International Women's Day 2022 #BreakTheBias

“Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”

International Women’s Day 2022

International Women’s Day: behind the scenes with women driving recycling in NSW

This year to celebrate International Women’s Day, we went behind the scenes of Return and Earn and met some of the incredible women working to help #BreaktheBias. A significant operation, such as one delivered across NSW by TOMRA Cleanaway, requires a large and diverse team.

Truck Drivers, Field Site Attendants, Site Operators and functional support staff are all required to ensure the citizens of NSW are able to gain container refunds via a convenient and accessible network of return points for Return and Earn.

The short stories that follow are a sample of just a few of the women from our wider Team that are actively working to #BreaktheBias.

Kristina Duris CDS Metro Driver, Cleanaway

‘I was approached by a female customer and she congratulated me on being a female driver and said how lovely it was to see a woman in the role.’

I was going through difficulties when the opportunity came along to become a driver. After looking into what I needed to do, I decided to go ahead with it. The promise of a strong financial income and being able to work in an industry that is helping to look after our environment was a good feeling.

My role assists in cleaning up our environment and reducing the amount of bottles and cans that find their way into our gutters, creeks and streams. I really enjoy the fact that every day is different, being outdoors and travelling around Sydney for work.

I have always been a conscious person in regards to recycling, but this has increased since I have worked in the industry. I have also involved my family more in recycling as the kids love collecting and returning bottles at the RVMs.

I think gender bias does still exist in the industry. Although as companies and industries are becoming more aware, this is decreasing rapidly. Women have proven themselves and are breaking the boundaries of bias that have held them back for so long.

One day when I had just emptied an RVM, I was approached by a female customer and she congratulated me on being a female driver and said how lovely it was to see a woman in the role, especially when the industry is a male-dominated one.

Kristina Duris CDS Metro Driver, Cleanaway

Leone Patuwai, Senior Field Site Attendant, TOMRA

‘I feel like I’m doing the right thing in life. Saving the planet comes second to none.’

When I came to TOMRA I was looking for a job that gave me results, a place to make my mark. My mama had just passed from Stage 4 cancer, my life had been turned upside down and inside out and I was searching for a new, empowering life.

In my role, we clean and maintain RVMs throughout Newcastle, Central Coast, Sydney, and the South Coast of NSW. One memorable moment from this job is the story of two beautiful ladies I met who had started saving their money from returning containers at the RVMs. They had decided to treat themselves to a cruise (before covid19 hit) and this was the only means for them to afford such a luxury.

To be where I am today, helping to give other people the opportunity to raise funds to buy a hot meal, pay for school fees, weddings, and even a new set of chompers, I feel like I’m doing the right thing in life. Saving the planet comes second to none.

I am a single mama of five beautiful babies and have two beautiful grandchildren. Our family collects containers and everyone is aware of what to buy and how to dispose of waste. I am so proud they all care just as much as I do.

When it comes to bias, I believe it’s how you want to look at the whole situation. Does that “bias” affect me or do I affect the “bias”?  And with that, I’d like to say thank you to all people who have paved the way for change, who have set the platform of empowerment and inspiration.

There is a Maori proverb I would like to share: Whaia te iti kahurangi ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei. Seek the treasure you value most dearly, if you should bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

Leone Patuwai, Senior Field Site Attendant, TOMRA

Tara Rapley, Customer Service Supervisor, TOMRA Cleanaway

“Working for the NSW container deposit scheme, I am really aware of the individual impacts we can make on the world around us.”

I started in the sustainability and recycling industry more than 8 years ago working in an administrative support function. This exposed me to the diversity of services there are in our industry.

Throughout my employment, especially now working for the NSW container deposit scheme, I am really aware of the individual impacts we can make on the world around us. My family and friends are all great supporters of the scheme, I’m not sure how much of an influence I have been on this! I do tend to lend a hand in helping get containers returned when I see a need.

I think the thing that makes me most proud about my role in delivering the scheme is the support I can see each day from the general public and the way we are making a difference. My Customer Service Team have fantastic relationships with regular callers who like having the personal touch to their interactions. We get to hear about how 10c refunds are changing lives across NSW, it’s fantastic.

I think that gender bias does exist in society still and we all have a role to play to break this as the norm. I hope I am playing my part by building a diverse Customer Service Team and showing my children women can do and be anything they want to be.”

Tara Rapley, Customer Service Supervisor, TOMRA Cleanaway

Nanise Tupou CDS Metro Driver, Cleanaway

‘The fact that I get to drive around Sydney and make a difference in keeping the environment clean has been the biggest honour.‘

My role contributes to containing a cleaner and more sustainable environment in NSW, by giving everyone an opportunity to earn money for returning empty bottles and cans. It means the containers don’t end up on our roads and in waterways; it keeps our environment clean and increases recycling.

