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Waste not, want not

Australia’s Community Recycling Enterprises (CREs) divert 152,000 tonnes of waste each year, employ 1500 people and contribute over $56 million to the regional economy.

A study by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has demonstrated that the reuse of waste resources has the potential to create a new industry sector, providing jobs for some of Australia’s most disadvantaged jobseekers.

The study, undertaken in all states, shows that recycling and reuse of unwanted products creates jobs that can be sustained by sales rather than by government handouts. The study summarises the activities of 28 Community Recycling Enterprises (CREs), which employ 609 staff, reuse/recycle 61,000 tonnes and turnover $22.5 million annually.

Local government authorities all over Australia are faced with increasing volumes of waste and, as a consequence, huge costs. It makes common sense to establish CREs and allow new enterprises and their potential employees access to resource and waste streams.

The study shows that CREs provide leadership in domestic and commercial resource recovery, modelling new methods of operation that are often adopted more widely. CREs foster both civic engagement and innovation, and they achieve sustainability through trade.

While environmental concerns are clearly addressed by CREs, organisations that have started up such enterprises identify the creation of jobs as the single most important factor. CREs employ a large number of people who are in need of support, improving their lives and, at the same time, contributing to a reduction in waste, saving Australians hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The report case studies three CREs in operation around Australia — The Resource Work Co-operative in Tasmania, The Endeavour Recycle Shop in Queensland, and the Great Lakes Resource Recovery in NSW, each of which has taken on the challenge of the new sector, and succeeded, providing employment and community engagement, and reducing waste.

The report was sponsored by Social Traders, Sustainability Victoria and the NSW Department of Premier & Cabinet, and the study was led by Associate Professor Jo Barraket from the QUT Business School. The report can be downloaded at: www.socialtraders.com.au.