We need to talk about e-waste...

Launching our new interview series - 'Straight from the horse's mouth' interviewed Stan Krpan, Chief Executive, Sustainability Victoria, with an aim of keeping the conversation going on resource recovery and waste.

We would be lying if we said we’d not wished we could close our eyes at times at the thought of the absurd levels of tech wastage directed into landfill here in Australia – over 20 million tonnes every year.

It would be enough to make my Grandma turn in her grave; the dearest lady in the world who used to rinse off tin foil, pop a tea towel over it and iron it flat again, for use on another dish, for another day.

But that mindset has changed. Somewhere along the way things blew out and we ‘produced’ quicker than we could ‘protect’. At PonyUp, we’re so enthused to be working with some of the smartest minds in sustainability, technology and product stewardship, who are doubling down on their efforts to help us make up time – crafting innovative, elegant solutions and laws around how we responsibly treat our retired tech into the future.

It’s sometimes easy for us to become lax, once we’ve been distracted by the newest, shiniest thing or by device upgrades, which give our business the next uber level of IT grunt.

We decided that we needed to keep the conversation going and launched an inaugural interview series, ‘Straight from the horse’s mouth’, which aims to shed light on the education and behavioural change that’s needed to bring further focus on the responsible management of decommissioned technology and e-waste. PonyUp recognises the importance of this phase in any business’ strategy for the adoption of new practices.

We sought out a diverse group of individuals to interview, who are firmly focused on enacting or legislating change in the environmental and sustainability sector, to share their views and guidance on the strategies required by big business, to bring about significant, consistent and meaningful change.

With a ban on e-waste to landfill already in place in South Australia, and Victoria likely to follow suit with a plan to be announced next year, we decided to kick off our series with Stan Krpan, chief executive of Sustainability Victoria (SV), which will play a vital role in facilitating this transition and developing initiatives to drive behavioural change across business and the community.

Indeed, PonyUp will be using the SV plan to assist our clients in navigating through this new legislation and change. It's a plan companies can hang their 'environmental impact hat' on. Its a long game to tackle a significant environmental issue, but I think we'll be doing Grandma proud...

PonyUp for Good: SV’s 2015-20 priorities are well underway. If we jump ahead to 2025, what is your vision for how behaviour has changed among businesses in Victoria?

Stan Krpan: In the next five to 10 years, we want to influence and support more Victorian businesses in their decision-making to use resources more sustainably and to take practical action on climate change.

We know that 73 percent of consumers say they are interested in buying goods and services from businesses that are sustainable and taking their own actions on climate change. This huge latent demand is currently unmet – but is full of opportunities. I look forward to new businesses, new business models and innovative products and services, which are going to meet this demand. That will take some vision and courage, but we know Victorians are entrepreneurial and we have some very innovative businesses.

Businesses will also be very conscious of the benefits of being more productive and efficient with resources like energy and materials.

It is clear from all of the planning and feedback from industry in the development of SV’s 2015-20 priorities, that we can do more to increase recovery rates, particularly in the commercial and industrial waste streams. This includes new technologies and innovations, which will increase processing capacity and reduce contamination. We are seeing strong interest in new investment by existing companies as well as new entrants, many whom are looking for new opportunities.

This approach shifts the thinking from end-of-life concepts towards practices that are ‘restorative’ and support materials and components being reused or recycled many times over.

What have been some of the unexpected hurdles in delivering on these priorities to date?

Each year presents new challenges. As Victoria’s population grows, so too does the waste we produce and so it is vital that we remain one step ahead and continue to plan for the future. Projections show that our population could rise from 5.8 million to 8.9 million by 2043 and, based on current trends, we’re likely to see total waste generation almost double from 12 million tonnes (2011-12) to 20 million tonnes per year by 2043. Victoria already has a long-term plan – the 30-year Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan – to guide future planning for waste and resource recovery infrastructure for our state and ensure valuable materials are recovered from waste streams.

The complexity of this area, means the lead times on market development, new infrastructure or innovation can be long. Although SV and the Victorian Government are already working on a range of initiatives in this space, we need the continued support of industry, local government and businesses to drive growth and provide confidence in markets for recovered resources in order to create investment in new technologies, products and jobs for Victoria.

