Many people make up Australia’s recycling effort however, there are few with the expertise to deal with mercury-containing waste like batteries and fluorescent tubes.
Ecocycle’s business development manager Daryl shares what drives him day-to-day and what he sees as the big issues for recycling over the next few years.
What is your role and key responsibilities at Ecocycle?
As Business Development Manager, my role is to engage new customers both in Australia and Asia Pacific. My main focus is on organisations that need to dispose of mercury-containing waste.
I’m also involved in investigating new recycling opportunities to grow the business and also spend quite a bit of time maintaining our ISO accreditations, EPA licenses and other regulatory matters.
Why did you choose to work in the recycling industry?
I’m a bit of a ‘save the planet’ type of person and have a passion for helping people do the right thing. I grew up in the Pacific islands and was exposed to issues such as the threat global warming poses to island life and tropical reefs from an early age.
At Ecocycle I get to contribute to environmental improvement in a very tangible way. I see what we can really do and how everything has a recycling potential. Recently it has been really satisfying to play a part in finding ways to extract all the resources contained in spent batteries.
What industry and environmental organisations are you involved with?
The ABRI is very active in supporting the launch of an effective battery stewardship program. This will see battery manufacturers and importers provide financial support for battery recycling that will help address Australia’s current appalling battery recycling rates.
As for the UNEP, we provide a recycler’s perspective on both the technologies and experience of mercury waste recycling. The GMP has close ties to the Minamata Convention, and I have a strong personal interest in seeing that something like the Minamata disaster in Japan during the 50’s never happens again.
What are the best things about working at Ecocycle?
The coffee isn’t bad!
Beyond that, it’s really stimulating to be part of a dedicated team at the forefront of dealing with Australia’s recycling challenges. It’s great to be involved in a physical recycling business rather than a waste management business.
Here, we can see everyday items transformed back into new materials. There’s a tangibility to what we do, and the real satisfaction in knowing that when I go to work, I am actually doing good things for the environment.
What do think will be the big issues in recycling in the next few years?
Community awareness will be a big factor in driving demand for recycling.
When the ABC aired its War on Waste program we saw an immediate lift in interest in recycling from both local councils and the general public. However, a lot of work needs to be done in educating the community and businesses about recycling. If we can make it easy they will do it, but they need to know what’s available.
We’ll also see a lot of new technology become available which should expand the range of what can be recycled and reduce costs.
Something I would really like to see is regulatory bodies focus on supporting environmental solutions rather than creating red tape.
For example, it’s economically viable for us to ship relatively small amounts of lighting waste from our Pacific neighbours for recycling here in Australia. But when the regulator charges close to $12,000 to issue an import license and the process takes months, the economics no longer work. Instead, that waste is likely to be dumped in the jungles and reefs, risking toxic mercury pollution that could so easily be avoided.
When it comes to our ability to deal with the world’s environmental challenges, are you an optimist or a pessimist?
I’m optimistic about what we want to do and the drivers behind it. I’m pessimistic about the lack of government focus and the relatively small number of people who are on board. Governments keep moving the goalposts either due to funding changes or personalities.
We really need environment ministers at all levels of government who are driven by passion, not just by commerce.
A big issue for me is why hasn’t Australia ratified the Minamata Convention yet? We’re a big island nation with lots of things to protect, but we’re pussyfooting around. I can’t get my head around it.
I’m optimistic on the technology front. There are a lot of good people out there doing good work, but it’s frustrating to see them struggle to get funding.
Another thing we need to overcome is the wide expectation that recycling should be free. However, the recycling industry can’t be a charity, so we need to innovate.
On an optimistic note the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme shows how stewardship programs can substantially boost recycling rates. That’s something we hope to emulate with the ABRI.