Australia is still having the discussion on the benefits of waste reduction and until recently it was considered economically rational to send semi-trailers full of household and business waste from New South Wales to Queensland
to avoid disposal fees. In other parts of the world (even Trump’s deepest darkest America) there are companies that demonstrate that minimising the production of waste and developing alternate uses for waste products is not only helping the environment, it’s making money.
Subaru makes cars in the USA as well as Japan. There is probably a rational explanation for the American factory that would only partly be justified by the reduction in shipping costs for some 350,000 cars per annum. In 2002 (partly to address observations that Subaru ‘doesn’t do’ hybrid vehicles) they decided to look at how they address waste within and surrounding their plant at Lafayette in Indiana. A USA Today
article reports that Subaru executive Tom Easterday claims on his seemingly frequent small group tours showing other companies how to make money by eliminating landfill
"I always like to say that if someone stops for a cup of coffee on their way into the plant," Easterday said, "then they have put more trash into the landfill than we have for the entire year."
Actually, that coffee cup would be more than the entire plant — with 5,600 employees producing 350,000 cars annually — has put in a landfill in nearly the last 15 years.
So, Subaru compost waste from their staff cafeteria, they retain and reuse plastic mouldings that are deemed not suitable for installation into cars, they even return cardboard boxes and Styrofoam to component manufacturers for reuse. Apparently, once Styrofoam packaging has made four return trips to the component maker, it is profitable to do so!
While it is probably a point of difference between Subaru in America and some other car plants, it’s not all done to generate a green tinged halo for Subaru either — since 2004 they have made $13 million through elimination of waste to landfill. The program is so successful, they are now looking at becoming carbon neutral, becoming more profitable in the process.
There have obviously been some costs in the conversion to landfill free status and the claim of $13 million is apparently the net profit, so it puts paid to the claim that ‘going the extra mile’ to reduce or eliminate waste used in production processes is costly or will reduce a competitive edge. Unfortunately, in Australia a lot of the pessimism around ‘the cost’ of reducing our impact on the earth we all have to share is spruiked by conservative politicians, business leaders and ‘think tanks’ to suit their own political agenda.
This also became a bit clearer in the past week or so when it was revealed (in unlikely circumstances to do with a family dispute that has reached the court system) that Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting donated around $5 million to the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in the past couple of years
. Ms Rinehart has every right in the world to donate her money to whatever cause she determines is worth her support, just as Graeme Wood has
, however in their 2015-16 annual report
the IPA claimed 91 per cent of donations came from individuals, while foundations, companies and “other” sources each contributed 3 per cent. In 2016–17, it claimed 86 per cent of revenue was from individual donations and only 1 per cent from companies.
As The Saturday Paper also discloses,
In words and colourful graphs, they give the impression of broad-based financial support from thousands of individuals, of an organisation not beholden to corporate supporters.
But Hancock Prospecting is clearly a company. By phone and email The Saturday Paper sought an explanation from the IPA for this but did not get one.
The institute’s annual reports tell us its total revenues were $4.96 million in 2015–16 and $6.1 million in 2016-17. Thus Rinehart’s money, given through her company, Hancock Prospecting, made up almost half the IPA’s income in one year and well over a third in the other. She has, in effect, a controlling interest.
The problem here is that while most ‘think tanks’ in Australia will happily disclose their funding sources allowing us to determine intentional or unintentional bias, the IPA doesn’t. It does however contribute staff to provide opinions on television programs and in the media. And a lot of their ‘talent’, including recently failed Liberal Party candidate for Mayo Georgina Downer and current Liberal Party member for Goldstein Tim Wilson, go into politics trying to drag the ‘liberal’ party further to the conservative end of the spectrum.
They too are entitled to their opinions — but it’s a concern when the funding behind their policy position remains hidden.
What do you think?