A former loading-dock worker for an electrical retailer has developed a waste-collection system that tackles a problem he saw firsthand — large volumes of expanded polystyrene packaging and padding going to landfill.
And he has created an export market to China. Chris O'Brien's Sydney-based company, Hungry Giant Pty. Ltd., now sells compacted EPS to recyclers in China that use it to make molded products, such as PS coat hangers.
Four years ago, O'Brien — then 22 and working on the loading dock — saw a huge volume of EPS in the store's bins that was collected regularly and dumped.
“That's when I had a great idea,” he said. His idea was to compact the EPS to reduce its volume, cut the frequency of waste collections, and make a product that was more attractive and economical to export to recyclers in China.
O'Brien designed and developed a compacting machine he christened the Hungry Giant, which is suitable for on-site use by retailers.
He set up the Hungry Giant company to manufacture and market the machines. As managing director, O'Brien oversees the firm's operations in Sydney and Brisbane, and plans to expand into other major Australian cities.
On-site compacting has shifted the concept of waste collection from a system based on volume to one focusing on recoverable commodities, O'Brien said.
His firm has widened its collection system beyond PS and now has a range of compactors that can handle other commercial waste, such as paper and cardboard.
Hungry Giant provides the compacting machines to clients and offers free collections for waste that it can sell to recyclers, charging only to take away non-recoverables.
O'Brien said the system has made a significant difference for clients.
“One customer, an appliance retailer, was previously having its PS waste collected every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” he said. “On each collection day they needed to get rid of two bins each of about 100 cubic feet.”
Now the same store has two bins each of 100 cubic feet collected only every 10 days, O'Brien said.
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