At Gasworks Plaza your food scraps are now collected, turned into compost and fed back to the flowering garden beds you walked through on the way to work. The cafe finds its waste cut by 20 per cent.
Twelve months ago, huge international recycling company Suez partnered with compost manufacturer NuGrow to collect the food and paper waste from the precinct.
Food scraps and coffee grounds go into the bins, before NuGrow turns them into compost. Plastics are not allowed.
Fourteen weeks later the prodigal food scraps return as general garden compost to nurture the neatly maintained gardens.
Most Queensland waste goes to landfill or is exported and the state has the country’s worst household recycling rate: 32 per cent.
Management at Gasworks Plaza owner AMP believes the model is a viable example of Queensland’s waste levy influencing businesses to think outside the square.
Centre manager Leonie Deaves said the $75 per tonne charge introduced on July 1 was actually reducing what businesses sent to landfill.
She said July 1 general waste costs had gone up substantially and the cost to send food scraps to landfill was also substantial, forcing a business model change.
“At the moment it is round about $11,000 per month in total general waste,” she said.
“We hope to reduce that by at least 20 per cent.”
Recycling rates at the shopping centre are now increasing.
In February 2018, 30 per cent of Gasworks Plaza businesses recycled. In August 2019, it was 47 per cent. The centre has a target of 50 per cent of businesses recycling by 2020.
The company’s Queensland sales manager, Liesl Hull, explained that charged a collection fee to run the scheme and NuGrow sold the compost back to landscapers employed at the companies who provided the food waste in the first place.
“If this business was putting all of their food waste into general waste then the (waste) levy would be placed on that general waste,” she said.
“Then that would be on-charged to the producer of the general waste. Here the producer is Gasworks Plaza.
“However by placing it into a food waste recycling program – such as these bins – it is levy-exempt and will go to a composter [composters are also exempt from the levy] who will produce the compost.
“Then Gasworks will pay a fee for the collection and the processing, but they will be exempt from the (waste) levy.”
Ms Hull said the scheme was collecting 30 tonnes of food waste per week from Gasworks Plaza and she thought the trial had the potential to be taken to a larger scale.
“We have diverted more than 600 tonnes of food waste (overall) from landfill since the program started,” she said.
“… With the waste levy coming in to Queensland that is driving a lot of innovation,” she said.
“It is very important the we recycle as much as possible prior to then looking at treating the leftovers [going to landfill] so to speak. “
AMP plans to expand the scheme to Gold Coast shopping centres soon.
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times