Turning trash into an employment treasure
Employment prospects have been developing in East Gippsland for those with barriers to work in a very unassuming place – the local tip. Beginning 10 years ago, founded by members supporting young people into work, the Bairnsdale Recycling Enterprise Incorporated has held an important role in the area as a place to build on your skill set.
Initially created to encourage disengaged youth into employment, Local Learning and Employment Networks, the Shire and employment agencies came together to make a change not only to people’s lives but the environment too. Working from the Bairnsdale Regional Landfill site, the group began collecting items that could be upcycled, sold and used again – much like an opportunity shop. This venture saw employees improve on their training and employment prospects, while also assisting in building their life outside of work.
Administered by a volunteer Committee of Management, the community-based not-for-profit social enterprise employs four permanent part-time and three casual staff. All staff are paid Award rates, creating an independence and normality when compared to other work opportunities in the area. With no funding, the financially independent enterprises’ objective is to ensure the money made from goods sold goes into employing local community members and improving the service they can provide to the customers.
Leasing the shed from the East Gippsland Shire Council, the partnership and trading began in 2009 with a purpose of ‘reducing the amount of material going to landfill; providing local employment opportunities’. Building up transferable skills is one the main priorities of this enterprise, adding to an employee’s skill set with assets they can take on to their next job, “I worked at the Tip Shop for 6 months and loved it. It has assisted me to move onto other employment” says Wayne, a past employee of the enterprise.
Sally Kendall, president of the Committee joined almost three years ago, stating it lines up with her values. “I love that its grounded in community and its coming from the community and belongs to the community, the community benefits from it”, she says. As the president, she oversees the great work the staff and managers conduct, along with the coordination and facilitation of meetings, scoping out innovative ideas and progressing priorities – including finding new members to continue supporting those with barriers to work. The committee members not only support the ongoing success of the enterprise but also support and mentor staff, volunteering their time to coach employees, encouraging them to complete their education or mentor them to prepare for job interviews.
Varied in their backgrounds, skills and interests, the staff at the ‘Tip Shop’ enjoy what they do, “I like saving stuff from landfill. We’re reducing the environmental impact on our community” says Nathan. In the last financial year, the team dismantled 1232 mattresses and diverted 1067 m3 of items from landfill, saving local ratepayer money in the process. Collecting items to be repaired, cleaned and sold on, gives locals a chance to purchase items they may not be able to afford brand new, producing repeat customers, with Mandy saying, “working at the Tip Shop is very satisfying. I really enjoy helping customers find interesting goods to buy”.
Celebrating a ten-year anniversary in November to coincide with National Recycling Week, the Bairnsdale Recycling Enterprise Incorporated have cemented their place in the region as an important pillar in supporting locals with barriers to work entering meaningful, creative employment.