3 September 2022, Canberra, Australia: We often think that waste management is something that needs to be done by someone else – it’s too hard, or too technical, or too complicated for the average person. But today on the Sustainable Financing for Waste Management Study tour, participants learned just how inclusive waste management can be.
Continuing their visit in Albury, participants first stopped at the Billabong Return and Earn Facility, which undertakes waste diversion activities onsite, including collecting containers, making fire bricks from paper and cardboard, segregating waste, and composting and gardening. The recycling system works under the Container Deposit System we’ve been exploring all week. What makes this facility unique, however, is that 20 of the 33 workers onsite have a disability.
‘We started this whole operation in a 20ft container, sorting waste by hand,’ explains Heather Goesch, operator of the facility. ‘Our primary objective was to give back to the community, so when we won the tender to become the operator for Automated Depot Machines in Albury, we knew we wanted to include people who are generally excluded from society.’
While sorting the containers is now done by machine, Heather explains how people with disabilities play a vital role in the operations, shredding paper, repurposing products and creating new items and crafts, and tending to the garden and composting.
‘It’s simple really,’ continues Heather. ‘Waste management is an opportunity to address both the environment and socio-economic issues. People with disabilities can contribute to society in so many ways and here they have a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment, and they’re contributing to creating a better environment for everyone.’
The next stop was to the Thurgoona Men’s Shed, a not-for-profit organisation that provides a space for retirees to repair and repurpose items. The facility has over 85 members who are involved in woodwork, metal work, constructing garden beds out of truck guards and old roller doors, composting and gardening, and a variety of community projects. All the materials used were destined for the landfill, and in this way, the men divert waste by remanufacturing them into new items, many of which have become prized possessions in the community.
‘Just because people are retired doesn’t mean they don’t still have a contribution to make,’ explains Rodger Matheson, President of Thurgoona Men’s Shed. ‘Here it’s all about fellowship. The members have an incredible range of skills, and it’s very gratifying to use those skills for the benefit of the community. We’re diverting waste and we’re creating something beautiful, both physically and socially, in the process.’
‘I especially enjoyed today because it humanised waste management,’ commented one study tour participant. ‘We tend to get lost in the technicalities of it all, but at the end of the day it’s really all about people and it’s good to be reminded of that. There are many ways of addressing waste management and including all people in different ways is something we need to take back to the islands with us.’
Article and Photos by GEF ISLANDS/PacWastePlus – Dr Kiara Worth
The Pacific – European Union (EU) Waste Management Programme, PacWastePlus, is a 72-month programme funded by the EU and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to improve regional management of waste and pollution sustainably and cost-effectively. Priority waste streams include hazardous wastes (specifically asbestos, E-waste and healthcare waste), solid wastes (specifically recyclables, organic waste, disaster waste and bulky waste) and related aspects of wastewater. Countries participating in the PacWastePlus programme are: the Cook Islands, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu
The Global Environment Facility Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) Programme supports 33 Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) across the Caribbean, Indian and Pacific Oceans to safely and sustainably manage chemical and hazardous waste. A global project connects and facilitates SIDS-SIDS learning across and between project regions including through dedicated communities of practice on the Green Forum.
ISLANDS, SPREP, and PacWastePlus are using a new interactive platform for online community engagement, the Green Forum. This is a place for professionals and enthusiasts to discuss and share insights and best practices on the green transition. The Green Forum hosts Communities of Practice – including The Sustainable Financing for Waste Management in the Pacific. The objective of this Communities of Practice is to provide a space for decision makers and practitioners to share resources, common challenges and lessons learned on the design, implementation, and operation of their sustainable financing scheme. This group will also serve as the digital space for the Sustainable Financing Study Tour in Australia – co-organised by PacWastePlus and ISLANDS.
For more information:
Please contact the Green Growth Knowledge Partnership Community Engagement Officer, Ms Clara Mottura at [email protected] or Ms Melanie Ashton, Project Coordinator and Private Sector Engagement Specialist, Coordination, Communication and Knowledge Management Project (CCKM) at [email protected]