Episode 11: How do you manage waste on a construction site?

Episode Transcript

Sandra Redlich  01:19

Thanks for joining us on the podcast Rob. Just to let everyone know what it is exactly that you’re doing and who you actually are – could you do us a favor by introducing yourself to our audience and to our listeners and tell us a little bit about your background and what it is that you do?

 

Rob Holden  01:33

Well, I’m very excited, a touch nervous but very excited to be on the podcast. This is a new one for me. So my name is Rob and I’m from Tiger Bin Hire in Bendigo. I guess in a previous life I was a chef and in the hospitality industry for many years, 30 years, and really only came across the waste management industry a little bit by lack I guess or by fortune. I’ve been going now for 10 years. So we’ve had Tiger Bin hire for 10 years. When I bought the business – it was already running and had been around for a couple of years in a small wa – I had a small truck and I think about eight skip bins. So over the last eight years, we’ve just sort of let it grow. Sorry, just to go back a step. When I first bought the business, I was hoping that I could just have that one truck and the 8 bins and semi retire. That has not worked. So now we’ve moved on to four trucks and about 160 bins.

 

Sandra Redlich  03:00

There you go.

 

Rob Holden  03:01

Yeah, various sizes. There hasn’t been a big push or a big plan to be the biggest and the best. It’s just happened that way. Now I think through the service and not so much pricing because pricing is about the same. So that’s how I fell into that. I guess with the catering, when I was in the catering, I employed a lot of people. There’s a lot of time and effort and thought and hours in that business and I thought if I move into a different area, I wouldn’t have to be working seven days a week. But that hasn’t worked. I’m happy to do it. I’m a bit of a workaholic and I enjoy my work. So it’s been good. There’s been a lot of challenges along the way. A lot of changes that we can talk about. But yeah, I really enjoy what we’re doing now.

 

Anthony Jenkin  04:07

You mentioned changes Rob. So what makes you different from say other skip bin businesses maybe locally or even in general? What’s your point of difference? Because obviously we know, that’s why we’re talking but yeah, it’d be great if you could explain that. Expand on that a bit further for listeners.

 

Rob Holden  04:24

Yeah, well, there’s a couple of reasons. I mean first to go from that small company and now to quite a medium to large operator in town. You know, there’s always been a lot of thought. I’ve always tried to keep up with council, what council are doing, what the future looks like in the area, in the waste waste management area. Doing a lot of research. So, I guess one of the early things was just to be kind of like a normal business and catering, you know, it’s a similar theme. So friendly, make sure everyone doesn’t stress out too much, gets the job done. And yeah, just try and keep it all simple for everybody. As the years have gone along now, we’ve seen huge changes. The local landfill has come to its end, or almost to its end. Council, EPA (Environment Protection Authority Victoria, note from Outlier Studio), they’re still pushing for different options from us, the skip bin operators. But also from just general operators around town to come up with innovative ideas to move waste and take it away from the landfill. Reuse it and redirect it into lots of different avenues. So it’s about 12 months ago, maybe 18 months ago, I spoke to my partner and we had a good old chat together over a couple of glasses of wine, and decided that we need to move in different direction. The days of just grabbing your bin and truck and just tipping it out, all out at landfill and then dropping it off and go get another one were not going to be sustainable for us. So yeah, we’ve got together and got a bit of a business plan together with the two of us. And still trying to keep it small and simple. But that didn’t really happen either. And yet decided that we’d move into a factory purpose built just for the sorting and redirecting and recycling of the products that we bring in. Some equipment and then just slowly research the best way where to get rid of everything.

 

Sandra Redlich  07:01

Where do you get rid of everything? It’s a good question that you asked yourself.

 

Rob Holden  07:05

It’s amazing when you open your eyes and have a look. There’s not a lot of we can’t redirect or reuse. And most of it’s around Bendigo. Just different little operators around town and I’ve spoken to council and that looks like that they too are going to improve in the near future. Over the next 12 months. There is going to be a lot more operators starting up that will take a bit of what I’ve got to give them, a little bit of it to Melbourne. Some of our products like the soft plastics and that sort of thing that I can’t move in Bendigo at the moment. So we take it down to Melbourne. So yeah, out of all the things that we collect, there’s an option there, you just got to do some research and have a look.

