Byron Council have taken a step in the right direction by partnering with SORT recycling to assist with Waste Management at recent Australia Day events. By encouraging community members to change behaviours at six local events, SORT is thrilled to report 77% of waste generated was successfully diverted from landfill.
So how was this achieved?
Each station comprised of a yellow lid recycling bin, a red lid landfill bin and a green lid organic bin. Bin monitors happily assisted attendees to use the right bin in the absence of bin tops and overhead signage and answer questions relating to resource disposal. A3 stickers were displayed on each bin, illustrating items suitable for each stream. Despite rainy weather and low numbers of attendees, the resource team were able to provide friendly advice and received valuable feedback.
General Feedback from the Community
Bin monitors reported back that attendees welcomed the three bin system and were keen to ask questions especially in regards to ‘hard to sort’ items such as; tetra-paks, coffee cups and straws. Community members also provided constructive feedback about what council could implement in the future including permanent public green bins.
We’re all in this together
Although small scale events, SORT recycling in partnership with Byron council and the support of the local community have clearly demonstrated that we can make a difference. This is certainly a step in the right direction towards a greener future.
SORT, Soils Oceans Rivers Trees.
I was over at North Stradbroke Island on the Australia day weekend and was giving some thought to the amount of rubbish that washes up on our beaches, not only on our major coastal beaches but also into our bays and waterways. I also recently noticed the local beach and harbour at Wynnum which is located on the shores of Moreton Bay, was starting to get its share of our waste as well. This led me to do some research to see if anyone was doing anything about the ecological threat to our coastlines. While surfing the web and being navigated by its ebbs and flows I came across these 2 Australian surfers that have been best mates since childhood who came up with an automated rubbish bin for marina docks called the Seabin.
The Seabin itself is built from recycled materials, it is hoped the invention will prevent toxic materials from floating out to the open ocean.
Message from the editor,
One of SORT’s main aims is to create new jobs. SORT’s presence on the NSW Mid Coast has, over the last month, doubled in size starting with three sites July 2015 and now boasting six sites. This will provide training opportunities for 180 participants. The most exciting news however, is that three of the Supervisors were originally participants with SORT. It is also worth mentioning that 25% of Grafton participants with the first activity have gained employment and a number have returned to further Training and Education.
The following blog written by Site Manager Blake Hammond, demonstrates how our activities can have such a positive impact on participants. From participant to part time Supervisor, Adam’s story is one of personal growth and determination.
Adam was amongst the first group of participants when the SORT Grafton activity commenced in July 2015.
Adam was a shy, quiet young man who had been unemployed for the past 8 months. After finishing school/TAFE, Adam relocated to Brisbane for a few years for suitable work and better opportunities. After his time in Brisbane, Adam moved back to his home town to be closer to his father.
With limited opportunities presenting themselves, Adam found himself being out of work and requiring him to participate in a work for the dole activity. Adam wasn’t too impressed in doing the program but was excited about an opportunity to get out of the house and be social in the community. So he was prepared to make the most of it.
After only a few weeks, Adam started to show great strive and enthusiasm. He demonstrated a strong work ethic along with a sense of honour and pride about SORT recycling and the direction SORT Grafton was heading.
After a successful 6 months at the Grafton site, SORT recycling has expanded in the Clarence Valley, opening up employment opportunities. Adam was just about finished the 6 month program and was still looking for an opportunity to knock on his door.
Adam applied for a casual role here at SORT Grafton, appearing before a panel. Although nervous during the interview, Adam proved that he would be a great fit and a valued member in our team at SORT Grafton. After only a few weeks, we knew that we had made a great decision and offered Adam the part-time role as supervisor.
Since his employment, Adam has shown dedication, enthusiasm and loyalty towards SORT that any employer would be happy with. Adam’s attitude towards work and his punctuality have showed us that there are young go getters, that have a great attitude and with the right opportunities and training, can be a valued employee with any business.
SORT Food Services Logan Project is nearing the first 3 months of operation. Facilitated from the commercial kitchen at Logan’s Hope Centre, Slacks Creek, 5 days per week, this new Hospitality Food based project is a first for Sort Recycling Ltd. Structured and delivered with the same philosophy as other Sort Recycling projects; “Recycling while creating jobs, work experience and skilling.”