Industry, local government and peak bodies have been very generous with their advice and support to SV (and the State Government) in the development of policies and programs in recent years. I am looking forward to continuing this with a real focus on implementation and improved outcomes. Ultimately, we all want the same things – a better environment. This is assisted by a strong, robust and innovative sector.

One of the misconceptions of sustainability is that either consumers don’t care, or it costs too much. Our social research and experience dispels this.

Often the sustainable alternative might be more difficult, but taking the long view reveals that it costs less. There are also risks and costs in maintaining the status quo, and consumers and the community are expecting a lot more leadership now from businesses.

Reciprocally, what have been some of the unexpected benefits?

It has been encouraging to see how strongly Victorians support sustainable efforts and are taking action in using their resources more wisely. Our TAKE2 climate change pledge program has attracted great interest from businesses, local communities, individuals and local government. To date, over 4830 Victorians have pledged to take action against climate change, with 330 businesses getting involved. These TAKE2 businesses employ more than 267,000 people across Australia and have more than nine million customers.

We have seen some great partnerships from unlikely partners such as businesses and community groups formed through the program and our events. I am looking forward to seeing that sort of cross-sectoral collaboration continue to grow and the initiatives it might spark.

In 2016 the Victorian Government announced its plan to ban e-waste from landfill in Victoria. How do you anticipate Victorian businesses will be impacted?

Sustainability Victoria has a key role to play in facilitating this transition and developing initiatives to drive behavioural change across the community.

SV is working with community groups, industry and government to develop education programs, which improve resource recovery and support correct disposal of waste. We will particularly highlight the risks of e-waste in landfill, the valuable and often rare resources that it contains, which can be recovered, and the ways of disposing of this material so that it is properly recycled.

The Department of Environment, Land and Water Planning (DELWP) will lead on the regulatory aspects of Victoria’s approach to an e-waste ban.

In alignment with the EPA’s hierarchy to Avoid > Reduce > Reuse – before Recycling – what do you feel will be the greatest motivators for businesses in getting behind the ‘reuse of devices/technology’?

Every organisation and business is different in terms of what drives and motivates them. However, in general, financial and environmental factors often come into play. By donating their unwanted or outdated hardware for reuse, businesses can help to keep these electronics out of landfill. Where organisations, such as PonyUp for Good, can offer secure data destruction with a social impact, this may drive people to do the right thing and donate their unwanted devices to be reused rather than just sending them to landfill.

What motivates you the most, personally, about SV2020 to do what you do each day?

I feel a great sense of responsibility to do as much as I can every day to preserve our environment for future generations. I believe that in order to maintain our way of life, businesses will need to transform and adopt new business models, which will create the jobs of the future. They will design the new products and services, which will be better for the environment and for our own health. I know that deep down people care – for the environment, for each other and for the future.

Our job is to show them they can do something, to make that something easier and more attractive and better for us than the status quo. To do this, we want to reach and impact as many people as possible. We know that the transition to a low carbon future will require the community to be engaged and mobilised and I really love that aspect of our work. In the transition some vulnerable parts of our community will be disproportionately affected and I am motivated to support them in our work and in that transition.

Written by: Mardi Brown & Cat Harding - Co-founders, PonyUp for Good

This article first appeared in CWS Magazine with the kind support of Journalist Michelle Dunner

A new pony enters the stable!

ANNOUNCEMENT: 

PonyUp for Good is thrilled to formally introduce SXiQ to our stable of clients!

SXiQ (formerly, Southern Cross Computer Systems), yesterday officially unveiled their new company & brand, breathing new life into their organisation & repositioning themselves in an industry, where they have delivered end-to-end IT infrastructure & national business solutions for the past 36 years!

As part of their commitment to inspire others & engage their community, SXiQ have partnered with PonyUp & SecondBite, securing themselves an industry leadership position by providing themselves and their clients the opportunity to make a significant impact to the environment and to food insecurity across Australia, using only their decommissioned technology. Turning Old Tech into New Life!

Backing their commitment to the cause, SXiQ have set goals to redirect 1500 kilos of tech for reuse or recycle & to donate 250,000 fresh meals to SecondBite over the next 12 months! 

We’re inspired to be working with John Hanna & his whole team!

