Above: Gareth Williamson, managing director, Relivit
By Keryn Curtis
An innovative Australian company establishing a recycling service for ‘absorbent hygiene products’, including incontinence products from aged care services, has won a major international business award.
The new Australian recycling company, Relivit, is licensing and commercialising technology for the full recycling of absorbent hygiene product (AHP) waste including disposable nappies, feminine hygiene products and adult continence aids. The company, which was featured in a special sustainability report in Australian Ageing Agenda’s May June magazine issue, was awarded the Licensing Executives Society International (LESI) Global Award at an event in Boston in the USA.
The award recognises the team whose business plan best deals with intellectual property (IP) rights and their development and use in the global business environment. The Relivit team was one of 35 from around the globe that participated in the 2012 LESI Foundation Graduate Student Business Plan Competition, now in its ninth year. Founded by a graduate team of entrepreneurs from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, the Relivit team’s win marks the fourth time that the Swinburne University of Technology has taken home the Global Award, under the direction of Dr Seth Jones, Acting Director, Swinburne Knowledge.
Relivit will open its first plant in western Sydney in mid-2013, to process 25,000 tonnes each year of AHP waste and divert 90 per cent of the waste material from landfill. As AAA reported in the May June issue, Relivit has been working with Aged and Community Services NSW & ACT and the NSW Department of Heritage and Environment, with funding and support from AHP manufacturer, SCA Hygiene Australasia, to undertake an audit of absorbent waste generation in residential aged care facilities.
By auditing the amount of AHP waste generated, on average, on a per-bed basis, residential aged care providers will be able to calculate and contract their AHP waste collection and recycling. An online tool will be developed to assist in this planning and calculation process.
Relivit Managing Director, Gareth Williamson, said the award acknowledged the company’s unique role in addressing the escalating cost of waste disposal coupled with environmental benefits.
“Currently half a million tonnes a year of AHP waste is buried in Australian landfill sites, where the valuable resources are lost to the supply chain. The cost of landfill disposal in Sydney is expected to increase by 50 per cent in the next five years, which contributes to Relivit being able to deliver a viable solution.” Mr Williamson said.
In addition to working with residential aged care providers, Relivit is partnering with large corporates to access other target markets such as female washrooms, childcare centres, hospitals and healthcare facilities. Commercial waste management providers will deliver AHP waste collected from these various sites to the new Sydney plant where Relivit will use the licensed technology to sterilise the waste, and specialised equipment will separate the fibre and plastics and prepare them for resale. High quality wood fibre will be recycled as cardboard and plastics will be sold for reuse in construction materials.
Williamson says the new service will help its customers combat rising waste disposal costs and also reduce direct carbon emissions by more than 50 per cent. There are plans for more than 10 plants across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Gareth Williamson and Mark Dunn, founders of Relivit, met while studying part-time for a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne. The Relivit business plan also won the Swinburne Venture Cup competition in 2010 and went on to win the John Heine Entrepreneurial Challenge, the national postgraduate competition run by Queensland University of Technology Business School.