Partnerships are being developed within the Food produce servicing industry, utilising items which would be deemed for landfill. SORT Food Services receive, prepare and cook healthy delicious meals and snacks. Each week, the team produce over 100 packaged meals and 200 health snack packs including; Fruit muffins, Banana bread, Muesli health bars. These items are then passed on as a donation to help other Community Welfare, Not for Profit organisations in the Logan City area.
The QLD hospitality industry continually has skill shortage employment demands. SORT Food services Logan project is providing the hands on developmental skilling from our 25 year plus industry experienced Chefs and Restaurateurs to create career and employment opportunities.
The project is also delivering a multi facet learning opportunity for the participants.
SORT are seeing great success already with an ever increasing desire for participants to enrol into this project exceeding Job Services Providers expectations. Cooking, Nutrition, Food budgeting, Food safety in the home is a vital life skill which is important to all society. Without personal health from the foods we eat, it is difficult to also maintain employment, of any workplace industry. The participants are also encouraged to share life experiences and cultural diversity through food; this in turn also develops social skills, team work, cultural understanding, food resource appreciation, community services generosity. It really demonstrates how food can really connect people.
It does not take long in conversation with a Sort Food Services Logan project participant to hear the many positive and exceeding expectation outcomes.
Message from the Editor:
I was so inspired by Darren’s blog that I wanted to share some alarming facts about Food Waste. This is a growing concern but every Australian can do something positive and make a change!
Did you know?
“Australians discard 20% of the food they purchase”
“Australians waste 4 000 000 tonnes of food per year”
“1 388 000 tonnes is commercial food waste”
“An estimated 20-40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected before even reaching the shops”
More interesting facts can be found at: http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/
Over the last 6 months we’ve seen the Fortitude Valley Site connect with the community in a very positive way. A number of work experience participants have secured jobs both full time and part time, I believe the time they have spent here has contributed to their confidence, work ethic/routine and enhanced their skills to better prepare themselves to enter the workforce.
We have had a culturally diverse group of participants from; China, Iran, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Burma, Russia, where the project has provide a space for some to practice their English and communication skills on a regular basis.
Through the media hub activity, participants learnt a variety of skills, creating and producing a broad range of visual projects, developing skills in graphic design, basic web development, studio operations, and skills using 3D animation suites.
The participants had the opportunity to utilise their skills on real word projects, assisting non for profits and social enterprises with web development, graphic design and other technical issues with email and domain administration.
Resonate a local social enterprise who links professionals to not for profits and other social enterprises, needed our assistance with their pre-existing site rather than a new site built, work being carried out consisted of the following: site transfer and move from testing server to the registered domain, the creation and setting up of email accounts for the domain, page edits, parallax images fixed, content updated and removal of the account sign up and login features. The work was ongoing and the participants were challenged and gained exposure to the industry.
Participants have also had the opportunity to diagnose, repair, install software and hardware with Windows based PC’s and Apple IMac’s with OSX.
Some of the coding and language skills learnt include:
HTML & CSS: learning how to create websites by structuring and styling pages
PHP: Learning to program in PHP, a widespread language that powers sites like Facebook.
In addition to the main activities here at Fortitude Valley, we ran complimentary workshops to further enhance our participants skill set to re-enter the workforce, and to offer overall a more holistic approach considering participants many barriers.
Artspace was introduced in March 2015 as an environment for people to explore their creative talents and abilities. Artspace was held twice a week, which provided a space where participants have the opportunity to learn and use a variety of mediums such as charcoal, pencil, ink and acrylic paint, whilst learning a variety of illustration and painting techniques.
The connection achieved through this engaging workshop where participants are encouraged to think creatively and express their artistic talents, has empowered people, built confidence, self worth and discovery.
The creative writing group which is a part of the SORT Valley Hub ran two workshops a week - Monday and Friday - to engage the two different age groups of participants, the 18-30s and the 30+ groups.
