Solutions for Sustainability

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-By John Boley

There’s an old English expression: “where there’s muck there’s brass.” Today, waste is a buzz-word, recycling and re-use are talked about with only varying degrees of information, and the carbon tax and a sheaf of other regulations and legislation looms over every kind of business. A handful of companies can help, not just making money from muck, but advising and helping clients to comply with all the incoming regulations – and, in the process, just possibly secure the future.

In global terms, one of those companies is REMONDIS, founded 1934 in Germany and today still privately owned. It is a leading international waste and environmental services company with over 500 branches and associated companies in 29 countries in Europe, Asia and Australia. It looks after waste and water management and is the fifth largest waste management company in the world.

According to Anthony Zammit, national business development manager, REMONDIS Australia Pty Ltd, “in Australia we are not a key name, probably fourth or fifth best known, but we are keen to become better known. We have developed a national team which has already gained a couple of major national accounts and the aim is to get on people’s radar.”

The company, he says, operates and manages more than 500 sorting, treatment and processing facilities employing some 35,000 people, but does not own any landfills worldwide. In Australia, the company was founded in 1982, with its first operation set up in Penrith. Since then operations have been established in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth with a state of the art organic resource recovery facility now in operation in Port Macquarie, NSW “which is a standalone business serving the council business there.”

The company has also established itself in Auckland. It employs more than 200 people in Australia servicing more than 7,000 commercial clients. “We supply 1.6 million service deliveries annually,” says Anthony. “Nationally we service anything from mum-and-dad businesses up to international organisations and government departments. Some of these are very complex industrial clients and it is vital to get to know their business model inside-out to ensure we can service them on a national scale.”

The company does not ship waste across long distances. “We use facilities local to each client or branch in each town or state. Going forward, we await government approval for a new recovery plant. This business is very much focussed on relationships and networks with other companies who provide recycling services.”

Anthony’s background involves more than 20 years in the business. “I started in the waste industry as a self-employed truck driver. I worked my way up to this role via being NSW sales manager for another company, I spent 5-6 years in the liquid waste and chemical waste industry and I have been here since early 2011. I saw the potential when I was approached to join. This team wants to build on what it already has and leverage its experience not only in Australia but also right around the world.

“We are looking to assist companies in meeting sustainability targets that they are obviously not currently meeting and dealing with customers who are approaching us who have current services but want to see more innovation and a different structure to how they do things.” A third group of clients is coming to the company not yet really knowing what they want but seeking just the lowest price “and we have to assist them and carry out something of an education job.”

Natasha Humphries, sales and marketing executive, explains that “the carbon tax is a huge shock to many businesses in Australia and will cause many to wake up and smell the coffee. If it does go into place next year as expected, many will be flocking to us for help.”

The tax will be a shock for many, says Anthony. “But there are companies out there ready to assist. The national clients we already have are already doing the necessary reporting and recycling and meeting their sustainability targets without any great expense. We know it can be done right across Australia – some people want it and some others don’t, but it’s our job to educate. Because they will soon have to have it whether they want it or not.”

Almost every state has a waste levy now, he reminds, to encourage recycling and re-use and that has pushed up the price of waste anyway, which has had an educatory effect.

The company has a client which is an international household name in food and beverage and which is “an amazing role model in terms of its environmental awareness and responsibility, both domestically and globally, not only doing the right thing but also educating their own staff and empowering them to recycle and innovate in terms of new initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the company. You name it, they do it.” They have a huge focus on sustainability, says Anthony, and they have proved it can be done cost-effectively.

Waste management can not only be cost-effective but even lead to more business, especially in view of the fact that more and more companies now (or soon will) want their entire supply chain to conform to a set sustainability standard. A listed company nowadays has a sustainability report on its reporting schedules. “One of the first questions we are asked, especially of listed companies, is ‘what reports can you generate for us?'” Those reports must be consistent.

The company’s own fleet includes more than a hundred vehicles. In addition, it has its own compliance department which looks after all its branches and some of its customers. “We have a national quality management system which is certified by SAI Global, and numerous other certifications.”

As far as Australia is concerned, there have not been true national standards for waste. Mostly it is still state to state, but Anthony believes it is only a matter of time before waste regulations and legislation are unified. In the meantime, “if you are working on a national level, you need to familiarise yourself with all the individual states. But we also have a commercial manager in each state and a head office of health and safety and compliance, so it’s not really such a difficult thing for us to get our heads around.”

Two top executives of the global company visited Australia recently and pronounced themselves impressed with what they see in the Australian market. “However, they believe that standards of recycling, waste water treatment and sorting facilities and alternative waste treatment plants are not quite optimum and there should be more of them in the country generally. Progress is being made but there is still ground to catch up in comparison with the best of Europe, and we are looking forward to obtaining early government approval to begin building some of the necessary facilities to help this catch-up process.

“We have submitted our plans to the NSW Government for approval to operate an alternative waste treatment facility to recover saleable resources and the long term plan for it will be to produce engineered fuel.” This material can be used in industries such as cement manufacture. The balance of the material is stabilised to remove methane before disposal.

The company is becoming heavily involved in internet marketing and social media. Looking to the future, its goal is sustainability – to increase organisations’ recycling rates and reduce the amount sent to landfill. In addition, “we want to be at the forefront of environmental development and the carbon debate in Australia, and we want to be proactive in helping organisations realise their sustainability potential.” On the business side, the company would be interested in more acquisitions around the country of other waste businesses. “We are looking at growth on a national level, so we want to get on more tenders throughout Australia and New Zealand, and we are also looking at more alternative waste treatment facilities and resource recovery plants.”

But surely business in Australia is not keen to spend the money needed to ‘go green’? “I think there will be some companies that have to be dragged along kicking and screaming, but a lot more out there have realised the way of the future and are already seeking to get on board the sustainability train. People are seeing the light.”

Anthony expresses the personal view that “no matter which government is in power, there will be some sort of carbon tax – it’s just a matter of whether we have the whole box of chocolates or just a couple of chocolates out of the box.” Irrespective of the cost, people will join in. “Those that are coming on board at this stage are not doing solely for financial reasons, but also for ethical and responsible reasons as well, which is fantastic. I think this generation of business management has already started to stand up and say ‘we are responsible’.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

November 21, 2018, 3:45 AM AEDT