 

Sandra Redlich  07:53

Do you have like an approximation of how much waste on average, you can prevent from going to landfill through those methods? And just by being a bit aware about where to put stuff? That’s a very easy, dumbed down way to saying what you just described.

 

Rob Holden  08:12

Yeah, we have some programs, and we take fairly good records of what we’re doing with our waste. So you know, any of our customers, especially our building and construction industry, they can ask for a waste management report for their bins. So we’ve had probably, as it’s grown and as I did a little bit more research to find out where things can go, I think we’re probably running at about 85%. And in tonnage, well I can use the Gov Hub I guess as an example. At the moment, we run them on 90 to 95% of recycled for everything that comes out of there. They probably send me about 18 to 20 cubic meters of waste every day. So nearly all of that. Probably the only things that I don’t put into waste control is just the general rubbish from in their office, that sort of thing. Everything else, timber, steals the concrete, everything goes to a new home.

 

Anthony Jenkin  09:51

What would a bin typically contain? Obviously that would vary throughout the construction because we need more of this particular material to start and then, you know, through the process, that alters and changes. But, you know, typically, what are the main components that you find in these bins over the course of a building? We’ll use the Gov Hub as an example, because I think that’s excellent. And I want to get into that a little bit more actually. But yeah, so what would the typical materials be in there? Where do they go at your site? You sort them, obviously, and then they go to elsewhere. And there may be like, what the end use becomes of those as well. So maybe using the Gov Hub as an example, just talking through that process. And then, yeah, what that end result ends up being too, where some of that waste ends up, sometimes back locally.

 

Rob Holden  10:33

Yeah, that’s a good question. And I would say absolutely right, as the building progresses, we have different waste. Initially, it was a lot of concrete and bricks. But it’s been a matter of just researching. And as it comes in, find out where I can take it. A typical example would have been, we would go along okay, and next minute they sent me I would say maybe 40 cubic meters of corflute. Now, so my initial reaction was just to put it on pellets and then find out where we can send that. Nobody in Bedigo could take it, there was nowhere for it. Even the local recycle companies couldn’t take it. So we’ve ended up having to take that down to Melbourne, and they were very happy to receive it. So there would have been maybe, I don’t know, eight to ten tonne of corflute that just come in. And so it’s just a matter of, as they’re going through their building process, and it’s absolutely right, they are sending me things that I didn’t see two months ago, and it’s just a matter of changing and doing some research. Things like the timber off cuts, we send them out. They are chipped, mulched and pelleted for gardens and we’ve probably seen – I should have got some numbers for you – but we’ve probably seen maybe 10, 15 tonne of that up to Epsom Sand and Soil. They mulch it up and use tha. A lot of concrete, crushed of course, and used in different applications for roads and things. Our soft plastics, which initially was a huge amount coming in, that goes down to Melbourne and that was processed down there and brought back to Bendigo as in the roadbase, so into bitumen. So that was a nice little one to go away, so it’s brought to Bendigo, sent to Melbourne and brought back as a product that can go into roads. I think you’re absolutely right, as the projects go along with a small house or a big construction. You have always got your cardboard, timber, steel.

 

Anthony Jenkin  13:34

Did you know what became of the corflute at all Rob?

 

Rob Holden  13:36

The corflute, yeah, they just recycle that and they just shred it. It gets shredded into tiny little particles and then it’s just molded back together again, back into Corflute. So the whole thing is being reused. It was all brand new, like it wasn’t like it was ruined and I think that’s the thing with the building industry. Most of the stuff that I come in, is access of what they needed, whether it be plaster or timber. Most of the time nothing is wrong with it, it’s just that they didn’t need it on the job anymore.

 

Anthony Jenkin  14:19

Plaster – that’s another one I can mention. There is quite a bit of that coming in.

 

Rob Holden  14:22

Yeah, well plaster is an interesting one. I’ve tried to do some research on that to do something with it here on site but at the moment, we send it out and it’s processed down into a 5 mm granule. And I think most of it’s sold off to farmers for gypsum, so they are pellets. But some of it goes back and gets remolded back into the plaster product again. There’s a huge amount of plaster waste. There’s a huge amount of it always, to tell you the truth. I wasn’t aware of that.

