Waste 2 Wages in Kununurra

An update from up north by Ally Borland

Operating tip shops is something that Resource Recovery has done since its inception. 27 years ago, when we first won the contract to manage the Tuncurry Waste Management Centre for Great Lakes Council (these days known as Midcoast Council), one of the first things we did was find ways to salvage items that could be resold to the public. Reselling items that are still useful and functioning is a critical part of turning waste-to-wages.

Fast forward to today and we manage a number of second-hand stores or ‘tip shops’ for a number of LGA’s, which generate a positive financial return through retail activities. This money is used to employ people from our disadvantaged target group, and it is sustainable (there is a lot of old stuff that people don’t want and can’t be bothered selling online themselves). We have had such success in operating retail space at transfer stations and landfills that we have recently been asked to consult on the setup of a remote site in Kununurra.

Ally Borland is nothing short of a maestro of making second-hand shops deliver the kind of value consumers demand and a retail experience to match it. She has been a critical element in the success of the Moss Vale Reviva Centre and was the perfect consultant for us to send up to Kununurra to help East Kimberley Job Pathways turn waste-into-wages themselves.

The following is an update from her on what she has been up to so far for East Kimberley Job Pathways (as well as some cool pictures that will make you want to drop everything and book a trip up there now!).

I was asked by John Weate if I was interested in going to Kununurra to consult for East Kimberly Job Pathways on a tip shop set up. I had heard many wonderful things about the region, so of course I said yes! I’m always up for a challenge.

My first visit to Kununurra for this consulting project was for two weeks starting the 28th May, and after getting past the awesome beauty of the area (and the change in climate!) the first job was to make sure the premises in Kununurra and Wyndham were going to be fit for purpose. I started with an assessment of the waste facilities, making sure there were enough quality items to pick out of the waste stream for resale. I was happy to learn that there were plenty of items that would be perfect for resale! I then had to identify what needed to be done to the premises in order to commence the sale of these treasures and make my recommendations.

The shop site itself needed some major changes in order to make it fit for the purpose for retail, both for customers and staff alike. Painting, water-proofing, fixing fences, taking down walls, building new ones. There was much to be done, and even when I am not in Kununurra to oversee progress, I have continual input, chatting weekly with the action team to make sure we’re on track (the wonders of the Internet and telecommunications!).

But I have skipped past a crucial step in the process of getting EKJP moving on their waste to wages journey — creating the right partnership with Kununurra Council.

A comprehensive risk assessment was undertaken for the landfill site to allow EKJP workers access to the waste piles to source goods for the shop and several recommendations were made to Kunanurra Council. These recommendations and changes needed to be agreed upon before work could proceed at the waste facility. A big thank you to Amanda Chapman for this step of the journey, her experience, expertise and right approach made for smooth and progressive negotiations.

Part of the process with EKJP was to provide detailed site plans for the proposed shop, shed and yard. Incorporating reuse ideas to the layout plan of the site was really important for all parties involved. We had shelving, the front counter, display cases, outdoor gardens and signs made for the shop that communicated upcycling and reuse by design. We made sure that social impact was achieved in the construction of these key upcycled items by partnering with local Work for the Dole supervisors. They are a great team of people who work with job seekers to produce quality products for the shop. The team were encouraged to work with recycled items in their daily activities, which they embraced.

As work continues at the site, many of these same people make up the bulk of the action team. This small step is part of the waste to wages journey.

In June, job advertisements for required staff to run the venture were sent out, and I helped interview the potential staff members and made my recommendations on who I thought would be best suited for the roles. I am providing ongoing help to the new manager in the way of policies, procedures Safe Work Practices, Safe Operating Procedures and price guides.

I was back to Kununurra in early August, working on the set up and opening of the shop and this time I took Steve along from our Moss Vale site to teach the new staff how to “pick” at the waste facility. Steve is an experienced picker who was able to impart his knowledge and technique even in 37oc temperatures! It’s certainly been a ‘from scratch’ to ‘finish’ project. I am heading back over on the 3rd of September for the last of the set up and the official opening date of the 15th of September.

After the official opening is done and the team are cruising along my work may start again on another consulting project. Shaun Fowler (EKJP’s CEO and former board member for GLCR) has asked me to look further into the opportunities at Wyndham and Halls Creek and hopefully we can get something setup in both locations in the coming months and year. If either of these jobs is like what I have experienced here in Kununurra then I am certainly up to the task again.

None of this could have been made possible without Matt who heads up to Moss Vale weekly when I’m not there to make sure things are running smoothly and always picks up the phone when I have a tricky waste question that needs answering. The great team at Moss Vale hold down the fort daily while I’m in Kununurra and having team members like this is what gives you the space to pursue projects like these, so thanks to the whole team for their support.

Turning waste into wages isn’t easy, but with the right stakeholders, partners and work ethic, anything is truly possible!