Stephen Rowe has watched and welcomed the world of recycling emerge.
Stephen Rowe has watched and welcomed the world of recycling emerge. Alistair Brightman

Everything old gains new value

THE CURIOSITY factor and an openness to change have played an integral part in making recycling a part of everyday life on the Fraser Coast.

So too have people like Stephen Rowe, gatekeeper at the council’s recycling centre.

He recalls the early days, shortly after the gates of the Nikenbah centre were flung open in 2004, when bus tours and Sunday drivers were commonplace.

It’s not long since he overheard two women remarking on how neat and tidy the centre is. A South African woman visited the centre during the last month; she had heard about it during a visit to Qld and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s about recycling.

“It’s an ongoing thing. People are becoming more aware,” Mr Rowe says.

“We try and sell the recycling side of it as much as we can. It’s selling itself. People have embraced the concept.”

Mr Rowe still handles the bookwork, as he did when he started working for the council 11 years ago. But the ledgers and receipts are categorised very differently to the days when the city tip was at Beck Road.

Nowadays it’s not unusual to have a list of wanted goods, from red tables to Holden wheel rims, that people ask Mr Rowe and company to keep an eye out for.

“I’ll keep a name in the back of the mind and if I see it I’ll ring them.”

It’s this kind of attitude that saw Mr Rowe presented with a customer service award at last month’s meeting of the Fraser Coast council.

Accepting his prize from Mayor Mick Kruger he recalled how as a boy scout he collected discarded lemonade bottles as a means of earning a few bob.

The 21st Century version of recycling isn’t that different.

Each day he greets a range of new and reformed recyclers, informing and educating on the ever-widening world of reuse.

Every driver who pulls up at the gate is asked what they have on board. An interrogation it is not. The gatekeeper is on the recycler’s side and if the amount of green waste on board exceeds any other waste then the financial transaction is painless.

“Sometimes people cheat and they don’t need to,” Mr Rowe says.

A team of 15 volunteers and community workers wade through the disposal areas.

About 20 tonnes of steel, all reclaimed, comes into the centre each week.

“In days gone by that was buried. “Everything that comes here and goes out again eventually comes back again.”

That includes all kinds of everything, not least the very salvageable boat that was dropped one morning.

There was the run on analogue televisions when the flat screens became the rage.

The copper from the TV tubes was captured if the television stayed on the shelf.

“You’ve got to turn a blind eye to it or you’d end up with a shed full of it and never do anything with it.”

And while the story of the folder discovered with four 9-carat fully authenticated stamps lifts the spirits, the one about the $2000 gold bracelet lost forever in a wheelie bin is more common.

Then there was the teacher who pulled on a pair of gumboots and took to a 25-tonne mound in a vain search for a shoe box with mobile phone and wallet.

He also learned about recycling, the hard way.

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