Article highlights

With almost everything in place, Refinery Manager Tip Huizenga cut the ribbon to launch the new program on 27 February, the Clean Up Australia Day for businesses across the country.

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It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Implementing the program has taken some trial and error to get the best collection arrangements, location of stations, signage, and other small details.

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Taking a stand on recycling

Taking a stand on recycling

Photo: Environmental Coordinator Dora Ambrosi-Wall and Refinery Technician Todd Skinner doing the right thing at Kurnell

After committing to a recycling program early last year, Kurnell refinery has been working to slash the amount of general waste it produces by more than 50 per cent.

The first step was to look at what was being thrown out. In March 2006 everything that went into Kurnell refinery’s rubbish skips over a 24 hour period was sent to a warehouse and bagged, sorted, weighed and analysed by a waste consultancy.

"We looked at how much waste the refinery was producing and how much that was going to landfill could be recycled," said Belinda Patterson, Environment Protection Superintendent.

The audit found that with the proper systems in place Kurnell could divert more than 56 per cent of its general waste away from landfill. (At the time, less than 20 per cent was being reused or recycled.)

"We were looking to build on existing arrangements to get to best practice," said Belinda. "The audit helped us identify ways to do that."

Colour coded recycling

Next, a system was needed to filter out the recyclables making up over 35 per cent of the day-to-day waste. That job was given to Dora Ambrosi-Wall, a chemist with a history of tackling a diverse range of assignments in her 13 years at the refinery.

Partnering with a waste management firm, Dora set up over 20 recycling stations at central locations around the refinery. Each station has separate, colour coded bins for paper, plastic, glass and garbage.

Smaller stations have been installed in the 45 office kitchens. Employees here have their own box for recycling paper, emptied daily, and large 240 litre paper recycling bins have been placed next to photocopiers and faxes.

With almost everything in place, Refinery Manager Tip Huizenga cut the ribbon to launch the new program on 27 February, the Clean Up Australia Day for businesses across the country.

"It’s part of fulfilling our responsibility to protect our natural resources and preserve the environment for future generations," Tip said at the launch.

Is it working? The first few stages of the recycling program have engaged employees, whose response has been "marvellous", says Dora. "It’s been absolutely overwhelming," she said. "Everybody’s been so cooperative and helpful."

The good thing about starting our program with recyclables is that everyone on site can get involved.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Implementing the program has taken some trial and error to get the best collection arrangements, location of stations, signage, and other small details.

For example Dora had to source biodegradable garbage bags for the worm farms. But now that the processes have been streamlined, environmental coordinators will have time to look into other areas where we can conserve resources.

"We’ve taken the first step," said Dora. "We now intend to look at everything we do here, every process, our procurement, every material we use. What we’ve done so far is a rock next to a mountain!"

Worms at work

The Caltex refineries at Kurnell and Lytton have some new, if unlikely, allies in their ongoing efforts to minimise waste.

As part of the recycling investigation, the refineries looked for an alternative disposal method for organic wastes. Such compostables, the audit found, made up almost 19 per cent of the site’s general waste.

Enter the worms. Inside the refinery compounds, recently constructed worm farms now process all food scraps and other organic wastes like tea bags, used serviettes and wooden stirrers that previously went to landfill. "Essentially they’re large tanks in the ground in which worms chew up waste to produce a rich fertiliser," said Belinda Patterson, Environment Protection Superintendent. "We think it may be a world-first for a refinery."

This process produces less greenhouse gas than landfill and provides a nitrogen-rich fertiliser that’s pumped onto garden beds around the refinery.

The worm farm fits in with a wider scheme of environmental initiatives that aim to take the refinery beyond a position of compliance with government environmental regulations to one of proactive environmental management.