Give all job seekers, including those with mental illness, a fair go: Surplus Recycling Services

Corporate social responsibility extends well beyond the environment for one of the nation’s largest, privately owned electronic “e-waste” recyclers.

Managing Director of Melbourne-based Surplus Recycling Services, Ron, includes empowerment through employment for everyone, including people with mental illness and disabilities, in his definition of social responsibility.

“Our hope to guide and inspire our people to realise their potential and achieve fulfilling goals,” he says. “Everyone has the right to the dignity of employment.”

Surplus Recycling Services has hired more than 30 job seekers with mental illness and disabilities in recent years at its Thomastown plant headquarters in Melbourne’s western suburbs. That number is more than a third of its total workforce and is likely to increase with the firm’s future expansion across its three Victorian sites.

National not-for-profit employment services provider, WISE Employment, which has developed a strong employment partnership with Surplus Recycling Services in recent years through its Broadmeadows office, placed the job seekers who have a mental illness.

Surplus Recycling Services processes all electronic waste, including TVs, appliances and computers or “anything with an electric cord”. The waste is broken down into components, recycled and sold nationally and off-shore for industrial and commercial purposes.  Only two per cent of the end-waste goes to landfill.

As a fast-moving sector, Ron says he relies on his workforce to innovate and learn continuously as they roll out new technologies and infrastructure to improve their performance.  It is an exciting time for the sector and he takes pride in seeing his people grow and develop with the family owned and operated enterprise, which celebrated its 10 years in business in October 2013.

Ron says hiring and developing staff with mental illness and diverse abilities can be challenging and requires patience and compassion.  He is personally committed to creating employment opportunities.

Ron is also aware that stigma still surrounds mental illness in the workforce and may continue to be barrier for job seekers and employees.

“For us, it’s not an issue. There are plenty of people out there with emotional, social or physical challenges or issues in their backgrounds who are talented contributors to our workforces .  We like to keep it simple.  Everyone deserves a chance and compassion,” he adds.

Ron says workers with diverse abilities thrive and succeed in compassionate workplace cultures.

“That’s just part of who we are at Surplus Recycling Services. We invest time and effort in development and training for staff. It’s a magnificent team. And it’s worth it,” he says.

The rewards, he says, come from seeing smiling, satisfied workers on the factory floor, where everyone is different, but treated equally.

“It’s rewarding for me to see people, many of whom are among the most isolated in our community, get a sense of well-being, pride and satisfaction through their work,” he says. “There’s nothing better than seeing someone clock-on at work and have the confidence to have a go and seeing those faces light up on the factory floor when you walk through.”

Ron says WISE Employment’s Broadmeadows office has worked hard to demonstrate a deep understanding of his company’s workforce and staff needs.  “The quality of the job candidates put forward for interview and the support has been exceptional. This has been central to the success of building our team.”


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