Saving lives and the environment with landfill
Updated: 5 July 2021
According to Enviro Sand Chairman Jim McKnoulty asking “dumb questions” helped his company turn a common landfill item into a valuable commodity that is saving lives and the environment.
With long term exposure to mined sand dust a serious hazard, Enviro Sand is converting tons of dirty glass waste into recycled glass e-Sand and powders, providing a sustainable alternative to natural sand, and reducing, by 99 per cent, the risk of silicosis lung disease in people working in construction, stonework, and mining.
Manufactured locally, e-Sand is used in building and road construction, water filtration systems, sandblasting, 3D printing, and in the production of silicosis free bench tops, splashbacks, and tiles, creating new eco-friendly markets for products that traditionally extract raw materials from the environment.
Treating discarded glass as a commodity - not a waste product - was the philosophy behind Enviro Sand’s world’s best practice process which won both the Urban Utilities Award for Product Innovation and the Yurika Award for Environmental Sustainability in Business in the 2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards.
“It’s crazy that 60 per cent of all waste glass goes to the dump. There is something wrong with that picture,” Chairman Jim McKnoulty said.
“Secondly, this is not a waste product, it’s a commodity. People just have not thought about how to turn it back into a commodity, so they dig up more of our natural resources from our environment.
“We asked ourselves what commodities it can e- Sand replace”?
Describing Enviro Sand’s push into the recycling and waste space as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle, Mr McKnoulty admitted being a change leader in the industry was very hard.
“The ‘big guys’ are not really recycling; they are just filling holes or in one case in NSW dumping waste over 20 metres deep supposedly to build a golf course. Putting it into a hole in the ground is not recycling it. It’s landfill and in many cases in NSW, no-one seems to be policing it.
“I believe if something is not right, you’ve got to change the rules. We’re small guys, but we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, and they will have to follow when regulations change,” Mr McKnoulty said.
Following some challenging years, Mr McKnoulty said winning the Urban Utilities Award for Product Innovation was ‘a shot in the arm for the whole team’.
“It gave us recognition and status and gave our most important strategic partners like CoEx Container Exchange and Visy a boost of confidence in us and our ability to deliver at a critical time,” he said.
“Partnership is the power in anything,” he added. “We have just merged with IQ Renew in NSW which gives us the horsepower to expand into Sydney, Melbourne and possibly Perth.
“We’re pushing forward with a $6m upgrade of the Wacol facility so we can process 100,000 tonnes a year. Enough capacity to ensure that none of the waste glass in Queensland goes to landfill,” he said.
Setting his sights on the future Mr McKnoulty said while silicosis was a major focus over the next five years, the next really big opportunity is the use of e-Sand in 3-D printing.
“We’ve signed a JV with a Singaporean university that has a centre for excellence for 3-D printing and they resolve to only use recycled glass like e-Sand, because they have a big island with lots of glass and no sand. We’ve had interest from Taiwan as well,” he added.
As for why Brisbane is the best city to do business in, “Brisbane, to me, is real and it’s about people,” Mr McKnoulty said. “Unlike Sydney where the culture is often ‘for me to win, you have to lose’, In Brisbane is it is almost a partnership approach and ‘win win’.”