The class runs between 2 hours, depending on the flow of discussion. The class is structured as a workshop, rather than a class. Little or no instruction is involved, rather the participants are encouraged to express themselves and then discuss each other’s work. We begin with a 5 minute challenge, and then move to a 10 minute and 15 minute challenge. The participants have their own book which we keep on site so that every time they write they are building a body of work.
Feedback from the classes indicates that the participants enjoy expression and hearing from each other. The participants get to know each other better and are developing skills in not only reading comprehension, writing expression but also in debate, discussion and empathy towards others expression and views and experiences.
After being unemployed for 5 years and having numerous employment barriers, *John secured employment with a Government Department within the area of Science, Information Technology and Innovation as a Digital Delivery Officer. *John utilised his time with us to keep up his skills, apply for jobs and research new technologies. John used me as a reference and dropped in to say thank you for giving him a glowing reference which helped him to secure the job.
A number of other participants have gone on to full time and part time work in the areas of hospitality, trade areas, business, sales, real estate, graphic design, fashion retail and aged care, one has applied to commence full time education after developing a portfolio of work while with us at SORT.
*name has been changed to protect the participant’s identity.
Recently The South Bank Hub has made a tentative foray into the newfangled field of motion pictures.
The second article in a series about the current state of ewaste management around the world by SORT South Bank Hub participant Chris Blair. You can find part one here.
The careless disposal of ewaste has become a growing problem in countries around the world, regardless of their socioeconomic status, however none are more hard hit than developing countries without the legislature, leadership or means to prevent the import of non-functional electronic devices. Countries such as Ghana have not only allowed the dumping of ewaste but even begun to profit from it, with the countries economic vulnerability leading to the creation of a large industry sustaining its citizens.
Comparable to a small settlement, the Agbogbloshie disposal site has become an economic necessity to the people of the city of Accra in Ghana. Infamous around the world as one of the largest ewaste dumping grounds in existence it has become a constant reminder of the damage the improper disposal of ewaste can have on environments and people. The soil in Agbogbloshie has a lead content that is 45 times higher than standards set out by the EPA, with other metals also present in terrifying concentrations. This chemical saturation has not only affected the environment but the people of Accra too, with one notable instance of a local worker displaying 17 times the recommended level of serum aluminium.
A map of the Agbogbloshie dumping ground by Martin Oteng-Ababio, courtesy of African Studies Quarterly.
Such exposures have become a fact of life for the people of Ghana as the formal sector, damaged by government incompetence, has been severely weakened, forcing workers to seek employment in the informal sector, which in 2012 comprised 60% of all employment in the country. Key to the creation of a strong, urban informal sector has been the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), and if that sounds familiar perhaps you remember the economic reforms that in a few short years turned Zimbabwe from the granary of the IMF to a country ravaged by civil war and starvation. It involves the adoption of neo-liberal policies allowing for the privatization of government owned utilities as well as giving international corporations free access into Ghana, leading to reduced salaries, lost jobs and increasing costs.
A view of the Agbogbloshie dumping ground. Image courtesy of Andrew McConnell.
This growing informal sector has had the benefit of allowing the people of Ghana a chance to fight the poverty with which they are faced, and indeed workers claim that it is more lucrative than the agriculture industry. In dumping grounds such as Agbogbloshie scavenging for parts and metals has become the most prominent economic strategy for locals, who often burn electronic devices and cables, using polystyrene as fuel, in order to extract precious metals.
Electronic devices are capable of releasing numerous harmful chemicals upon breakdown, notably lead and mercury, however one substance becoming increasingly prevalent in countries effected by ewaste dumping is Brominated Fire Retardant (BFR).
BFRs - Brominated Fire Retardants come in several forms, many of them toxic to humans. Image courtesy of the Journal of Environmental Monitoring.
Contained in the plastic casings of electronic devices BFRs are typically stored it fatty tissues, which allows it to move up the food-chain in ever increasing amounts and eventually effect human populations. While stored in fat, the BFR concentration of women has been mirrored by their unborn children in foetal cord blood, as well as in breast milk. This accumulation means that once a population has been exposed to these chemicals it can be difficult to remove.
