15 Dec 2015

Kevin Campbell Interview: The Single Point of Truth

Kevin Campbell features in this month’s Inside Waste following an interview with editor Jacqueline Ong. Read it here:

WHEN Inside Waste spoke to former Transpacific Industries Group CEO Kevin Campbell last month, he kept coming back, and passionately one might add, to “the single point of truth”, which he said was sorely lacking in Australia.

Campbell, who now chairs the board of Mandalay Technologies, providing counsel and support to the team working on naus, a real-time data collection software system, has been around the block, having worked in the sector for 16 years, holding several executive positions including CFO of Visy Industries and CEO of TPI.

In these roles, he’s had to keep a close watch on emerging trends and noted that certain challenges, such as Australia’s widely spread population, the tyranny of distance, and lack of population density to support capital repayment and return on investment from buying new technology, will never go away.

But what is stopping the country from reaching where it needs or aspires to be is the lack of this single source of truth, which Campbell said, had to do with good, auditable and empirical data – “the who, what, where, and why of waste.”

“By that, I mean the things that are happening now, the trends that are developing, the causes and influences such as population growth and industry movements, for example, the closure of motor vehicle manufacturers next year,” Campbell said.

“We need to know exactly what those influences are and the impact they have on the generation of waste in this country. Otherwise, it’s impossible to plan the future, to understand any liability, and the impact on the community of putting waste to landfill.

“When you have enough reliable data on which we can base our decisions on, you can make some good, low-risk system predictions and set our infrastructure to those movements… and be quick to act on those infrastructure decisions as well!”

There are great opportunities for waste operators, Campbell said, pointing to the some 46% of waste that currently goes to landfill. While that’s a positive, he also cited MRA Consulting Group director Mike Ritchie’s paper released last year, which stated an increase in waste generation by 145% between 1997 and 2012 against a population growth of only 25%.

“Now, there’s something wrong with that [ratio] and I think it’s beholden on the waste generators and the designers of products and packaging to say, there’s got to be another way to do these things,” Campbell said.

“But if we also knew why the waste was increasing by that amount, where it was coming from, who it was coming from, why it was coming and what it was, we’d have a better chance of realising the latent value within what is currently going to landfill,” Campbell said.

He also pointed to our European counterparts, specifically Sweden and France, saying if Australia had good data, it could promote enough information to make aggregation of regional waste plausible and like these countries, bring materials to incinerators (some will argue against incineration but that’s a discussion for another day), in metropolitan areas.

National Collaboration is Key

Campbell called on all stakeholders in the sector to start collaborating in order to seek solutions to measure and recognise the true cost of sending waste to landfill, taking into account the environmental impacts and the costs of managing them over a 20 to 25-year period.

“What we need to do is adopt an open attitude that the people in the Canterbury region around Christchurch in New Zealand did when they established the Cape Valley landfill, which is shared by six to seven councils and managed by Waste Management New Zealand,” Campbell said.

“The system works very well. It’s very well controlled. And from that, you can develop the single source of truth and find out what is happening to your waste, the true cost to the community and more importantly, realise some of the latent value that is still in the waste sent to landfill.”

And this, let’s call it platform of collaboration, should be developed on a national basis, Campbell said, proposing that the country “gets rid of this rubbish known as state borders”.

“It’s an ambitious aspiration,” Campbell acknowledged,” But wouldn’t it be nice if we had the same levy as NSW applied across the whole country and all the money is reinvested into realising the latent value that is inherent in what is currently going to landfill?”

“A platform also has to be developed by industry, forgetting the borders of individual companies in order to fully understand what is going on in the waste sector,” Campbell concluded.