 

Anthony Jenkin  15:02

One of the more interesting things you mentioned too, with the Gov Hub project while we’re on that one, because it’s pretty significant to Bendigo. You are recycling 90 to 95% of the waste that’s coming off of that entire construction site. If it wasn’t yourself, and it was another operator doing that, where would it go? If it was someone who didn’t have the practices that you’ve got and your sorting capacities, where would that typically go? Would that all go to landfill?

 

Rob Holden  15:30

The operators that I’m aware of? None of them have any facilities to sort that amount or any amount really. So I would have to say that as far as I would be concerned, I would say 90% of it will go to landfill.

 

Anthony Jenkin  15:51

Yeah. And how many cubix metres? There was 18 cubic tonne a day?

 

Rob Holden  15:56

Cubic metres a day. Yeah. I haven’t done the math. But we’ve been going since April. So I took over in April. We’re in October. So that is seven months. Am I right Anthony? I can see you looking at me.

 

Anthony Jenkin  16:14

Yeah. No, I’m just trying to give everyone who’s listening a scale.

 

Rob Holden  16:18

Yeah, look it’s huge.

 

Anthony Jenkin  16:21

It really is. Like, it’s nothing small. And this is one project, this is not contributing… we’re not even talking about all the individual residential projects or smaller scale commercial industrial projects. Like, that’s just one project. And that’s a huge number. So if we are combining all this together, what is typically all going to landfill is effectively 90 to 95% on that particular project, or slightly under at 80 to 85 on maybe some others, is being recycled, is finding another purpose and other life. It can be done. You’ve led the way. And you know, it’s really exciting for us to see someone take that initiative and do that. But yeah, it’s just giving everyone a bit of a scale of what this is. And as you mentioned, there’s a lifespan to all of our tips, you know, where we can drop all this general waste, and they’re closing, they’re coming to an end. And we need these solutions. I don’t know if everyone’s aware of this. All our landfills, they’re about to hit exploration. Ours a little earlier than some others, but it’s all coming. And these solutions need to be, you know, need to be brought in. I just want everyone to understand that and get the big picture of what we’re talking about. Because it’s maybe not being spoken about enough. I’m not sure how it came about for you Rob, was there an instigation? Or was it somebody instigated this or a pivotal moment where you were, well change needs to happen now for myself in the business for this to, you know, to be able to continue moving forward in the future. Was there a time that happened, or…?

 

Rob Holden  17:59

I think it was just a light bulb moment where we’re talking and, and decided that yes, change does need to happen. I was a little concerned about, from a business point of view, what I was going to have to outlay and whether it would work sort of in Bendigo with a little bit of uncharted territory. But all I can say is that I’m more than happy with how it has all turned out and it hasn’t been that difficult. I mean, there’s lots of hours and quite a bit of research, but it hasn’t been all overwhelming or consuming. It’s been quite a little adventure and I’ve enjoyed it but, you know, I think Anthony is right. The landfills are a thing of the past already actually. And our local one at Bendigo has probably got eight months left. But I can also already see the writing on the wall with council, who are increasing the prices of things that can be recycled, such as timbers and plasters. So you don’t want to go to the effort to recycle it. You can take it out there but it’s going to be expensive. I think taken all the financial jargon out of it all. Another thing for me that I’ve spoken to my partner about is that for me, it’s exciting every day when I come into work. I’ve got a new task to take care of. I don’t just have to load up my bin and empty that at landfill and move on. And, you know, I’ve got children and grandchildren, which is very important. For me, it’s not going to impact me as much as my children or grandchildren, if we just keep making landfills and just keep draining our ressouces.

 

Sandra Redlich  20:04

That’s a very, very good point.

 

Rob Holden  20:05

And my mind boggles when I think about the golf club and all the other projects that I do. And then we’ve got times that by 20, I guess, or more of all the other operators in town and your building that’s going on, and now, our building’s going ahead. And so yeah, I think you’re right, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. There is no more options. You have got to go this way, or move out.

 

Sandra Redlich  20:38

I think a big point in all of this is what you’ve mentioned before, people think it’s overwhelming. And it’s very complicated, but it’s actually not. So what is something that a builder on a construction site or in general, all of us, can do to help and make that recycling process a little bit easier? Is there any tips that you would have or anything you’d like to see that will make your life a little bit easier?