High BFR concentrations in adults have been linked to cancer and disruption of thyroid hormones however they are most dangerous in children where they disrupt the development of the brain. Altering brain neurotransmitter levels as well as disrupting the creation of thyroid hormone, foetuses and children exposed to high levels of BFR typically display lower intelligence, learning ability and memory.
The environmental saturation of BFRs are just one of many health consequences of the dumping of ewaste, and one that effects us all. High concentrations of BFR in adiposal tissues are not strictly the purview of developing countries either, with unnervingly high amounts being recorded in United States women. As the saturation of harmful chemicals increase world-wide it is clear that ewaste is not a problem that will simply go away.
Congratulations to the terrific team of SORT workers in Boonah who transformed a beautiful unused old church into the new community recycling centre. In the space of 6 months, SORT Boonah has created something quite special – an active community hub for creative recycling - while at the same time, collecting and refurbishing well over 100 computers (well in excess of the initial target) and producing beautiful practical workshop furniture from recycled timber.
The end-of-project gathering celebrated this success and the achievements of all who participated and contributed over the first 6 months.
A new computer project will start soon at SORT Boonah and we can’t wait to tell you about it….!!
The first article in a series about the current state of ewaste management around the world by SORT South Bank Hub participant Chris Blair.
The proper management of ewaste is a growing problem in both developing and developed nations, posing a risk both to the environment as well as the human populations present. Pollution from outdated electronics is no longer a local problem as the age of globalisation is capable of quickly turning developing countries into contaminated dumping grounds littered with the debris of their developed counterparts. Countries with little digital footprint are finding themselves with inordinately high amounts of ewaste present and it is becoming imperative that nations liaise with each other in an effort to curb this reckless damage being done. Negotiating international treaties is a difficult task, particularly when participants have nothing to gain except for the satisfaction of helping others, international relations is rarely associated with altruism, however the Basel Convention has begun this lengthy work binding 53 countries to adhere to better hazardous material disposal standards.
A child sits amongst ewaste in Guiyu, China. Image courtesy of Greenpeace.
Capable of causing untold harm to the environment and human populations, the disposal of ewaste became a major issue in the 1970's. The breaking down of monitors, specifically cathode ray tubes, runs the risk of releasing lead and barium into ground waters as well as producing toxic phosphor emissions, while burning and using acid baths on circuit boards to obtain chips produces toxic gases while simultaneously releasing glass, lead, cadmium and mercury into water supplies. Melting plastics can produce toxic emissions and release heavy metals while the burning of cables to reclaim copper wiring releases toxins into the air, soil and water. These problems are most prominent in developing countries where government regulations are lax or where officials are willing to collude with waste importers. While many countries do have laws regarding the import of ewaste, its nature is that it can be transported in the guise of functional hardware or as equipment merely in need of repair. China, a country suffering greatly from the dumping of ewaste, has had numerous setbacks primarily due to the presence of an enormous informal scavenging sector which is unaware or uncaring of the impact their actions may have.
A child in the Philippines burns the plastic from cables for the copper inside. Image courtesy of CBS News.
In the 1970's and 80's a tightening of disposal laws saw great increases to the cost of disposing of hazardous waste, ewaste included, which lead to developing countries being chosen as dumping grounds to save costs, which resulted in a phenomenon known as 'toxic trade'. This escalating problem soon became too large to ignore following the actions of the crew of a ship named the Khian Sea. Carrying more that 14,000 tons of ash produced by the burning of hazardous materials the Khian Sea sailed from Philadelphia to the Bahamas to dump its toxic payload until their efforts were stymied by the Bahamanian government. The Khian Sea proceeded to sail the Atlantic ocean for 16 months seeking a harbour who would accept their cargo, ultimately tricking the Haitian government into believing that they carried topsoil fertilizer. The Haitian government was informed of their true cargo by Greenpeace, but not before 4,000 tons of hazardous waste had been unloaded onto their beaches. Slinking away before they could be apprehended the crew of the Khian Sea continued without success to find a port who, knowingly or not, would allow them to dump the poison they carried changing the ships name several times in the process. Unable to find a port they, as the captain would later admit, dumped over 10,000 tons of hazardous material into the Atlantic ocean.
