ASPIRE to do better with waste

By Fiona McFarlane

21 December 2015

The ASPIRE program is helping to reduce the environmental impact in communities. Image credit: Miguel Malo

The ASPIRE program is helping to reduce industrial environmental impact in communities. Image credit: Miguel Malo

With so many things to think about at Christmas, reducing the stress in any way is a bonus. That’s why Secret Santa is so popular, the tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift.

Even so, it can be hard to find the ‘right’ gift for the person you have been ‘given’.

Enter CSIRO and ASPIRE: We’re matching up businesses with their perfect Secret Santa partners, so they can share waste and other resources between companies to reduce their operating costs and improve the economic and environmental outcomes in their communities.

ASPIRE – Advisory System for Processing, Innovation and Resource Exchange – is an innovative online register developed for resource exchanges between businesses. The ASPIRE software system intelligently matches your business with potential purchasers or recyclers of your waste by-products.

As a result of ASPIRE, two companies operating in the City of Kingston Council region are now working together and both are saving money as a result.

One company, a specialised glass manufacturer, has been able to reduce its waste collection bill and landfill costs by at least 30% as a result of working with a local polymer company who advised them on how to identify and separate the different grades of plastic prior to baling. The company then collects the bales and recycles the waste into high quality plastic resin pellets, providing it with more feedstock at no extra cost.

Based on the glass manufacturers’ earlier practice of sending the plastic film to landfill, this successful exchange has also diverted between 600-800kg/week of plastic film from landfill and saved the company $15 000 to $20 000 per year.

‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ is what the ASPIRE software tool is all about.

Changing the way we deal with waste

Industry faces new challenges in today’s world, where the cost of waste disposal is on the rise. No longer is it cost-effective to send waste to landfill. Neither is it resource-efficient or socially acceptable for environmentally conscious companies not to consider end-of-pipe impacts.

This is where ASPIRE can help. It is a tool to connect local businesses, improve business networking and generate alternative supply chain pathways for resources.

The online program has a powerful optimisation model which turns the information about business products and processes into ‘code’ allowing it to ‘match’ companies either using or producing similar resources.

The ASPIRE output provides a small to medium enteprise (SME) with three things: a list of business with resource matches, personalised search results to support the suggested matches and case sASPIRE Infographictudies for related resource matches.

In addition to this, an internet forum has been developed where SMEs can find topical discussions on resource sustainability questions and engage with academic researchers and the industrial sustainability community.

Through ASPIRE, local businesses can be matched with local companies that have developed solutions to common waste management problems.

Almost every manufacturer has to deal with the problem of waste timber in the form of pallets.

In 2013/14 Sustainability Victoria estimated that Australia generated over 500,000 tonnes of timber waste, with around 340,000 tonnes ending in landfill.

A Dandenong-based company that buys and sell second-hand pallets and turn them into re-useable pallets, skids, crates and boxes is assisting more than 2000 local organisations to reduce their landfill costs and carbon footprint.

Small and medium sized businesses in the Victoria Council regions of Kingston, Hume, Knox and Greater Dandenong where ASPIRE is operational are invited to join the online network via their local councils or manufacturing business networks.

If you’d like to find out more about the ASPIRE program, visit our website.

ASPIRE is being developed by CSIRO under the State Government of Victoria’s Digital Futures Fund, in partnership with City of Kingston Council, Hume City Council, Knox City Council, and City of Greater Dandenong. The proof of concept stage was completed in September 2015, and initial roll-out has begun within the partner council areas.