18 Feb 2020

Transforming organic waste into a valuable commodity

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As a passionate advocate for sustainable waste management, Shaun Loseby, Assistant Facilities Manager at Westfield Sydney, was only too pleased to take on the responsibility for managing waste at the centre. One of his first initiatives has led to an incredible increase in food organics being diverted from landfill to facilities where they are transformed into high-quality compost and animal feed.

A key motivating factor for choosing food organics as the first stream to target for diversion was the fact that the centre’s waste contractor was targeting dry general solid waste for off-site processing.

“When I thought about how to make this waste stream dry, it was clear that targeting food waste fit the bill,” he explains. “That’s what started me out on the food organics diversion journey.”

According to Shaun, a particular challenge for the centre is that much of the organic waste is produced by small food retailers.

“In terms of separating out organics, we are essentially reliant on our food retailers doing the right thing, but it can be difficult for them because they don’t always have the space to have separate bins for all the different waste streams,” he says.

Realising he needed to make life as easy as possible for the centre’s retail partners, Shaun sourced special organics bins designed for use by businesses. He also worked with the centre’s cleaning team to employ a new team member whom he refers to as the centre’s “Organics Hero.”

“Because you can’t have organic waste sitting around for too long, the sole purpose of our Organics Hero is to manage these bins. They collect, replace, empty and clean the organics bins twice a day from each of the retailers. It’s a simple system but it works well.

“Between January and September 2019, we diverted around four tonnes of organics per month from landfill. As soon as the program rolled out across all retailers from 1 October 2019, the initial diversion of more than 17 tonnes jumped to 24 tonnes by November. In December it was 26 tonnes. This represents a notable reduction in our general waste going to landfill,” he says.

“I had the feeling it would be successful, but I didn’t think it would be this successful. It’s incredibly rewarding to see such a big impact so quickly. It is also gratifying to have positive feedback from our retail partners, many of whom are asking for ideas about how they can better recycle other waste streams. In fact, we’ve seen a jump in our total recycled waste numbers, so it’s definitely got the ball rolling. We’re going to capitalise on this enthusiasm and, in collaboration with SUEZ, increase our education efforts and improve our signage too.”

Although Shaun was leading the project, he is very keen to point out that it was very much a team effort. “I couldn’t have done it without the support and enthusiasm of our retail partners, SUEZ, our cleaning contractor and particularly the efforts of Esin our Food Court Manager; it’s amazing what we can achieve when we work together.”

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