For more information visit: PonyUpforGood.com / SXiQ.com.au / SecondBite.org

Getting our environmental legacy right

Written for Living Now Magazine - January 2017
“We have very little relationship to our garbage here in Australia. We throw it away, and my point as an environmental geographer, is to say: Where is ‘away’? Away is here for someone.” [Darrin Magee]
It’s time to get our environmental legacy right!

 You know that sharp moment when a light goes on in your mind? When a neuron has just fired and you’ve literally and physically just learnt something new – and a whole new perspective unravels? I watched this play out in real-time the other day, and it was pretty cool stuff!

My business partner and I had been invited into the IT hub of a large business by a lovely man; let’s call him John. John wanted to discuss how they might be able to reuse some of their devices which had been superseded. Several ‘bleeps’ and pass-codes later, we found ourselves in the belly of the beast. We were in a room that could only be described as a labyrinth of devices and tech; wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. Organised chaos.

John explained to us – with the type of confidence that comes only with years of experience in his profession – exactly how the items had been catalogued. He explained how the items lining the walls were in storage ‘in case’ they were needed in the future. As we walked through the room to get a better look at what was there, I thought to myself: “the only place this tech would possibly be needed was in 2006.”

 Environmental legacy

Our environmental legacy is a hot topic of global debate. We’re currently living in a micro-bubble moment, where climate change skeptics still have a seat at the table. Our environmental legacy, for business anyway, relates to the impact our industrial operations has had on our water, soil, and air. And it relates to the ongoing impact this can have on our health and our ecosystems. The EPA tells us to keep it simple: avoid > reduce > reuse, before we even think about recycling or disposal. So how can we, as general consumers and businesses, play a positive part in reducing our environmental legacy?

Human nature

It’s human nature to collect and keep things, to put things in drawers or into storage. It gives us a primal sense of comfort – a sense of preparedness for ‘just in case’. The impact our ‘tech hoarding’ is having on the environment, however, is immense.

When we realise eventually that something (or a whole labyrinth of something) can no longer be used because it’s just too old, a common pattern has been to send it to landfill. This then leaches toxic chemicals into the soil and waterways. In Australia alone, we send more than 20 million tonnes of e-waste into landfill every year! E-waste is responsible for 70% of the toxic chemicals, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, found in landfill.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, when electronics were made in the U.S., tech manufacturing giants poisoned not just workers but local communities. From one plant after another, thousands of gallons of cancer-causing chemicals leaked into the groundwater, poisoning neighbourhoods across Silicon Valley. The public only found out when children started being born with serious birth defects, and cancer clusters sprang up in one neighbourhood street after another. More than a generation later, these same carcinogens are still travelling through the soil and up into people’s homes and offices.

Now that China makes most of the world’s electronics, the same devastating environmental contamination is happening there as well – and on a much larger scale. 30% of China’s rice is contaminated with cadmium, which is used in batteries for cellphones, cameras and computers. It can cause cancer as well as bone liver, kidney and respiratory illness.

Reuse

By ‘reusing’, in short, we can prolong the life of devices for up to another seven years. This means we can slow down the purchase cycle, meaning less precious minerals are being mined for their production. The more time we prolong the life of our existing technology, the more time we allow for further innovation and advancements in our tech production, as the industry works towards producing more environmentally friendly products.

Devices can also be erased, donated, and sold for reuse in developing countries, meaning a more affordable and accessible solution is available. In places like Africa, North Korea and rural Japan, these devices are used as educational aids in schools, and for small business banking. They’re also used in supporting new mothers, who are unable to make it to a doctor, with medical updates.

The average lifespan of computers in developed countries dropped from six years in 1997, to two years in 2005. In 2016/17, computers now double their capabilities every 12–18 months, and so do the informational technologies that use them, meaning the upgrade time is even shorter.

Our old devices can be likened to melting chocolate

They lose value the longer we hold onto them. And, the longer we hold onto them, the more likely we are to reach into a drawer and pull out that old iPhone 4 and wonder what on earth to do with it.

There has been a complete ban on e-waste into landfill in South Australia since 2013. The other Australian states are now developing strategies to follow suit. This change will force our hands and will ensure we start to think differently.

While having this conversation over coffee with John, we saw the light go on for him. He was somewhat disheartened at the reality of having to recycle these great walls of older unused tech, knowing they could have had a second life. However, his eagerness to change to a reuse strategy moving forward had an immense amount of conviction. It means that John can contribute to reducing his company’s environmental legacy. He can also have a better story to tell his shareholders, employees and clients.

