TOMRA Cleanaway is proud to welcome our newest TOMRA Collections Pacific Team member, Tor Eirik Knutsen. Formerly Norwegian-based Chief Financial Officer of TOMRA’s global collections division, Tor Eirik arrived in Australia in early 2023 to take up the role of President and CEO of TOMRA Collections Pacific. It was also recently announced that Tor Eirik will take on a broader role as Head of APAC for TOMRA Collection.
A lengthy history working with TOMRA’s global sorting and collections operations over two sessions that commenced in 2004 until 2013, Tor Eirik had a sabbatical of 7 years before ‘coming back home’ to TOMRA in 2020. During Tor Eirik’s first TOMRA season, he was tasked with a breadth of activities that would pivot the TOMRA reverse vending technology focussed business, cementing the organisation as a leader in various technology and optical sorting industries, including recycling optical sorting, food optical sorting and mining optical sorting.
Tor Eirik reflects on his time leading mergers and acquisitions and business development activities as a considerable period of growth and development but an exceptionally hectic period. Throughout the era, travel away from home was a frequent requirement, as he was tasked to investigate the integration of new business functions into the TOMRA group. In his Business Development and M&A role, making an acquisition that formed the current TOMRA Sorting Business in Australia, Tor Eirik had his first experience with Sydney. After his visit, Tor Eirik reported back to his wife that Sydney was a safe and welcoming place he would love to live.
Leading Operations with a Global Finance Lens
In 2013 Tor Eirik left TOMRA to have, as he described it, ‘a reset’ and to put himself and his family first. This reset saw Tor Eirik working in financial roles outside TOMRA’s operations for seven years. In 2020 Tor Eirik re-joined TOMRA as the CFO for TOMRA’s Collections division. The road map to Deposit Refund Schemes (DRS) in the European Union was much clearer as he re-joined the global leading business in Container Deposit Schemes (CDS). In 2020, a clear directive was to deliver effective DRS across the European Union. The outcome focussed activity of implementing the right DRS was geared towards delivering high container redemption rates and circular ‘closed loop’ recycling outcomes for commodities.
Tor Eirik is a financial leader who believes in numbers, and the story they tell, and his favourite quote comes from the movie Jerry Maguire, ‘Show me the Money’!, said with a smile. The challenge for financial leaders, he says, is working to “..deliver both short outcomes whilst also keeping an eye on longer-term goals”. Excel sheets are sometimes dangerous, and one can lose many opportunities if all decisions are based on IRR or NPV.
His experience with TOMRA Global armed Tor Eirik with complete knowledge and comprehension of the European DRS landscape, but the emerging Pacific CDS market remained an opportunity for personal learning and development. Tor Eirik was aware of what was occurring in NSW via the TOMRA Cleanaway operation as a network operator for Return and Earn. However, he did not fully comprehend the complexities of the region’s evolving CDS until he joined the TOMRA Cleanaway Board as TOMRA’s global representative in 2021. This cornerstone opportunity helped define Tor Eirik’s future in Australia.
Getting to know Australian Operations
Following three years as CFO of TOMRA Collection, Tor Eirik was offered the role of CEO and President of TOMRA Collections Pacific in late 2022. Some trepidation occurred in the decision-making process, but after discussion with his wife and family, a bold move to Sydney was agreed upon. The opportunity to live in Australia with his family was viewed as “…a one-time-only chance”. Tor Eirik has said he is constantly amazed he gets to live in such a beautiful, safe place with incredible food and so friendly and welcoming people.
In terms of personal goals and achievements as President and CEO of TOMRA Collections Pacific, Tor Eirik said, “If I can look back on each day at work and feel good about that day, and sense that I have helped my Team deliver excellence, then that is my goal and I have done my job well. Employees that feel good and safe tend to perform well over time.”
Spending his time deep diving into Australian operations, Tor Eirik has made it his mission to get to know the Team delivering services. From technicians, field site attendants, sales and partnership management staff and the TOMRA service centre – Tor Eirik ensures he understands the day-to-day responsibilities of the growing Australian network team.
Tor Eirik’s believes that “all TOMRA, TOMRA Cleanaway, and Cleanaway employees are equally important to demonstrate our excellence in operating this broad and complex network of collection sites. My ambition is to visit all TOMRA sites in NSW, Queensland, WA and any future states. When I see any errors, I report them to our excellent help desk. I always pick up all the garbage and clean up the broken glass around the kiosks to ensure our landlords are happy with us and consumers find it convenient to visit us. I expect that all employees that are part of this fantastic joint venture do the same.”
Regarding his leadership style, Tor Eirik has reflected that he is a leader that is happy to make mistakes, as long as they are mistakes he can learn from, “I love to learn new things and try to learn something new every day. I think it is important also as a leader to admit when I make a mistake and own the mistake – as long as I learn from them!”
Tor Eirik brings to TOMRA Collections Pacific a strong focus on developing the Australian Team, as it is the collective group that results in success, not just one individual. Tor Eirik believes in one Team, “Without the right mindset and the right people working together, we will not be successful”.
Having a sense of Team across the business and in each of the jurisdictions that TOMRA Collections Pacific operates (Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales) is important for developing the organisation, which is relatively newly established in Australia. Tor Eirik believes in surrounding the organisation with people with the ‘right mindset’ regarding the ultimate goals and aspirations of TOMRA – primarily to deliver a convenient and efficient container return scheme network that rewards the community, stakeholders and partners.
Western NSW Run – Getting to know the Community and the Network
Recently, Tor Eirik was fortunate to attend TOMRA Cleanaway’s executive team ‘Western Run’. A driving tour involving meet and greets and site visitation across the vast west of NSW. An eye-opening experience for anyone, including TOMRA Cleanaway’s Chairman, newly arrived from Winter in Norway.
TOMRA Cleanaway’s complementary network of return points in the region includes over-the-counter return points that are co-hosted and located in existing business operations; some include hardware stores, community clubs and hotels. Automated depots (AD) are TOMRA Cleanaway’s service offering to manage the bulk volume of container refunds. Tor Eirik met small business operators, including the Bathurst Return and Earn AD, run by Chris and Craig and also visited the Vinnies NSW/ REDI.E joint venture operated AD in Dubbo. This site has just completed processing 50 million containers since commencing operations!
As the backbone of the TOMRA Cleanaway network, reverse vending machines were frequently visited. At sites across the region, customers observed and chatted with, and the experience of the regional NSW community was critical for learning about customer behaviour and habits.
As Tor Eirik reflects on his experience over his initial introduction to the Pacific region and Australian operations, he is buoyed by the opportunity ahead. Availability of plenty of eligible drinks containers to be captured and recycled, and further to this, there is still opportunity for container return schemes in new jurisdictions in Australia and the Pacific.