Cargo Ship the Khian Sea dumped over 14,000 tons of toxic waste. Image courtesy of GREENR.
In light of the actions taken by the crew of the Khian Sea it became apparent that legislature needed to be crafted regarding the export of hazardous waste, and while these conventions would not specifically target ewaste, they would become a prominent counter to the export of ewaste to other countries. Though international treaties are difficult to construct the Basel Convention was put into law in 1992 with the signature of 53 countries. It specifically banned the dumping of hazardous waste in Antarctica, however had less of an impact in protecting developing countries due to only requiring written consent from countries supplying and receiving hazardous materials. To counter this the Ban Amendment was enacted in 1995 after receiving approval from more that 75% of the signing countries which would ban outright the export of hazardous materials intended for final disposal. While having a significant effect on the dumping of hazardous waste it falls short of aiding developing countries in reducing their intake of ewaste, which can be delivered under the guise of being functional or in need of repair.
International legislature regarding the dissemination of hazardous waste is present and effective, and with levels of ewaste present in both developed and developing countries estimated by a UNU inquiry estimated to rise in some instances by 500% in coming years perhaps it is time to craft legislature specific to ewaste, that we may reduce the harm done to our environment and to ourselves.
The North West Qld region is vast. Its diverse plant communities stretch from the Mitchell Grass Downs in the south to the pandanus and mangroves of the Gulf. There are stunning wildflower displays in spring in the beautiful White Mountains National Park and rare and threatened plants in pockets on properties across the region. This is also one of the country’s largest river systems.
There is only a limited choice for gardeners in these towns. Plants are mainly sourced from Townsville or Mt Isa (e.g. Bunnings). Gardening in this region is tough – temperatures in summer regularly top 40 degrees and severe cyclones can come down from the Gulf with little warning. There is currently a grasshopper plague in all towns – the first time the older residents can remember seeing all four species of these marauding pests at the same time.
Nevertheless, SORT believe that there is good potential for sales of plants and nursery products, in three markets:
There is strong civic pride in the towns and the local gardens and landscaping work is well-tended. SORT plan to engage the local gardeners, create a buzz around gardening by developing inspiring Nursery spaces and encourage other locals to build their own gardens.
The Councils are supportive and are likely to buy their plant material through us. Southern Gulf Catchments (the Natural Resource Management Agency) will use us to propagate plants for the Bush Regeneration projects they conduct with Landcare groups across the region.
This will need affordable plants, sun-hardened and fit for local conditions.
Carolyn Page, SORT Area Manager for the Wivenhoe Area Qld, has already sounded out the Tamborine Mt Sustainable Gardens Club, which includes a number of people who are well versed on collection and propagation of rare and threatened species, and they are keen to research, source and propagate plants from this region.
She has also canvassed the “Grey Nomads” in the group. The towns are keen to “slow down” these travellers so that they spend more time and money in the local economy. The people Carolyn has spoken with are very interested in breaking their journey to volunteer in the gardens, especially the SORT Nurseries.
There is particular interest in visiting the famous gardens of the properties of the area. Owners are interested – a small fee could greatly assist to maintain gardens under stress from the drought. We are exploring the possibility of the World’s Largest (in area) Open Garden Scheme!
Traditional Owners of the area - the Wanamara people - have now had their traditional lands around Middle Park Station returned to them. This was the centre of a 19th century gold rush and many of the structures and mining equipment left by the largely Chinese community of miners still exists. A recent survey found a large colony of Koalas also resides there.
The Wanamara people are keen to incorporate visits to the natural gardenscapes of this beautiful area into our scheme.
Of course, these towns are also on the main thoroughfare for many other visitors to the Outback and Darwin, and SORT has an opportunity to present visitors with plants from across the region that they would find hard to source elsewhere.
We now have a chain of potential outlets – MakerStores and SORT sites – in all states except WA. This provides the opportunity for promoting sales of North West Qld seeds and even plants through our outlets across Australia and through our online stores. Branding and innovative marketing strategies are key here.