 

Rob Holden  21:02

Well, I think the builders, they can get on the front foot, they can keep just taken the easy way out. I know to a builder, a lot of builders, waste is not their big issue of their bill. They don’t make it their big issue, you know, they put a bin there, it disappears. What they can do is look for operators that are recycling their usable goods and reusing it and redirecting it to different areas. They’ve got children, they’ve got grandchildren. So I guess for me, it was a little bit about looking at my own family and my own conscience and seeing if I can just keep doing it the way I can do it. And that wasn’t an option. So I think builders can do that. At the very least, they should ask their waste management people what they’re doing with it, where they’re taking it, how they’re disposing of it. That’s the very least they could do. Just make that phone call to find out: Where do you actually take that stuff? And if the answer is we just dump it out the tip. Then they have got to make a decision on if I want to go down that track.

 

Anthony Jenkin  22:31

Yeah, I mean, you couldn’t make it easier for a builder, I’ve got to be honest. So with a lot of builders we work with, they try and do sorting on site. And it’s really labor intensive for them and their team to have these individual bins with plaster in one and soft plastics in another. And of course, you also need the space which can be difficult on some inner city sites. Whereas with yourself, it’s a singular skip bin. Correct me if I’m wrong too, Rob, this is just as we discussed this previously. But yeah, singular skip bin, where everything can go into that. And then you do the sorting for them at your site, which by the way, we’ve been to, it’s all legit everyone. It absolutely is exactly that case. It is sorted properly and all sent according to where it needs to go to be recycled. That’s correct Rob? Walk us through what would you typically do?

 

Rob Holden  23:18

So that’s correct, you know, so genuinely, they just have the one bin and I’m happy for them to put all the bits and pieces in there. All their building materials. And yeah, we’ll bring it back here, we’ll sort it and we will supply them with a waste management report per bin or per job. It’s something that they could put in their cap for their next customer to show that, you know, that they’re going through the effort, and that’s the way it is. They can have the one bin, they can bring us their bin if they are just about to start their plaster, drop off a bin for their plaster. They just put plaster board in that and then we take it away as soon as that’s done. Bricks, their broken bricks, I mean, I don’t know how many building sites. I used to be a brick cleaner in the old days. And you used to walk around and there are broken bricks everywhere, all over. So to save a bit of time and a bit of money, so they don’t have to get someone in to clean it up at the end of the job, just pick the bricklayers. Put a bin there. And then the bricklayers can just throw their broken bricks in as they go. It’s an OH&S issue. And also just for the customer and for their clients, it just makes you look like you’re making a real effort to keep the place clean and tidy and it’s gonna save the money because as far as I know, most of the audits will get somebody in at the end of the job with a little bobcat to clean it all up. So it saves them just by having a bit of forethought on extra bins.

 

Sandra Redlich  25:08

Yeah. And I think we have to give a little shout out here to David from Ecowise Homes, which I think our listeners have heard of hopefully before, because he’s been twice on our podcast as well. He is just keeps an exceptionally tidy construction side anyways. And I think you’re very familiar with him as well, Rob. And yeah, so he is definitely on top of all of that. And he’s trying to think of ways to see that side of the building as part of his responsibility and doing the right steps and taking the right actions to make sure that that’s handled consciously as well. So just wanted to make sure that we give David a little shout out because he definitely deserves it.

 

Sandra Redlich  25:50

Is there anything that is regulated around waste disposal and recycling on building sites that you would like to see maybe extended or anything that’s missing in these regulations that you would like to have introduced in there as well?

 