I had no experience in driving big heavy vehicles before this job so all my experiences so far have been memorable. The fact that I get to drive around Sydney and make a difference in keeping the environment clean has been the biggest honour.

Working here has definitely changed my outlook on recycling, I separate everything now. I even take my bottles to the Return and Earn machine, and I take the lids off things so the process for whoever is picking the bottles up is a bit easier.

I think gender bias definitely still exists in the workplace—the whole “men’s field” is still a mindset for some people. But I think now that women are being introduced into the workplace more and more, there’s a lot more understanding that the work can easily be done by everyone and not just a certain gender.

In my personal life I have heard people say that women can’t drive, but I think driving heavy vehicles every day has broken some of that biased mindset.

Nanise Tupou CDS Metro Driver, Cleanaway

Ally Glendenning, Deputy General Manager, Resource Recovery Australia, Tuncurry

‘In my time in the waste industry attitudes towards recycling have improved greatly, as has the technology to recycle even more products.’

As Deputy General Manager I support the onsite team to ensure safe and efficient operations. My passion for reuse and repurposing items from landfills has helped our operations to become showcases of reuse, repurposing and recycling, with sculptures, gardens and inspiration now on each of our sites.

Seeing people come through our employment system is really rewarding. They become part of something bigger. They grow their confidence and become passionate about waste diversion. We now have well over 100 team members and I find each person’s dedication and commitment to our #Waste2Wages model to be amazing.

In my time in the waste industry attitudes towards recycling have improved greatly, as has the technology to recycle even more products. It has been great to see things like EPS machines to process polystyrene and singulators to sort containers in the Automated Depot become commonplace, helping to divert more waste from landfills.

In my experience at RRA, my gender has never been a part of the conversation, I have been provided opportunities and have worked to ensure opportunities have been provided to the entire team. As a social enterprise, we work to provide employment and training opportunities for people experiencing barriers to work and so gender bias and stereotypes have no place in our workplaces.

Ally Glendenning, Deputy General Manager, Resource Recovery Australia, Tuncurry

Danielle O’Toole, Director, D & M Scrap Metal, Corowa

‘I think the way I have helped grow and develop our business to what it is today has helped “#breakthebias”.’

My husband had worked in a metal recycling yard for a number of years when they decided to close the Corowa division. Rather than see the facility close, we decided to launch our own business and continue to provide the recycling service to the community.

When I first became aware of the Return and Earn scheme, I knew our business had to be a part of it. When I initially applied to be an over the counter service provider the expectation was that people could deposit approximately 100 or less containers at a time with us. However, I knew we had the capabilities to take in more. We quickly increased the number of staff dedicated to the project, and now millions of containers are deposited at our site each year.

I love knowing that we are helping NSW become a more sustainable state. I have six children that need this planet to be in the best condition possible, and their children and so on. I want my legacy to be of sustainability and renewal.

I do believe gender bias still exists in my field as the scrap metal industry is a predominately male industry. That said, my contributions and ideas have always been welcomed and accepted. I think that the way I have helped grow and develop our business to what it is today has helped ‘#breakthebias’ as it shows that women do have the knowledge and aspirations it takes to be a leading company in an industry.

Danielle O’Toole, Director, D & M Scrap Metal, Corowa

Michelle Mandl-Keating Communications & Engagement Manager, TOMRA Cleanaway

‘The program we are working on is creating a legacy. For my children and grandchildren, container returns will be the norm.’

My recycling and sustainability journey started in the early 2000’s as an environmental educator and I have been in waste, resource management and sustainability ever since 

In my role with TOMRA Cleanaway, I take the operational activities and data from the back end of our network operations and work with a team that sculpt the way we speak about the scheme to the community. I get to steward a team that are central to building engaging and enduring relationships between our operations, the scheme and our customers—this translates to participation in the scheme, which currently sits at 78% of the NSW adult population.

There are so many stories of good news and ways the scheme is delivering social, environmental and economic benefits across the state. I can’t help be proud of our service delivery.

At the start of 2018 my youngest daughter came home from Kindy and told me, ‘Mummy I have 20c in my bag’. She had brought home two chocolate milk boxes from her friends’ lunch orders! The program we are working on is creating a legacy. For my children and grandchildren, container returns will be the norm. We are changing the way the community views waste and are shaping the next generations’ views on resources.

I think gender bias does exist in Australian society still. I am a big supporter of ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’ and as a mother to two daughters, I will do everything I can to expose them to stories of women working in a variety of industries and roles.

Michelle Mandl-Keating Communications & Engagement Manager, TOMRA Cleanaway

For more information on partnering to host a return point, please contact us.

This article was first published here.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March every year as a call to action for accelerating gender parity.