Australians generated 54 million tonnes of core waste from 2016-17
Three quarters of that waste came from the Construction and Demolition and Commercial and Industrial sectors
BINGO’s Recycling Ecology Park aims to recover 90% of waste collected
$50.1 million has been generated in recycled products sales
BINGO doesn’t see trash when it looks at the waste it collects; it sees valuable resources that can be recovered and used again. Established in 2005 as a family-owned collections business, hiring out skip bins and collecting building and demolition waste, it recognised the opportunity to do something with what it was collecting. Choosing to make recycling a central part of its business strategy, it has since evolved into one of Australia’s principal waste recovery and management companies, setting industry-leading recovery rates and energising the market for recycled building and landscaping products.
We sat down with BINGO’s Head of Sustainability, Nik Comito, to talk about why responsible resource management is integral to building a circular economy and the opportunities it presents.
BINGO has embedded circularity as a core principle of its business, embracing it as a way to differentiate itself from other waste companies. It’s Nik’s job to put those values into action. “My role is to drive BINGO’s sustainability agenda, which includes setting our sustainability framework and working with operational teams to set meaningful and achievable targets that generate value for our stakeholders,” he says.
“My education and background in sustainability has given me a real insight into the need to manage our finite resources more efficiently. Not only does circular resource management reduce carbon emissions, preserve embodied energy and protect finite resources for future generations, it also makes commercial and economic sense. Why put something valuable in a big hole in the ground, when it could be reused or turned into something new?”
BINGO has big dreams of a waste-free Australia, where no resource is wasted. To help make this a reality, its strategy is to invest in the latest recycling, sorting and remanufacturing technology and to work with its customers to help them maximise the amount of materials recovered from their waste.
A central focus of the business is the waste generated by the Construction and Demolition (C&D) and Commercial and Industrial (C&I) sectors, which comprises three quarters of the total core waste generated in Australia. The good news is, with the right infrastructure the vast majority of these materials can be recovered and turned into new products to be used by the very same industries that produced them in the first place.
“When you throw away demolition waste, carbon emissions are released into our atmosphere as the waste breaks down. This means you lose all the embodied energy that was used to create the original building products. On top of this, you also miss out on a considerable cost saving,” explains Nik. “Rather than sending materials to landfill, we started developing the infrastructure needed to sort and recover waste and remanufacture recycled products. From the materials we process, we produce our ECO Product range of recycled aggregate, road base, mulch and cleaned sand and soils.”
“We have been engaging with industry and governments to help generate the end markets needed to make circular solutions the preferable and cheaper option. That’s why we’ve taken the leap to develop these world-class recycling assets and begin producing recycled product.”
We know circularity will be the way of the future. While Australia may be slightly behind some other countries, we do see that governments and communities are now looking for circular solutions.
Maximising resource recovery, so that as little waste ends up in landfill as possible, requires significant investment in the best recycling technology and infrastructure available. BINGO’s Recycling Ecology Park in Western Sydney’s Eastern Creek is a state-of-the-art recycling facility that aims to have an impressive 90 per cent recovery rate once the site’s second Materials Processing Centre is operational in early 2021.
“Purchasing and developing our Recycling Ecology Park is and continues to be a transformational achievement for BINGO. Having our world-class recycling and recovery plants in Materials Processing Centres 1 and 2 at the site has allowed us to develop our ECO Product range and significantly improve the recovery of waste,” he says.
Engaging and learning from global leaders in the industry is a core part of the company’s strategy. “When we began developing our larger sites with advanced recycling plants, we engaged some of the world’s best experts in recycling technology,” he explains. “Currently we work with Turmec, an Irish engineering company who are world leaders in developing recycling and recovery solutions. Our Materials Processing Centre 2, currently under construction at Eastern Creek, will be one of the world’s most advanced Commercial and Industrial (C&I) recycling centres. To develop something of this scale and complexity you need to work with the world’s best. Our leadership team have also visited similar visionary recycling precincts around the globe.”
Nik believes understanding the need and drive for recycling solutions was key to shifting the organisation’s business model. “In developing our recycling offering and our ECO Product range we have consulted widely with our C&D and C&I customers who include construction companies, project managers, developers, retailers and property management companies, as well as all levels of government. We have also consulted with other waste companies and industry associations.”
Nik highlights the backbone of any company is its people, with investment in the right employees being critical to its success. “We’ve had to build a team of recycling experts,” says Nik. “This has meant bringing on board expertise in environmental and safety management, engineering and project management and waste management experts. We’ve had to upskill everyone to be recycling champions. We now have some of the best and brightest minds, helping our company build these innovative, sustainable solutions.”
The best circular solutions are those that make environmental and economic sense. BINGO’s range of recycled building and landscaping materials is an example of an innovative and logical response to a waste problem that benefits everyone.
Nik explains there are significant cost savings for businesses in recycled materials: “When it comes to building and landscaping supplies, virgin materials can be up to 500 per cent more expensive than recycled materials. Our bedding sand is a great example of how you can save during construction – a tonne of ECO Product Bedding Sand will cost you $12.50 compared with $61 per tonne of virgin material. That is a mark-up of 508 per cent! When you factor in the environmental savings, the choice to use recycled product is simple”.
The products have also presented them with a lucrative and burgeoning revenue stream. “In FY20 we achieved $18.1 million in recycled product revenue compared to $13.4 million in the prior year. This shows the market for recycled products is growing, and there are great opportunities in this area. We’ve continued to see our revenue from recycled products grow over the past three years and we expect as government policy continues to encourage the use of recycled building products in infrastructure and residential projects that this will continue.”
Nik wants to make it clear these benefits are available to everyone: “It is not only large construction companies that can use recycled products in their building projects. We encourage anyone doing renovations or building a new house or project to speak to their builder about using recycled product. Consumer demand is another great way to build recycled product end markets. We now offer bulk bags of our products delivered in our skip bin when ordering a skip service. This means we collect your waste which is then sent to our recycling centre where it is recovered and then delivered to the next building project – everyone can contribute to the circular economy through being responsible with their own waste”.
Choosing recycled over virgin products also delivers significant environmental savings. Keeping these materials in circulation for as long as possible preserves their embodied energy, protects finite resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Through resource recovery, BINGO abated 324,723 tonnes of C02-e emissions in FY20.
For businesses, Nik suggests taking a good look at your operations and thinking about where your waste is being generated. “Any waste is really an opportunity to save costs and reduce the impact of your business operations on the environment. At the design stage of any project, step back and consider where you might be able to use recycled products or build in circularity. Don’t be afraid to ask other stakeholders to get involved with a project to achieve a circular outcome,” he says.
Nik also wants everyone to see the great opportunities that lie in collaboration as we transition to a circular economy. “I encourage people to get involved and to utilise [the ACE Hub] for what it is going to create. I believe there's a genuine opportunity there waiting, and there's a lot of people willing to actually work together. I encourage people to make sure they're involved so that they don't miss out on those opportunities for their businesses. The conditions are right. Involvement is key. It's absolutely critical to the success that the people are involved. You don't want to miss that boat.”