Rob Holden  26:07

Just to go back to David. I have been to a couple of his sites. He makes things so easy, you know, for yourself and for us. So back to Anthony’s question. What would you suggest a builder to do? I’d suggest them have a look at David, or maybe go and have a look at one of his sites and see how he’s operating. As far as regulations, yeah, look there is some regulations in place. It’s a little bit self-governed. The bigger constructions and the bigger construction companies, the commercial operators who are vying for government contracts, they all have to have a green star accreditation in place. Mostly, I don’t know if everyone would be familiar with the green star, but some would, I’m sure you guys are on top of it. So you might be able to give a little bit more information than me. But generally, I find that they have to have a waste management report, they have to have waste management. That’s not the whole thing. But as far as the waste management, they have to have, you know, a plan in place, they have to think about what they’re going to do with it, they can’t just say, it just disappears. And that they’ve got the green star, and they are doing some jobs. And I found that I picked up a few big builders because they want to have that reporting. So that when the next big job comes along, they can say, Oh, this is what we did. Gov Hub or wherever, at the airport or whatever. And so, you know, puts them on the front foot with all government contracts. So it’s really a win win for them, because they’re doing the right thing with their waste and putting them in good stead for the next big job that comes along. I think where it falls down a little bit is that a lot of the general, well, I’d say maybe it’s a guestimation, that maybe 80% of the general builders that I know, don’t have a plan. Don’t look like they want to have a plan, and there’s no regulations imposed on them. So I think that could be, you know, that could be part of their five star environmental plan. It should be, you know, when they get their permit to build their house, they need to have to, I think they should be able to explain to council what they’re going to do with their waste. But I don’t think that’s addressed by anybody or builders or by coucil as far as I know. I could be wrong. I think as far as regulation, I think that’s at the top. The big projects, they’re getting on to it. Still not 100% right. But it’s good. As you go down the line to smaller renovators and just general 10 or 15 houses a year or even your project builders. I don’t think there’s any accountability yet.

 

Anthony Jenkin  29:30

Yeah, not to my knowledge, not at that level. But yeah, when we do go for government work, yeah, they always request a waste management plan. You’ve made it very easy, by the way, to do that locally. We know where it’s going, we know what’s happening with it. And as you say, you provide a report thereafter as well as to what that’s actually doing. Verifying. So I suppose what further assistance would you… What would benefit you? What further assistance could local government give you that we don’t. What would allow you to do what you do more efficiently or better?

 

Rob Holden  30:12

I think they don’t really keep us in the loop. I find that we just – maybe not everybody, but this is how I feel about my company, is that we just moved out onto our own and you just look after yourself, we haven’t got time to do that. They do place a lot of thought and lightly more regulations on what we have to do, what we cannot do, but there’s no guidance or say, a list of people that will take these products, you know. And they deal with it all the time, especially the ones in that waste management area. I just don’t think there’s a lot of correspondence or a lot of chitchat, there’s definitely no financial incentive coming from local government for us. I know local government get financial incentives to put in different programs. And I’ve asked the question a couple of times, if I’m eligible for any of that. And there was either dead silence or a no. But that can change. And now I think everything can change. And I know just recently, in a couple of days, we’ve got council coming back through, they will have a few people through to have a look at our operation here, which I’m pleased about. And then they also mentioned that they wanted to have a get together, a conference between the local operators and just to see where we’re all going and where we’re going to go. So that will be an interesting conversation. So things are changing a little bit, but I found in the first eight years of myself, I had no help or no direction towards where we need to go.

 

Sandra Redlich  32:20

Is that something that you would wish for for the future? And is there any direction that you see the recycling industry, maybe evolving in in the future as well? I guess you’ve been through massive changes just recently, but what is your kind of outlook for the next year or two? Five years?

 

Rob Holden  32:41

Yeah. Look, I think council and the operators should work together more. I think especially with council, that’s their area, the waste industry. And I think they want us to do a job a certain way. Some of us want to do it a certain way. They’ve got plenty to give, information there for us. But we don’t seem to be getting it. I think moving forward and looking in the future is that and even just over the last three or four months, I find that even they’re leaning towards well, okay, we’ve got a problem with our landfill. We’ve got a problem with some of our operators or builders or waste management people. So we need to work together, if we’re going to solve the problem. We just need to work with each other and not fight against each other. And there was some stages where yeah, this is a local government and operators were just not talking, not communicating, not cooperating. Just enemies. So I think the future is that. And it’s not just this small town, I think it’s just generally I can see a little bit of light, but the council and the operators can work together. And to make a bit more of a difference. As I said, I guess on a short break down for me is that I left school when I was 14 and a half. So I’m not highly educated, but it’s just about putting a bit of thought into what you’re doing. And being a little bit concerned. I still get time to go into my weekends and go to the football and do all the other things that everybody else does. But yeah, I’m not sure if everyone’s built my way. But yeah, I think that’s the plan.

 

Anthony Jenkin  34:59

That’s great Rob. Is there anything exciting in the pipeline? Is there any new end users for your waste? Or any exciting things happening in the waste management or recycling aspect of the industry?

