Article 25/07/2017

Darwin recycling innovation

Narelle Anderson By Narelle Anderson
Founder and Managing Director, Envirobank

Darwin at the top end of bottle and can recycling

We are so proud of our Darwin facility, which opened back in January 2012 to meet the influx of demand generated by the newly established Northern Territory Container Deposit Scheme.

Our General Manager in Darwin is Andrew Lee. He heads up a fantastic team of 13 friendly and fully trained staff, who perform a range of important roles at Envirobank ranging from customer service through to logistics and processing. Andrew also keeps an eye on things in our busy Alice Springs facility as well.

We like to think of Envirobank as more than a collection and processing point for recycling. It’s a vital education centre, where kids (and adults) get to learn first-hand what happens to the waste we produce and why it’s so important to recover and repurpose the earth’s limited resources.

Our family-friendly facility is open seven days a week and, during school term, more often than not you’ll find us hosting excursions from many of the local primary schools so that kids can learn about the recycling process and what happens once we’ve finished the drinks that come in aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles.

Automated innovation

At the heart of Envirobank Darwin is one of Australia’s largest automated sorting machines, which separates and counts glass, plastic and aluminium simultaneously and can handle 400 containers per minute. Because we operate seven days a week, that means we can sort 70 million containers every year in that one machine — and we’ve got two. That’s keeping a lot of waste out of landfill and making sure it gets processed for reuse.

Technology has definitely advanced and we can now manage larger volumes at faster rates, but some things can still hinder the process. If you caught any of the ABC’s War on Waste program, you would have learned that simple actions — like leaving liquid in bottles and not removing lids — can slow things down. That’s why our fully trained staff are nearby to give advice on safe handling and to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Envirobank Darwin is what is known as a ‘Super Collector’, meaning we take containers from other collection depots and prepare them for reprocessing, including sending them on to the facility ultimately responsible for transforming reclaimed containers into new items.

Once everything has been sorted and counted, we gather it all up and send it on to the appropriate location. Aluminium cans go to a specialist metal dealer to be repurposed and plastics get sent to a plant to be further sorted by polymer type, broken down and remade into other goods. We send all the glass collected to Envirobank in South Australia, where it undergoes additional treatment before being converted into new glass products.

Education, access and incentive

We believe there are three great enablers when it comes recycling; education, access and incentive. Because the Northern Territory has a Container Deposit Scheme in place, recyclers get ten cents for the return of every container permitted under the scheme. A financial enticement is a great motivator for action so, not surprisingly, when school’s out the Envirobank depot in Darwin gets even busier. The holidays are a great time for kids to earn some pocket money by getting out and collecting containers, then returning them to us for cash.

70 million containers a year equates to $7 million in refunds – that’s $135,000 every week going back into the community towards everything from necessities like bread and milk for families, through to much-needed financial help for charity organisations.

We love that our work benefits more than the environment. While it’s great that recycling lessens unnecessary waste, it also helps all of us – individuals and businesses alike – contribute to a better community for everyone…and we love being a part of it! Envirobank works closely with not-for-profit organisations including Flying Doctors, Variety, Down Syndrome Association NT and the Breast Cancer Foundation, to help facilitate collections and to sort through donations.

We are also seeing a huge increase in recycling as a fundraising activity, replacing things like cake-stalls and sales of chocolate bars. It’s not only better for the planet (and your waistline), it’s also giving community and sporting groups access to more funds, keeping membership fees low and supporting additional activities.

Future plans

Things are busy in Darwin, with both automated machines running non-stop every day. Andrew sees a time where we’ll probably need another, thanks to increasing interest.

“People have really taken to the whole concept and some days there’s so much happening that we resort to manual sorting and counting as well. Demand is increasing because people have become aware of how simple it is and how much of a positive impact it can have – on the planet and in their pockets,” he says.

Too much interest is a great problem to have and we’re so excited that Container Deposit Schemes are planned for New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia in 2017-2018. It’s been pleasing to see such success in the Northern Territory and South Australia, so we’ll be introducing a range of ways to help businesses and families recycle across NSW, QLD and WA, including conveniently located reverse vending machines, along with new depots.

Keep an eye out for more news on these exciting developments in coming months.


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Narelle Anderson By Narelle Anderson
Founder and Managing Director, Envirobank