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Kimbriki's four Rs for sustainable waste management

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Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre caters to some 700 customers a day and has transformed itself from being a tip, forty years ago, to modern recycling and reusing site. Some of its employees give an inside look at waste management, in an enterprise where the emphasis is on returning so called waste to a useful life rather than being buried and lost forever in landfill. Kimbriki is a company that has four local councils as shareholders, Mosman, Manly, Warringah, and Pittwater. It's profits go back to its council owners, or are invested in developing the site. It is the only one of this kind in Sydney.

Peter Rutherford runs the education centre with thousands of schoolchildren visiting each year, along with gardening clubs, TAFE and university groups and overseas visitors.
Peter believes that imagination is a powerful teaching tool and encourages the many Eco workshop participants to imagine what a more ecologically minded world would look like and link those ideas back to their own homes and communities.
Peter stresses that the root meaning of the word 'ecology' is the foundation for the Eco House and Garden at Kimbriki.

Eco stemming from Greek meaning of 'where I go' or 'where I am' and Logos from the care people take and the meaning that they make. So Ecology is people taking care of everywhere they go; placing humans at the centre of what they do in their own environment. There is also another underlying thread of thought, the three Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, (with Peter indicating that Kimbriki has added 'rethink' as an important added fourth) words which are enshrined in legislation in most states of Australia. The sequence of those words in the three Rs is important. Recycling is important but not as important as reducing waste, which in first and reusing anything before it becomes waste. Recycling, for instance, uses a lot of energy and costs councils whereas reusing does not use as much energy or transport, making it cheaper and less burden on resources. Organisations like Freecycle, can help in this regard.

There is now also an artist in residence, Sandy Bliim and Kimbriki has set up a workshop in the Eco car park for her six month residency. Sandy is creating artworks from Kimbriki's vast range of materials, like steel, stone and timber and varied array of recyclables. She is even using pieces from a discarded piano, each piece sorted according to its material composition (think felt, ivory, timber). She also likes the variety of patina that comes from recyclable materials and the fact that Kimbriki provides materials for both inside and outside art works.

Outside works are especially a challenge in a large space like Kimbriki as subtlety will not work - here size does matter and colour also helps.
Long time site staffer, Nick Boddy, reflects on the many and varied activities and people that contribute to this enthralling enterprise: from the weighbridges and landfill to water testing, dust monitoring and extracting materials for recycling. Staff refer to the facility as the Kimbriki School of Trailer Reversing, so called because many drivers are unfamiliar with such manoeuvres. From time to time the odd bingle occurs. Puzzlingly, quite a few people lose their trailers (which they have obviously driven some considerable distance along the steep hills through which Mona Vale Road passes) no sooner than they turn into Kimbriki Road (also steep).
Some self inflicted mishaps are more spectacular. One driver decided to ignore a concrete barrier and warning 'witches hats' and chose to drive over it, ending up, stuck in an old landfill site. Another incautiously succeeded in driving over the edge of the car park into the embankment beyond. A third occasion where machinery was needed to extricate the stranded vehicle resulted when a driver decided to drive over the metal recycling area.

Staff need to keep their eyes open for items that customers unintentionally leave behind. Shovels, trailer tarps, electric blowers and even ladders tend to be overlooked by people after they have unloaded their landfill or garden waste and drive away.
Usually a frantic phone call to the office follows and either the item has been rescued or sometimes not - since the piles of dumped materials are continuously pushed up with loaders then squashed into the ground by large heavy compactor machines.

Kimbriki is a 'dry' recycling and disposal centre which means no food or other putrescible items are permitted. Similarly, paint products require different disposal sites. All loads are examined on entry both to check for materials that are not accepted at the facility as well as to help direct reusable and recyclable items away from landfill to the different recycling areas and to the Re-use Shop on site. Over the years some unusual things have gone through the facility, from massive boats and boat propellers to whole cars being shredded. There have even been old commercial air conditioning units too heavy to be put on the weighbridge, that had to be pulled apart. Some things that are recycled yield valuable returns like the huge lead keel from a boat and its brass propeller.

Many items that are brought to Kimbriki do not end up as waste. Kimbriki’s Re-use Shop, which originally began to supply the general public with building material has now diversified its salvaging to include furniture, toys, books, CDs and DVDs. Some items are also in good condition and some are brand new, as staff member Damien Wright confirms.

There are staff on hand at many points, including the landfill disposal area, to give advice on materials to be dumped, so customers should make use of their knowledge. Even unusable timber, such as that from packing crates is turned into woodchips for landscapers, thus avoiding being added to landfill. One enterprising customer (Barry) managed to find enough reusable materials to build a house, apart from the timber required for his outside decking. Over the forty years from its inception, Kimbriki has evolved from being a tip (albeit the Rolls Royce of tips) to a reuse and recycling facility, with an extensive educational arm and thriving Eco House and Garden which these days has a fantastic classroom as well as the original garden.

Kimbriki continues to whittle away at the amount of material going to landfill, with over 80 percent of material now either reused or recycled. This ongoing evolution takes on board new technologies and opportunities in relation to waste management, with several exciting developments, planned, approved, but just not yet under construction. Kimbriki is open all but two days of every year. It has hundreds of customers every day, bringing many tonnes of diverse material from householders with garden clippings, to semi trailers loaded with bricks and building rubble.

It has an ever active symphony of large and powerful machinery to do the heavy lifting required - from pushing and compacting landfill, to crushing bricks and tiles and piling up neat mountains of the crushed material ready for their return to a second life as a building material.
Surpringly, it is a neat, well laid out and tidy site and a fascinating place to visit. It seems that the native wildlife approve of it too. In the quiet early hours of the morning and again in the evening after the machinery has fallen silent, many and varied native animals can be found exploring the site.

Kimbriki staff (Peter Rutherford, Sandy Bliim, Nicholas Boddy and Damien Wright) were interviewed at Kimbriki by Ruby Vincent for A Question of Balance. Images have been provided variously by Paul McQueen, Damien Wright, Penelope Jacobs and Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre. Summary text by Victor Barry, February 2014.

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