Darrin Magee, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Hobart & William Smith Colleges perhaps says it best: “We have very little relationship to our garbage here in Australia. We throw it away, and my point as an environmental geographer, is to say: Where is ‘away’? Away is ‘here’ for someone.”

 By Mardi Brown - CoFounder - PonyUp for Good

2016 - The learnings, the ridiculous & a wink to the future

Yes it’s that time of year…. not just the big red guy & decorations, it’s also the time of year to pour another cup of coffee, stand by the window, and glaze-over for a few minutes to think about what we’ve all achieved this year. What progress we have made and where the wins and learnings have been.

As we wrap up a proud and puffy-chested first year as PonyUp for Good, before riding into the sunset for Christmas, we took a moment to remind each other of the EPIC year it’s been.

We also wanted to take the time to thank you for your support, contributions, partnerships, mentoring - and for those who just jumped so elegantly onboard. We thank you for slapping us with lightbulb moments, challenging us and of course for ‘PonyingUp’ during 2016! Theory of evolution has it, that we are never the same person we were six months ago - and today this statement is truer than ever - and for these learnings -  we thank you!

As we gain the momentum & energy to enter 2017,  we thought we’d share our ‘TOP 5’ highlights, wins & obscure observations from 2016.

THE PILOT:  How do you know if the plane will fly? You ask the Pilot!

  • With the aim of testing our theories and learning what we did not know, we set out to collect 300 devices and set up our operations

  • Five tonnes of devices & e-waste, 5,674 cups of coffee and many, many hours of planning later, we had ourselves a business model

  • On 6 December we proudly donated 50% of the profits from our pilot to ACE - it was enough to educate 50 Happy School students for a full year! WINNING!

THE PARTNERSHIP - Love at first bite!

  • During our early research, we learnt that there were over 2 million families & individuals going hungry in Australia every day (yes in Australia!) while we send $8 billion worth of food into landfill. We knew then, that food rescue was to be our charity focus

  • In August we popped the question to SecondBite and they said ‘YES! They are now PonyUp’s exclusive charity partner and 50% of our profits will support their mission to rescue fresh food and redistribute it to feed people in Australia doing it tough

  • We LOVE this partnership! Wonderful, stand up people doing important work and with their incredible new 5 year strategic plan soon to be rolled out... look out 2017!

THE BRAND & LAUNCH: A comedian on a pony in Iceland looking majestic - Why not?

  • The PonyUp brand was a labour of extreme love and contribution from several extremely talented folk - it brings us joy every time we look at it

  • For those not in the know. To ‘PonyUp’ means to: ‘contribute’ or ‘pay your share’.

  • We often get asked, ‘What’s with the guy on the horse?’ We found this picture online and it bought us undone - we had to have it. We tracked down the owner using our best spy skills and found him to be a lovely Toronto based Comedian, named Jus Reign. He has subsequently been named one of Toronto’s 50 most influential people and was generous enough to let us use the picture gratis! You rock Jus Reign!

THE PEOPLE:  Fans, enthusiasts & rampant PonyUp flag wavers

  • It’s true in so many cases that what you focus on is what you get. When we launched the PonyUp concept we wanted to work with inspired, gifted and wonderful people and this has certainly happened in spades

  • Our friends at SecondBite have blown us away with their enthusiasm and this alone makes it easy to get out of bed of a morning

  • To the people who just ‘got it’ from the get go. To those who promoted us and to the shout out from Anthony Pratt from the ether, which never hurts - we thank you!

THE RIDICULOUSNESS: We’ll all remember the day a Cheeto-faced vulgarian made U.S. President Elect.

  • At PonyUp, we REVEL in the ridiculous. From the 2am, delirious pre-launch website work-athon to the 5,467 coffee’s consumed in 2016

  • In the beginning mobile phones were powered by something resembling a car battery and then came the wave of ‘smallest phones in the world trend’. Push button phones only Donald Trump’s baby-sized hands could comfortably dial. Donations of some of the funkiest technology we’d ever seen turned up in the pilot. Someday we’ll sell them all to hipsters and retire in the Seychelles.

