Posted by Katie Heilbronn on 17 August 2021 | Comments

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For many, landfill is a convenient and final waste management solution for materials that tend to hang around longer than we wish they would. But for some tourism operators, diverting waste from landfill was the only option for a sustainable future – and it meant getting creative. The waste series ‘Lay Waste to Landfill’ explores the outstanding innovations from our ECO certified operators who go above and beyond to turn their waste management systems into a force for good. 

Mt Barney Lodge has a longstanding commitment to environmental protection and sustainable practices, so when Queensland introduced its Containers for Change program which enables people to exchange cans and bottles for 10 cents each, it was no surprise they jumped on board. Made all the easier through their groundskeeper’s efforts to collect bottles, the lodge eased into this simple initiative.

But what started as a simple way for that groundskeeper to earn some extra cash became an opportunity for one of the ecolodge’s owners, Tracey Larkin, to embark on a journey of education, creating a recycling movement amongst guests that inspired conscious recycling beyond their ECO holiday.

Mt Barney Lodge QLD MBL team

Just a couple of hours drive from Brisbane, Mt Barney Lodge is Advanced Ecotourism certified, a Climate Action Business, and will achieve Hall of Fame status in 2022 for reaching the milestone of 20 years of ECO certification. Its setting at the foot of magnificent Mount Barney makes Tracey and her staff some of the lucky few who experience Southeast Queensland’s biodiversity daily – and it makes them even more aware of the importance of looking after the area.

Over the past two to three years, the team has taken a closer look at their waste management stream. Starting with composting, they moved to soft plastics for Plastic Free July and encouraged guests not to bring plastic water bottles to the lodge. But how would they take advantage of the Containers for Change program without simply taking the profits for themselves? “You’ve always got good intentions about what environmental thing you’ll put it towards, and then it just gets consolidated,” Tracey stated. “For us, it was more [about] what can we do with this item now there’s a price tag attached.”

Mt Barney Lodge QLD MBL recycle containers

After careful consideration, the team landed on a decision to redirect the profit of each can and bottle possible to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), the largest environmental legal service in the Asia-Pacific. Since 1985, the EDO has been a legal force for environmental and wildlife protection, offering free or low-cost legal advice to communities, taking landmark environmental cases to court, and holding governments accountable. Tracey’s decision to support the EDO stems from a deep appreciation and recognition for the lodge’s natural surroundings, and rightly so.

“We would much rather put our 10-cent money towards an organisation who’s protecting the environment that our business depends upon,” she said.

Posting their recycling movement on social media and through e-newsletters aims to educate people on the world of good they achieve, but perhaps their most effective method of education is sending a pre-stay email that notifies guests of the expectations around waste in their ecolodge. “We are educating people before they even get there,” Tracey stated, who noticed guests taking a keen interest in their waste management efforts upon arrival. Even the lodge’s groundskeeper is asked questions as he separates and recycles waste on the premises. As Tracey says, “that casual conversation builds education.”

The Containers for Change program has also provided a clear pathway for waste auditing. “We wanted it to be completely separate so we could tag it and know exactly, down to the last can…how many tens of thousands of bottles and cans have gone into funding since,” Tracey explained.

Collection of cans in a metal crate waiting to be sorted

Over the past 6 months Mt Barney Lodge has recorded 88,450 recycled bottles and cans, equating to $8,845 in donations to the EDO – an incredible achievement.

Through coordinating with the EDO, Tracey has created the container number C10404476 that guests can enter when they return items to Containers for Change that encourages guests to continue recycling for a cause beyond their ECO holiday. “Everything we do is about everyday ECO actions,” she said, noting that Containers for Change has broken down negative perceptions on a state-wide scale that being eco-conscious is difficult and requires a lot of effort.

With initiatives like this, it’s no wonder customers are returning again and again, knowing they are in trusted hands of Tracey Larkin and the Mt Barney Lodge team to make their holiday sustainable.

Do you have a novel waste management solution that stands out amongst the rest? Let us know at to be featured in our ‘Lay Waste to Landfill’ series. 


All images courtesy of Mt Barney Lodge

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