planning for the Sydney Olympic Games of which Veolia was a contractor. Despite being almost 20 years ago, the learnings gave recognition to the value of sustainable waste practices.

Craig says that basic questions were asked such as the amount of newspapers arriving on site and how products were being delivered to the kitchen. PET was the only accepted front-of-house single-use packaging, with Styrofoam boxes banned from the kitchens of the Olympic venues and replaced with cardboard. Two bins were established front of house with signage stating PET cups, cans and food packaging were recyclable.

He says that the key to a successful collaboration with waste contractors is understanding each other’s skillset, capabilities and infrastructure. Engaging all stakeholders with simple messaging, including caterers, is also crucial.

“We’ve had a 23-year history of working with Veolia and although not exclusively, most times we did because they were prepared to be collaborative.”

Anthony agrees sport plays a role in inspiring the community to take ownership of their waste.

“Melbourne is synonymous with hosting world-class events. If we’re fortunate enough to be in a position to service these clients we have a responsibility to help them reduce their environmental impact and ensure the events are remembered for the right reasons,” he says.

He notes that Veolia is more than just a waste management company – it’s a global resourcing company with sustainability capabilities across municipal and hazardous waste, water and energy.

“We’re creating solutions that allow us to lead in that space. We tend to narrowly focus on waste and recycling [as an industry], but the globe demands something bigger and Veolia is in a position to change that.

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