Self-made recycling king

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
47-year-old Mike Barker started Geraldton and Midwest E-Waste on July 2.
Camera Icon47-year-old Mike Barker started Geraldton and Midwest E-Waste on July 2. Credit: Tamra Carr

Dozens of businesses have abandoned Meru Landfill and are dumping rubbish in Webberton, where volunteers housed in an industrial shed have kickstarted recycling in Geraldton.

Utakarra entrepreneur Mike Barker started Geraldton and Midwest E-Waste in July and has since grown the venture to eight volunteers, who have unloaded rubbish from about 50 businesses that have been incentivised to deliver to Webberton because there’s no dumping fee and, for many, Webberton is closer than the City landfill.

Volunteers offer cash for discarded pieces that could be decorative, and mash up plastic and glass for bitumen mix for road paving.

Stripped steel is handed to Geraldton Scrap Metal and product circuit boards will soon be nabbed by a Perth-based company.

Mr Barker, who was on welfare until mid-September, previously ran a steel fabrication shop, which he said “didn’t work out”.

He then worked from home and profited from Geraldton’s old curbside pick-ups, where he would acquire bed frames, fix them and sell them on buy-and-sell sites.

He decided to start the recycling business to provide for his wife and two children, create jobs for people and get rubbish out of landfill.

“We’re family funded and on the tiniest of shoestring budgets, because obviously being on the dole I couldn’t afford it,” Mr Barker said.

“About $20,000 was put in, and the biggest expense was the laptop ($1500) and the ute ($3000) and then I got tools for everyone and safety railing and all that. We rent and when our landlord, Paul Rolston, found out what we were doing, he dropped the rent to help us out.

“My first priority is to give our volunteers job security and wages.

“I’m not worried about profit, I’m worried about creating jobs and getting crap off the landfill.

“I’d like to make a living but I’ll be the last to get paid.”

Mr Barker’s volunteers are all welfare recipients, which consist of long-term friends and work placement agency clients.

A Geraldton Senior College work experience student has also volunteered and there are plans to get local disability service clients involved.

E-Waste accepts plastic, glass, styrofoam, electronics, solar panels, barbecues, tools, batteries, household appliances, whitegoods, computers, welders and vacuum cleaners.

Individuals can also drop off their rubbish at the site.

Mr Barker said people had been waiting a long time to see recycling in Geraldton.

“People would take glass products to Perth but now they’re coming here,” he said.

“We’ve had people come from Shark Bay with bags of glass because they just want to see it recycled.

“People have been storing up these things for years, just waiting for someone to do this. We’re struggling to keep up with it all to be honest.”

Mr Barker said Geraldton and Midwest E-Waste was in negotiations with Northampton Shire to take items from its landfill and he also hopes to expand to Dongara.

He plans to investigate ways to secure funding for machines to help strip and smash the rubbish.

To volunteer, or to donate, contact Geraldton and Midwest E-Waste on 0408 967 112 or visit its site at 12 Stow Street, Webberton.

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