 

Rob Holden  35:13

Yeah, well, for me, when I come into work, I always find it exciting because there’s always gonna be something or somebody will call me. Just, it’s all very fresh, but we have a guy who I’m trying to make contact with who’s bringing his own waste to energy plant to Bendigo.

 

Anthony Jenkin  35:35

Wow!

 

Rob Holden  35:36

It’s very early, only a couple of days that I’ve known about it. So I’m trying to track him down and have a chat to him. Apparently, they’ve got a prototype in Pyramid Hill. And he has brought one in from Italy, is going to be set up in Bendigo. So small scale, as far as I know. But once I get some more information, I’ll be sure to let you guys know. So that’s very exciting for me, because that almost takes care of 100% of my waste. Because he will take the rest. I’ve done a little bit of research on the Waste to Energy and they’re quite exciting and if operated properly, can be huge for everybody. Yeah, that is a big deal. That’s the thing that’s keeping me awake at the moment.

 

Anthony Jenkin  36:33

I know when we last chatted, you also had someone who might be occupying a little bit of space in your yard that was looking to recycle solar panels? Break down and fully recycle solar panels?

 

Rob Holden  36:45

That’s right, so they’ve started. So that’s the Solar Recovery Corporation. They leased a little bit of an area, and they have bought used solar panels, cocked off to certain points around town, then it’s brought to me where they’ve got a machine that removes the aluminium from around the outside of the panel. So it’s sort of the machine that just pops the aluminium away. And then it’s headed down to Geelong, where they’ve got a machine down there that grinds it up, I haven’t seen it in operation, but it grinds it up. And actually removes every single piece of the solar panels. I think there might be all sorts of different metals in there. And so it separates them all 100%. They go off to a new home. And then it all starts again. So I think the solar panels was looking like it’s going to be a huge problem. Not now really, but in the future was going to be a huge problem. But these guys seem to be on top of it. Very easy to work with. And I’m very happy to have them. It is exciting, you know, watching that sort of stuff happen.

 

Anthony Jenkin  38:05

Absolutely, yeah, you’ve created this little community in your space, I love it.

 

Rob Holden  38:10

And that’s the thing, people are just coming up with innovative ways to sort out a problem. It just needs a bit of thought and a bit of help from local government.

 

Sandra Redlich  38:21

Yeah, thank you so much for explaining all of this to us and shedding some light on the work that you do. And for doing the work that you do, I think that’s also very important. And especially putting that statement out there that, you know, if you do a little bit of research, if you’re just concerned enough, and if you want to do your part, there’s ways to do it. And there’s resources out there. So we’ll definitely make sure to put all of your links and your contact details into our show notes, as we always do.

 

Rob Holden  38:51

Well, I just like to say that, you know, I’ve been saying I do this, and I do that, but I’ve got a really good team with me. They’re a great team. So I’m very, very lucky. They’ve been with me since the beginning – or us. And, you know, without them, I couldn’t do it all by myself. And so I guess you know, the other thing, if anybody’s interested, call me. Just ask some questions. I can be contacted quite easily. I’m always available. I’ll pick up the phone, they can come out here and have a look around if they wish. But I’d say to all the builders that might be listening, just make that phone call to find out where your waste is going. What’s happening to it. They’ve got to change at their end. That’ll make the others follow procedure. They start to lose business because they’re not doing the right thing. They got to change their ways.

 

Anthony Jenkin  39:53

I really appreciate it Rob, thank you for your time. Yeah, as Sandra mentioned, you know I don’t think it’ll be the last time we’ll chat, I think because this is such an exciting space, and it’s growing so quickly. And it’s really innovative. I think definitely future conversations, I do want to specifically give a big thank you to Evangelia in our office here, who has been at the forefront of, you know, our own waste management in house and our considerations for what that looks like on site, which, again, as I mentioned, you’ve made it very easy for us Rob, for our own waste management plan for construction sites, as long as it’s in your travel radius. So glad to be able to direct it to you knowing that that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And again, yeah, a big thank you for David too, for the networking connection with yourself. He’s been, you know, leading by example, just as you have in that space. So, thanks to them both. And yeah, thanks again, Rob. Appreciate your time, and look forward to chatting again soon.

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