We’ve also had some very cool wins in the closing weeks of 2016 which we are excited to share with you officially in 2017.  

One thing for sure, is there is a long way to go in really changing behaviours, minds and actions in leveraging the residual value of our technology. Equally so in the redistribution of healthy food to the two million+ families & individuals doing it tough in Australia everyday.

In 2017 PonyUp is launching a super cool campaign & interview series of some of the best and brightest in environmental sustainability, data security, food rescue and corporate social responsibility. We’re going to explore every angle so that we can flesh out how these motivators for change work best. It’s a nod to the future and our dogged determination to keep valuable resources out of landfill and get them working for us in new & innovative ways.

For now - get your stretchy pants on for the holiday season. Take rest, safe travels & happy New Year!

Much love - Mardi & Cat

 

How corporate social responsibility is making a meal of technology

Well, what a journey it's been! It's almost a year to the day since we first started talking about building a social enterprise. We developed a concept, a brand and ran a pilot. We then took those learnings - and built a business model, which WINS in 4 ways, by:

  1. Saving technology from landfill, having it reused for up to another 7 years  
  2. Selling devices to developing countries, who benefit from access to affordable technology
  3. Harvesting for parts or ethically recycling devices not suitable for resale
  4. And the major kicker; donating 50% of our profits to a charity partner to deliver real and impactful outcomes

A lot like dating, the right charity partner is very much about finding someone with the same values as you. You need mutual trust, a shared idea of what 'awesome' looks like and to be able to spend lots of time together. Today, we announce with great pride, we have found that 'something special' in our charity impact partner, SecondBite!

It's a marriage made in landfill avoidance heaven. SecondBite is Australia’s biggest fresh food rescue charity, redistributing nutritious, surplus food, donated by farmers, wholesalers, markets, supermarkets, caterers and events to more than 1300 community food programs on the frontline of food poverty around Australia. Last year SecondBite rescued 10 million kilograms of nutritious food, which delivered 55,000 healthy meals a day to those in need. This makes our hearts sing!

And the warm fuzzy is mutual - with SecondBite CEO, Jim Mullan saying, “At the heart of all great partnerships lie a broad set of shared values and a commitment to a common purpose and this holds true with respect to the relationship between SecondBite and PonyUp. SecondBite is delighted to partner with PonyUp as we’re both passionate about waste reduction, better use of resources, helping communities and generally improving the lives of those doing it tough.”

PonyUp has set a goal of providing 250,000 healthy meals by 30 June 2017, by turning donated decommissioned devices into charitable donations for SecondBite.  We understand that when businesses seek new options, which deliver economic, social and environmental benefits, we will start to see incredible change in the world. We believe that PonyUp for Good can provide a conduit for this goodness and help make it easy for companies to deliver on their environmental and social responsibility objectives. 

The potential impact of this partnership is significant in not only keeping millions of kilos of food and technology out of landfill, but meaningfully contributing to the ongoing issue of food insecurity in Australia. We look forward to the journey to come and hope that you come along for the ride. 

For now. 

Cat & Mardi

PonyUp for Good - 'Friends & Family Pilot' - LAUNCH DAY!

Welcome!

We are so proud to announce that today is the launch of the 

PonyUp for Good 'FRIENDS & FAMILY PILOT!'

By now you may have heard that we have been busy building a new social enterprise, which we are both incredibly proud of. 

The PURPOSE of our pilot is to test our processes, build our story ready for market launch in August - and most importantly, to raise some much needed funds for ACE & the Happy School. In fact they will be receiving 50% of profits from the pilot!

Today we are asking for YOUR SUPPORT in order to help us launch and achieve these goals.

How can I do this you ask?

It’s super easy:

1. PonyUp the used phones, ipods, tablets and laptops currently gathering dust in your drawers and in business IT storage rooms. Oh yes, we know they are there! 

2. Share the good word of PonyUp with your friends and family by liking our page and sharing our Facebook posts, or by rallying them to PonyUp their own devices.

3. Ask your place of employment how they currently manage their decommissioned devices. If they are interested in Ponying Up for Good, we will happily get in touch.

4. Give us your constructive feedback & fan mail throughout the pilot. It will make you 37% better looking!

Thank you for PonyingUp for Good!

BIG LOVE - Cat & Mardi