Since moving from Germany to Melbourne, Johann Hefner commenced his role as Applications Specialist – Resource Recovery, STEINERT Australia.


Johann Hefner, Applications Specialist – Resource Recovery, STEINERT Australia

What are your impressions of the Australian approach to the waste issue?

From where I stand, it seems that Australians want change to happen and create a more productive and rewarding internal industry in their own back yard but are lacking the catalyst to start the transition.

They are constantly confronted by discussions surrounding the current opinions on global waste issues, circular economy and recycling. It really feels like a hot topic in Australian current affairs.

Have you observed any differences so far between the German relationship and the Australian relationship with waste?

Growing up in Germany it was ‘normal’ to sort household rubbish into four different bins and return plastic and glass bottles at collection points for refunds. It was the ‘done thing’ to bring your own reusable bags for shopping. The word ‘landfill’ didn’t mean much as they don’t exist in Germany. My world knew ‘waste to energy’ as being an accepted and necessary alternative for waste recycling, where Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) use the latest innovative technology to generate valuable product streams from waste.

There is a vast difference in the relationships with the waste and recycling industry, especially the waste to energy sector. It seems that Australia may be just a little bit behind the ‘norm’ that has been happening in European countries for many years now.

What do you see as difficulties and barriers that exist for the Australian resource recovery sector?

In my opinion the main issue is coming from the deficient legislative policies to support and create a future for the waste industry. It was and is the responsibility of the government to create drivers for markets for Australian waste and recycling sector, preventing unnecessary landfilling. It means recycling and re-using products that we can, and those we can’t re-use, converting them into another much-needed energy source.

I am speaking about nation-wide policies to fuel the development of the industry.

The industries themselves require greater collaboration with each other, which is starting to happen as seen with the packaging and polymer manufacturers opening the dialogue with recyclers to explore possibilities to move forward in the right direction collectively.

I believe the industry is primed to take this next step and I am excited to be part of it.

What role does STEINERT Australia play in this shift?

As the Application Specialist for Resource Recovery at STEINERT Australia, one of my responsibilities is to coordinate the new test centre at our site in Bayswater, Melbourne. The STEINERT Victorian Test Centre gives customers a unique opportunity to test small and large sample material on our new sensor sorting equipment.

Here, we can showcase the potential of the STEINERT sorting technology – using the STEINERT UniSort Black – on your own test material.

Using the Near Infra-Red (NIR) technology, our goal is to sort plastics, RDF, paper and compost material from all commonly known contaminants such as metals, glass, plastics, black plastics, paper and wood.

We want to assist the sector in its next steps towards creating a more productive and rewarding waste and recycling industry for Australia.

It is clear to see that the industry is ready to transition towards a deeper processing line and ultimately a circular economy. I am determined to have a positive contribution to the development of Australia’s waste and recycling future.

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