In this edition of ‘What Inspires Me’ we feature Steven Marshall from Veolia. We met Steven when the Outreach team visited the Veolia organics composting facility in South Dandenong in August, and were inspired by his passion for diverting waste from landfill, and educating students and adults about the recycling and the importance of putting waste into the right bins. The facility is open for free school tours, and is a great option for a waste focused excursion.
1. How did you first get started with waste management and has your work become more environmental?
After a period of time working in my studied profession of mechanical engineering I began to realise that working on design and projects all day wasn’t something that would interest me long term. Someone I knew suggested a new role that had become vacant at Veolia. It was an industry and role that I had never previously considered though the constant stream of waste to process and the machinery that was used sparked an immediate interest. I soon started in the role at our Resource Recovery facility where we recovered and recycled materials from construction and demolition waste.
Over time, my role has definitely become more environmental. I’m now the Operations Manager of our Resource Recovery division which has a high focus on the treatment of organic waste. We have 2 large composting facilities where we treat the organic material and then the majority of the compost we make ends up back out on Victorian farms.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of working in waste management?
One thing that is a constant highlight is the sheer volume of material that we are able to compost and put to better use. If our company or others weren’t to compost this material it would all end up in landfill. By composting the organic material we can help improve our farms and avoid burying it in a hole.
Apart from that, the reactions and difference that can be made when we run tours of our facilities is a highlight. The immediate impact that we can make by showing people how Veolia can treat the material and knowing that person is going to walk away and tell everyone they know always leaves a mark.
3. What’s your advice to minimise the amount of stuff that ends up in waste?
The main thing is for people to actively think about what bin they place their material into. A lot of people think that it doesn’t matter what goes in where, though the biggest issue at any recycling plant, no matter what it recycles, is always contamination. Looking at organic material again or more directly people’s green waste bins, whatever they put in that bin has the potential to end up on a farmer’s paddock or your local council’s community garden.
4. How do you engage with people that are not buying into the recycling message?
From a green waste bin point of view we constantly liaise with councils and MWRRG (Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group). Every council has different education programs to try and improve the quality of the material that is being collected and we help or provide feedback where required. Our Veolia facilities also run community and group tours to try and assist with getting the message out.
From a commercial organic waste point of view, Veolia has sales managers who’s job it is to work with the client to ensure they place the right material in the bin. We also look at different waste streams produced by the client in an attempt to divert as much waste as possible away from landfill.
5. School groups visit the waste management centre, are young people easier to educate about waste minimisation than adults?
Young people are always engaged and excited when they come to tour our facility. Also, they generally haven’t developed too many bad habits. That said, the majority of adults that also come through our facilities are shocked and astounded by what they see and leave hoping to make a difference. To make the tour as engaging as possible, we will cater the tour to suit the audience that is coming through.
6. Can you share a school story that stood out for you?
There is one thing that has tended to repeat itself on multiple occasions. Seeing how excited kids get when you deliver a bunch of compost to a school for them to use in a vegetable garden. They all look super keen and want to get out and start planting. It’s been the same reaction from every school we’ve delivered compost to.
7. If you could be a sustainability superhero, what name would you choose and what powers would you have to make the world more sustainable into the future?
“Captain Compost” has a nice ring to it. I would love to have the ability to take in any waste at all and find a way to reuse or recycle it. Anything we can manage to keep out of landfill will help us move towards a more sustainable future.
Thank you Steven for sharing your story.
If your school is interested in visiting Veolia in South Dandenong for a free tour of the composting facility, please contact Steven Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 8769 0906.