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Innovative idea transforms trash into treasure

There’s a new match-making service, but not the dating kind.

Developed by CSIRO through a pilot program, ASPIRE (Advisory System for Processing, Innovation & Resource Exchange) is an online marketplace which matches businesses with potential remanufacturers, purchasers or recyclers of waste resources.

The concept was developed in response to manufacturing companies talking to their local councils about high waste disposal costs.

SMEs in Australia are big contributors to commercial and industrial waste and typically send more than 50 per cent of their waste to landfill.

As the cost of sending resources to landfill has tripled in the last two or three years, waste disposal has become a huge burden for SMEs.

The aim of ASPIRE is to provide businesses with a cheaper and more sustainable option than landfill for their waste.

In 2019 – after five years in the making – ASPIRE became an independent company, led by Cameron McKenzie.

As local governments are the main customers, businesses in these areas where councils have paid for the service can use it free of charge. Businesses outside these areas can also sign up, but for a fee.

“Any business – no matter the size – can register online. Once the subscription has been confirmed, businesses can list excess resources or waste products,” said Cameron.

“The system then matches the business with businesses that are looking for the same or similar products. The business can choose to give away the product or resource for free, sell it, or pay for disposal of the item.”

Through the ASPIRE platform, family business PF Metals provides a resourceful solution for metal and battery waste.

Batteries are the most commonly disposed of hazardous waste from households. Even though they have a 95 per cent recovery rate when recycled, 70 per cent are being sent to landfill.

PT Metals provides bins to companies to recycle metal and they purchase scrap metal resources directly from small scrap dealers. Members of the public can also drop off scrap metal for cash.

ASPIRE has allowed PT Metals to connect with other companies and plan for large scale resource recovery needs.

“ASPIRE reduces waste costs for businesses, decreases landfill, creates new business opportunities, and creates markets for the supply and demand of materials,” said Cameron.

“ASPIRE annually diverts over 45,000 tonnes of excess waste and resources from landfill. We have over 380 businesses and over 16 councils on the platform, saving businesses over $210,000 per year.”

While the program has focussed on the manufacturing industry in Victoria to date, there are plans to expand into other sectors such as farming, organic, education and construction and to launch in Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania in 2020.

ASPIRE is well on its way to reaching its ultimate goal – “to educate business owners to create a more sustainable business model.”