Andrea Baldwin of Albury City Council outlines how Mandalay Technologies’ Resident Product Suite is set to unlock sustainable resource recovery growth and regional collaboration.
Albury, one of Australia’s largest regional centres, sits on the border of the nation’s two most populous states: NSW and Victoria.
In the waste and resource recovery sector the council is well known, with recent news of a $45 million recycling facility dominating industry discussion.
The facility, which will be delivered through a joint venture partnership between Cleanaway, Pact Group and Asahi Beverages, is anticipated to recycle the equivalent of one billion 600-millimetre PET plastic bottles each year.
While the project is welcome news to the sector as it begins to build in anticipation of the 2021 export ban, Albury’s position as a waste management powerhouse is not new.
Albury City Council and its Waste Management Centre have long functioned as an industry case study, highlighting what can be achieved through proactive and future focused initiatives.
At the centre of this is Andrea Baldwin, Albury City Council’s Resource Recovery Team Leader.
Since taking on the role in 2008, Baldwin has implemented a raft of infrastructure development and educational initiatives, including the industry lauded Halve Waste campaign.
Baldwin explains that Albury’s Waste Management Centre receives approximately 200,000 tonnes of material from six council areas each year – three in Victoria and three in NSW.
Collectively, the centre services a population of 180,000 people.
Albury’s Waste Management Centre has traditionally operated as a landfill site, which opened in 1978.
“When I commenced my role, I very quickly identified that there wasn’t enough landfill space,” Baldwin says.
“I then worked out that there was approximately 12-15 years of life left, which gave us the opportunity to embark on a massive infrastructure and education program.”
Since 2009, Baldwin estimates that Albury City Council has spent $2 million each year on facility improvements.
These include the installation of 4000 solar panels on rehabilitated landfill areas, a full recycling centre, second-hand goods shop, green waste facility, new road network, gatehouse, push-pit and a three-weighbridge system.
The council has also worked on cell development, as well as introducing a leachate to sewer and methane gas system.
On the back of these infrastructure developments and education programs, Albury City Council has moved from landfilling 85-90 per cent of its received material to 40 per cent.
“This has enabled us to have another 30-40 years of landfill life,” Baldwin says.
To effectively manage its operations, Albury’s Waste Management Centre has been utilising Mandalay Technologies’ Facility Product Suite since 2011.
“Our facility is very big, so it needed software that could support that level of operations. More specifically, I needed a software system that could provide really good data, so I chose to work with Mandalay,” Baldwin says.
“Mandalay offer a lot of high-level reporting capabilities, so it gave us the opportunity to use that system and get strong data out of it to make informed decisions about what was happening and what needed to happen in the future.
“I live by data. I don’t do anything without data, and access to that data will support the case moving forward whenever we’ve got to put something to council.”
According to Baldwin, Albury initially implemented Mandalay’s system knowing that it would give the council more options and information than was needed.
“We felt that the facility was heading in a direction that at some point in the future, we would need a lot of that data and those capabilities, so we were happy to embrace that change and move forward with it,” she says.
While Mandalay’s basic ticketing system has remained the same, reporting options and new platforms have developed regularly. Baldwin adds that when Albury implemented a third weighbridge, Mandalay was able to add extra modules to its system.
“Some of the changes have been very unique to Albury. For example, I don’t know of anyone else that has a three-weighbridge system that needs separate software implementation to gather information,” she says.
“We’ve had to work on a few unique items with Mandalay, and they’ve been able to cater for all those changes.”
Baldwin adds that Mandalay has always been very supportive, jumping at the chance to collaborate and develop solutions for unique waste management needs.
“They are very futuristic in their thinking and are always making sure they have the right people dealing with the right levels of staff as needed,” she says.
“A lot of our workers at the landfill are customer service operators, and they have to understand how to develop reports and get information across to me, even though it’s quite analytical.”
While this is an added task and distinctive skill set, Baldwin says her team has the support of Mandalay, which enables them to take new tasks on and understand high-level analytic analysis.
“I see Mandalay as a very proactive organisation that is always striving for improvements and greater efficiencies,” she says.
“They can see all of the things that we could be doing better more than ourselves. They have a great vision for what can be achieved.
“It’s about getting clients on board to consider those options and the valuable information we can obtain in the long-term to benefit our own operations.”
To continue its proactive waste focus, Albury City Council is undertaking a staged implementation of Mandalay’s new Resident Product Suite, with a full on-demand system to be effective from July 2021.
The platform allows users to build personalised waste experiences for residents, which allows them to build and maintain precise information on waste service usage and deliver high-quality, efficient and cost-effective services to residents.
That information enables data driven analysis that can confidently lead to behavioural change and inform future waste education, programs and services.
Mandalay’s Resident Product Suite also allows operators to accurately measure waste generation per household, allowing users to understand community waste habits.
Furthermore, through individual mapping, users can digitise resident information – allowing vital services to be undertaken with ease.
With a more accurate picture of the people and property types that make up a community, Mandalay’s Resident Product Suite facilitates the allocation of specific waste entitlements to the right individuals and properties.
Stage one of the resident platform implementation, which has already been undertaken, was adding QR codes to current financial year 2021 waste vouchers.
“Previously, our vouchers all went out in paper format to residents, but we only have a 34-36 per cent usage of those vouchers,” Baldwin says.
“As such, we’re sending out a lot of paper to people that aren’t using it. So why not target the program to people that actually need it.”
Stage two will involve the execution of on-demand tenant vouchers, which council will issue and manage through the Resident Platform.
Once tenants have been validated to confirm they live where they say they live, a voucher is created with a unique code associated with that address, which can be issued via email to the tenant.
The final stage of the transition will allow residents to manage their own vouchers via a self-service portal.
The authentication process becomes automated, thereby removing the need to verify addresses manually.
With a property ID and corresponding PIN allocated to eligible residents, Albury’s waste centre will remain secure, while also ensuring that only pre-defined residents can gain access. This function can also be used by staff, contractors and other approved site visitors.
The system also provides access a visual map of total ‘source to site’ movements of all residents in their community and gain insights such as number of tickets, number of vouchers, number of vehicles, weight and total amount of waste for all or specific sites.
Baldwin expects the system will be well received, with the majority of residents already familiar with online processes.
Mandalay recently hosted an analytics workshop with the Albury waste team to highlight what they can do with the extra data provided by the new Resident Product Suite.
The system, Baldwin says, provides high-level information on where people are travelling from to get to the facility, as well as how many times people are using the voucher system. She adds that the platform can also help identify peak times at the centre.
“The platform will help us understand what days of the week people are bringing material in, which will allow us to make sure we are efficiently resourced on those days based on the data,” Baldwin says.
“I think that’s a really informative value add of the Mandalay system that will influence our resourcing on site.”
In the future, Baldwin says the Resident Product Suite could enable other councils within the Murray and Riverina region to have something similar in place, including moving to the QR code system.
She says this would allow councils to have access to each other’s vouchers.
“Councils are trying to work in collaboration. If someone lives outside our municipality, for example, and comes to Albury for shopping, they can bring their waste to our facility,” Baldwin says.
“We could support that even though they are from another council and could recover the cost back through the Mandalay system.”
Baldwin explains that via discussion with Mandalay, she is looking at one of Albury’s neighbouring councils having a small component of their system.
She adds that this would not come at a huge cost and would enable a more streamlined regional waste management network.
“I think there is a lot of work to be done in terms of collaborating with neighbouring councils to enable a greater part of the region to have access to a range of facilities,” Baldwin says.
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