A hotel in Sydney’s inner-city suburb Surry Hills has managed to eradicate its waste footprint altogether, diverting 53,000 tonnes of food waste each year and saving $30,240 on waste collection fees annually.
Paramount Hotel’s achievement is largely thanks to the NSW government’s $802 million Bin Trim funding program, which included a 50 per cent rebate on its new recycling equipment, such as a waste to water machine.
Hotels are among the worst small business waste generators, according to NSW EPA acting director resource recovery Amanda Kane, who is responsible for the government’s waste reduction program targeted at small and medium businesses.
She told The Fifth Estate that the best opportunities for cutting waste involve food, such as hospitality.
Small and medium businesses themselves are big generators of waste. They account for 97.4 per cent of all businesses in Australia, and in NSW alone, almost 2 million tonnes of commercial waste is sent to landfill every year.
It doesn’t help that the sector is particularly difficult to engage because small to medium business are so busy with day-to-day operations, Ms Kane said.
How Bin Trim started
The program is the biggest of its kind run by any government in Australia, as far as Ms Kane knows. It was set up in 2014 under the government’s Waste Less, Recycle More scheme.
It provides waste and recycling assessments to small businesses. On top of that, if it’s applicable, they can apply for rebates (anywhere between $1000 and $50,000) on recycling equipment such as paper shredders or balers for compacting plastic.
It’s completely free for small businesses that employ less than 200 people. It’s also open to all sectors.
The way the funding is waste and recycling assessors, each with different sectors and areas of expertise, apply during each round of funding. These applications are then independently assessed and if successful, assessors use those funds to assess their specified small businesses.
She says Bin Trim is increasing the size of businesses that can participate in response to feedback but otherwise the model is working and will continue unchanged.
Participation in the program is on an upwards trajectory
The program is building momentum, with the EPA so far exceeding its assessor targets so far this year. Since it started, the program has engaged over 22,000 businesses and diverted waste from landfill amounting to 1.25 times the equivalent weight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Ms Kane has put the spike in participants down to a heightened awareness of the waste problem, with the ABC’s War on Waste program partly responsible for this shift.
“It’s really put the spotlight on how we’re managing our waste across all sectors, and a lot of customers are also engaged now – they are asking about waste and don’t want to use particular products.”
She says the audits have a dual purpose and provide both “expertise and the awareness about what can be done.”
The process involves a visual audit so people are “seeing the waste and looking at it.”
“A lot of the businesses haven’t really thought about it.”
Most businesses are also surprised by the amount of money they end up saving on waste management.
For example, an owner and operator hotels in the NSW Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley, Escarpment Group, has shaved 10 per cent off its annual waste management costs in some locations. It received $127,190 in rebates in total, which covered five food macerators among other new equipment.