Greener solutions through employment

NQ Green Solutions, a sub-branch of NQ Employment, is working to bridge the gap for people experiencing barriers to employment while helping the planet in the process.

John Jones, Ciara McDonnell, Riley Catanzaro, Caitlin McDonnell

NQ Green Solutions, a sub-branch of NQ Employment, is working to bridge the gap for people experiencing barriers to employment while helping the planet in the process.

Since its inception in 2019, the social enterprise has gone from strength to strength and is now a central hub for recycling in town, with over 14 million containers exchanged for 10-cent refunds in the last two years.

Mark Haynes, the CEO of NQ Employment and NQ Green Solutions, said the team is delighted by the initiative’s success, which has seen the company move to bigger premises on Robert Street to meet demand.

“NQ Green solutions is a social enterprise, a business run mainly for people with disabilities, injuries or health conditions, or someone experiencing barriers to employment. We also offer employment opportunities for Senior School Students on Saturday mornings and during school holidays,” said Mr Haynes.

“We’re a not-for-profit organisation, and we were originally operating out of a building on the corner of Graham and Spiller Streets, but we’ve now outgrown that, which is great.”

Burdekin site manager Brendan Ford explained that the organisation works within the Containers for Change scheme, encouraging recycling in the community by providing a 10-cent refund for every eligible beverage container returned.

“We had seen efforts to expand locally with the Containers for Change program, and basically, we took that concept with both hands, and it’s just gone from there, and gone ahead in leaps and bounds,” said Mr Ford.

“We’ve had a really good response from the local community.”

The initiative has taken off, with NQ Employment clients enjoying their new community-facing roles, assisting with the collection and repayment of the containers.

“It’s just exploded, really, and we have had a lot of interest. It’s all about expanding now, and obviously, as a not-for-profit, we’re not about making a killing from it; it’s about giving people employment opportunities,” said Mr Ford.

“We do work with disadvantaged people who are experiencing that either due to a health condition or different circumstances, and we help them get into the workforce.

“We teach them the basics about entry-level working, things like punctuality and work ethic, and we pay them award wage.”

He said that the initiative has further-reaching benefits from the community than just providing jobs by encouraging conversations about waste and recycling to better the planet.

Local schools have even gotten on board with their own container collecting initiatives. The NQ Green Solutions team has shared anecdotes of kids setting saving goals by determining the number of cans required to buy their dream pushbike or treat.

“I think it is teaching some valuable lessons to students as well, and I have had discussions with teachers about projects that teach students about recycling, reusing and sustainability,” said Mr Ford.

“We’re spending money locally and creating businesses locally, employing locals as well, and we’re giving back to the community in any way that we can.”

About the author

Marina is an experienced journalist who has reported from different countries around the world, with a particular interest in local features that impact a community. Making the move last year from Sydney, she has been with Burdekin Local News since its beginnings and enjoys covering health stories, ... more