Excellence in Sustainability

01st Aug 2016

Established in 1969 by local community members and families, Northaven is a well-respected and established Australian Disability Enterprise service provider offering paid employment and real jobs for people living with disabilities within the Inverell Shire of NSW and surrounding areas. Northaven currently employs 38 people living with a disability who are supported by eight supervisors across its operations. This includes the staffing of the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), collection and dispersion of recycling crates, shredding bins & waste bins, security shredding & freight dispatch.

Recycling, sustainability and the environment are more than just buzzwords for Northaven and its employees; these are the underpinning principles of the organisation and its business practices.

Northaven employees and staff care about the environment. We are working quietly in the background doing our part towards preserving the planet for future generations. Our Material Recovery Facility (MRF) business operations sorts and captures as much recyclable product as possible before it enters the council landfill site and security shredding is offered as well.

Through these practices Northaven aims to be an active participant in:

  • Minimizing the environmental impact and emission of greenhouse gases from the landfill site through reduction of recyclable product entering the landfill site.
  • Increasing longevity of the site and reducing the financial and environmental burden to the local community and government.
  • Continuing to provide “real jobs” for people living with disability.

In 2015, Northaven made the decision to purchase a front lift truck for the collection of recycle bins. This initiative allowed Northaven to become more efficient in its operations by reducing the number of trucks operating at any one time, thereby reducing our carbon footprint.

The truck also provides an opportunity for Northaven employees with a higher level of disability to be able to get out and about in the community. With the purchase of the truck, Northaven had to modify their existing crates to fit instead of just buying new ones. As a result of increased demand, Northaven purchased a further 74 crates.

Northaven works closely with their customers by providing them with education around recycling that not only assists them running an environmentally sustainable business, but also reduces the financial costs of landfill fees, wages to disperse waste etc.

Following an application for funding, Northaven Environmental Impact and Operations was assessed by Cool Planet, who gave feedback that its operations were not only meeting the needs of clients, but that Northaven practices were in line with best practice principles for positive long term sustainability of the environment and landfill site.

Northaven provides environmental education opportunities for the local community, businesses and school groups through the provision of open days, site visits and talks at the MRF. This not only showcases Northaven’s part in sustaining the environment, it also allows others to get a good understanding of their role and responsibilities as well.

Northaven staff and employees are consistently marketing the Northaven business and also the important message of being environmentally conscious when they are out and about.

Northaven has over 30 years recycling experience. It all began with washing and recycling bottles, then progressed to once a week curbside recycling tub collections for the Inverell Shire Council in 1991, after that taking on the operations of the Inverell Shire Council Material Recovery Facility in 2006. Since this time our operations have expanded significantly and continue to grow year to year.

In the past 12 months, Northaven has increased the number of cardboard only and co-mingled recycling crates from 138 to 160. The growth in our business has also seen the disbursement of 24 commercial waste bins and 40 secure shredding paper bins. Northaven also sorts the Inverell Shire Council curbside recycling waste.

The product from the cardboard and co-mingled bins are picked up by Northaven trucks (driven by supported employees) from their location and taken to the MRF. The recyclable product is sorted, pressed and baled and then on-sold to buyers. The product from the shredding bins are sorted into white paper, coloured paper and cardboard shredded by employees with high support needs due to their disabilities. The shredded product is then taken to the MRF and compacted with cardboard/paper bales to gain maximum tonnage for transport reducing carbon omission by reducing the number of freight trucks used.

Northaven’s operations has seen a significant increase in recyclable product sorted and on-sold each year. The last financial year, 2015/16, saw a dramatic increase in cardboard/paper recycling to approx 3,421 tons from 2014/15, 1,825 tons.

During the last financial year 2015/16, Northaven also recycled and on-sold 202 ton of glass, 20 ton aluminum cans, 29 ton steel cans, 4 ton plastic drums as well as 33 ton PET, 32 ton HDPE, 93 ton Hard and 45 ton Film Plastics; all salvaged from the local landfill site.

Northaven has a long established relationship with Orora Recycling, Visy Industries and Impact Recycling who purchase the sorted raw material at market price for manufacturing through a commercial process to recycle as the same product or another product.

Revenue raised from the sale of recyclable products is reinvested back into the organisation to assist with covering operational costs, wages, purchase of equipment and other costs related to operating a business and ensures that Northaven is able to continue to provide paid employment opportunities for up to 50 people living with a disability.

Northaven expanded its services to incorporate commercial waste and moving forward is looking at trial gap areas in the recycling market that is currently not being captured including but not limited to organic waste that can be broken down to mulch for resale and providing a building waste service.

Through this process, Northaven has also formed partnerships with some of the bigger retail, commercial and government businesses in town including Inverell Shire Council, Boss Engineering, McLean Aged Care, Bindaree Beef and Copeton Dam (WaterNSW).

Northaven staff and employees are an integral part of our environmental initiatives.

Staff undertake and research best practice principles as well as attending industry specific training. This information and knowledge is then passed on to employees through on the job training and information sessions.

Northaven hold monthly meetings for Board, Staff and Employees where individuals are encouraged to contribute and discuss their own ideas and initiatives for discussion and review.

Northaven staff and employees have taken the skills and knowledge that they learn at work into the wider community in their own personal time. An example of this is employees who attend local football, races and local events collecting recyclable products and on-selling to Northaven aluminum for their own profit and doing their part towards protecting the environment.

Our customers not only help in protecting the environment and reducing the effects of global warming, they also benefit economically. By using our recycling services, businesses save on landfill fees and are able to buy recycled products at a cheaper price than virgin products. With the ongoing support of our loyal customers (who have been with us from the start) coupled with the growth of new customers, Northaven has been able to ensure that their services are kept at a financially viable level.

The continued growth of Northaven and its services means the number of “real paid job” employment opportunities for people living with a disability is increasing, while also providing much more. Northaven is a place to undertake workplace training while also learning and developing life skills, work ethics, social connections, and become a contributing member of the community, all while playing a vital role in environmental protection. With the number of supported employees increasing, Northaven has also employed extra support staff to work alongside employees on a day to day basis.

Recycling buyers have been extremely loyal to Northaven in the past, providing equipment to process product until such time as Northaven could purchase their own. Northaven continues to be a loyal supplier of recyclable products to these buyers, capturing and sorting as much product as possible and on-selling uncontaminated product for the best current economic prices. This allows Northaven to continue to be sustainable and purchase modern economic equipment with the aim of becoming more efficient in its operations and with the ultimate outcome of being a leader.

All Northaven vehicles are sign written. With the growth of the business over the past 1-2 years and the purchasing of a new truck, Northaven adopted a logo of “Do the Right Bin” placed on the large front end loader truck. This is a constant, on-the-move advertising billboard for Northaven.