From feel-good to core business

Businesses are now getting serious about sustainability, writes Carolyn Rance.

Businesses are now getting serious about sustainability, writes Carolyn Rance.

Sustainability Victoria, the statutory body responsible for leading integrated waste management and resource efficiency in the state, underwent a major review and restructure in 2012.

A broad-brush approach to environmental issues under previous state Labor governments was replaced with a firm focus on ways that waste management and recycling can help households and businesses save money and increase productivity.

Matt Genever, manager of resource recovery, says the past decade has seen a significant shift in the way individuals and businesses approach waste minimisation and the continuing quest to keep their energy use as low cost and efficient as possible.

"When the public engages with us, it is in a much more sophisticated way than it was around 2008-2009 when sustainability messages were about changing light bulbs and turning heaters off.

"We've found now that people are very interested in the detail and get what sustainability is about." Businesses, too, are taking their commitment to cutting waste in all forms to new levels.

Genever says many businesses originally adopted a sustainability credo as "a feel-good kind of thing. That has now changed. They no longer see it as an add-on, they see it as core business at the heart of the way they operate."

Much of his team's work involves assisting small and medium businesses learn more about waste management and how to procure services.

Genever grew up in Melbourne's outer east, an area known for its parks and bushland. He studied environmental science and geography at Monash University and worked in consultancy in Australia for a year before heading for the United Kingdom, where he spent six years as a consultant to large engineering firms, undertaking work that varied from environmental impact assessment to the management of waste and hazardous material.

He has worked for Sustainability Victoria since returning to Australia five years ago and is keen to continue to build Victoria's reputation as a world leader in recycling.

"We were one of the first jurisdictions in the world to introduce broad co-mingled recycling for households and we have built a sophisticated system that is now able to sort glass, plastic, metals and make sure it is put to beneficial uses."

Genever says a continuing challenge is dealing effectively with food and garden waste. "Solutions involve home composting and larger scale projects. A lot of work is being done in regional Victoria and a large composting facility is being built in Melbourne's north east. Composting of food and green waste provides a high-quality product that can go back on the land."

Progress is also being made in the processing of e-waste through a national television and computer recycling scheme.

"Federal government estimates indicate that around nine full-time jobs are created for every 10,000 tons of material that is recycled, compared with around three jobs for every 10,000 tons of material that goes to landfill."

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