Did you know that Monday 18 March is Global Recycling Day? What better time to catch up with our partners over at TOMRA Collection Solutions to find out more about recycling in Australia. Helen Evans speaks to TOMRA’s Marketing Director, Martin Walters.
Tell us about TOMRA and what you do within the organisation?
Working in the beverage container recycling sector, TOMRA is the network operator for the Return and Earn container deposit scheme in New South Wales, which is where we started. We now have 10 modern recycling depots in Queensland too. As Marketing Director for TOMRA Australia, I cover both NSW and since last November, QLD as well. These are the 2 main markets in which we operate, covering 2 different government schemes; the Return and Earn scheme in NSW and Containers for Change in QLD.
In NSW we have over 320 ‘RVM kiosks’. RVM stands for Reverse Vending Machines, which is essentially what these machines are because you put your container in, and get money out, which is the opposite of a typical vending machine! They’re in places like Woolworths, Coles and IGA car parks, as well as at bowling clubs, golf clubs and other sporting clubs all over NSW. Plus, last month we also launched NSW's most advanced container recycling centre right here in Sydney - at 4 Paramatta Road, Granville.
In QLD the scheme is quite different. There we have 10 large modern depots, each with 9 RVM's, plus an express bag drop service and commercial bulk sorting. My role is to work across both these schemes, make sure people are having a good customer experience and ensure they feel the scheme is rewarding and working well for them. We’re also responsible for the communication all of the necessary user information on the RVM's. Beyond the financial benefits for the consumer, my role is to work out how to communicate the environmental benefits of both the schemes; how we’re improving and reducing litter, improving the overall beverage recycling rate, and how we’re starting to build an emotional connection between people and the schemes - rather than just a transactional one. We want people to know and feel they’re making a difference, and to emotionally connect with the purpose of the scheme, rather than just the financial reward.
We also have an objective here, and globally, to make TOMRA a household name, and to communicate what the TOMRA brand stands for. We’re a very purpose-driven organisation. We describe ourselves as a ‘for-profit company that does good things’, and we’re very purpose driven right from the top down; the Worldwide CEO Stefan Ranstrand is committed to helping the environment and reducing the inefficient use of resources. The whole idea of the circular economy is essential to TOMRA’s ‘why?’.
On Friday we’ll be launching the concept of ‘Clean Loop Recycling’ in Australia. This is TOMRA's language for the circular economy in respect to beverage recycling. In simple terms, this means we turn bottles back into bottles and cans back into cans. We’re committed to this concept because we can’t keep utilising our resources the way we currently are. Globally, only 2% of all beverage containers are currently recycled.
Thanks to the Return and Earn scheme and TOMRA's RVM's in NSW, we now recycle almost 60% of all beverage containers here - up from about 35% prior to the scheme commencing in December 2017.
What can we expect to see from TOMRA for Global Recycling Day?
TOMRA has two brand ambassadors: Tim Silverwood, Founder of Take 3 for the Sea, and Laura Wells, Environmentalist, Marine Biologist and Plus-Size Model. Laura has been recording lots of content pieces with us this week which you’ll see pushed out over social media next week. These cover lots of recycling tips, such as helping to clarify which containers can be returned through the scheme and which can’t. Other tips from Laura include making sure you take your lids off (they’re made of a different plastic, so they contaminate the recycling process) and remove straws. You can put these inside a larger plastic container and then put them out for kerbside recycling.
We are also launching a new 5-minute film as part of our series of films called ‘TOMRA Presents’. This series covers inspirational stories of people who are out there, doing their bit to make a difference; being part of the solution, not part of the problem. Our new film is about the Seabin project - a uniquely Australian invention from a couple of surfers which has now gone global. The concept is that we have rubbish bins on land, so why not in the water too?
Australia's first official Seabin has just been installed in Darling Harbour and was sponsored exclusively by TOMRA. It uses super-cool technology to suck rubbish off the surface - bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, rubbish etc. which are then removed from the water. We are now working on how to recycle the material we capture. The film will be launched on Friday 15 March on our website and across a range of social media channels including myTOMRA Australia, Take 3 for the Sea and The Seabin Project.
What’s one small thing we can all do to make a difference?
Firstly, you can start by saving up your eligible beverage containers to put in a Return and Earn reverse vending machine near you, rather than putting them in your yellow kerbside bin at home. Secondly, you can definitely Take 3 for the Sea. This is a simple concept: when you go to the beach or the park, take 3 things away with you which you didn't take there. There’s a good chance one of these may be a beverage container, so you can keep a bag in the back of your car and drop them at a return and earn kiosk when you pass one. You can donate the 10 cents you earn if you don’t need it yourself.
You can also download free MyTOMRA app to find out more about recycling machines available.