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Recycle South – It’s about people and purpose

The Southland App


26 March 2024, 8:56 PM

Recycle South – It’s about people and purposeAll the award winners. Photo: Supplied

For five decades Recycle South has been a shining example of inclusion in our community, providing valuable employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 

Originally known as Southland Disability Enterprises, this not-for-profit organisation has been instrumental in shaping the lives of its employees while contributing significantly to the city's environmental efforts.

Recycle South celebrated its 50th anniversary on March 22nd, the occasion was marked not only by festivities but also by honouring the remarkable individuals who form the backbone of the organisation. Unlike conventional workplace awards, Recycle South recognises the "quiet achievers" and those with the "X Factor," highlighting the unique contributions of each employee.

50th anniversary cake. Photo: Supplied

General Manager, Hamish McMurdo emphasises the awards night is all about their people, many of whom may not have achieved in other places in life. 

“They’re proud to come to work, they’re committed, and they should be recognised for that. Plus, they love a good party.”

At Recycle South, inclusivity isn't just a buzzword—it's a way of life. The organisation has worked tirelessly to create an environment where employees not only find meaningful employment but also gain independence and learn essential life skills. 

For the last four years, in partnership with SIT/Te Pukenga, they have offered a Supported Learning Certificate. Under the guidance of Julia, the onsite tutor, the team work through various topics like communicating/interaction, hygiene and keeping safe.

ILT President Paddy O’Brien and Julia McIntyre The McMurdo Family Staff Member of the Year. Photo: Supplied

“When we started this course, it was the first of its kind allowing them to earn NZQA credits. It is an important win for them as it’s the first time in their life they are able to succeed in the classroom. 

They get to graduate with all the other students and experience the joy of walking across the stage, sharing the moment with their parents and family”, said Hamish. 

With around 120 employees, 80 of whom are people with disabilities, providing support is essential.  

Shelley Clark, the People and Capability Manager plays a crucial role. Describing the team as a "big family" and she oversees the pastoral care and support, ensuring that employees thrive both at work and in their personal lives.

Recycle South’s commitment to its employees extends beyond the workplace with transportation services available and a flexible working environment to accommodate individual needs. 

Longest serving employee and one of our newest employees cutting the cake. Photo: Supplied

“We also have a full social calendar, we arrange outings to the movies for them, hold discos and go ten pin bowling. We have a lot of fun together,” said Shelley. 

For those with aspirations for mainstream employment, Recycle South offers support to develop the necessary skills. However, many of the team find fulfilment in long-term roles, such as Bob, the oldest employee at 73 years old – who shows no signs of retiring!

In 2021, Recycle South underwent a rebranding to better reflect its operations and values. This helped highlight their recycling service but also ensured they could continue to grow and innovate. 

This is exactly what they’ve done with the addition of the further processing plant, leading the charge in recycling agricultural waste and bale wrap. 

Hamish McMurdo says people would be surprised by the scope of their operation. 

“We have grown from having a staff of 8 to now having a team of over 100. But it’s more than just giving people a job. We’re providing our team with worthwhile employment and making them feel valued. It also gives their caregivers and parents some respite time.”

Being a not for profit organisation means the support Recycle South receives from local community funders like ILT and Community Trust South is crucial in allowing them to continue to offer this inclusive work environment. 

Paddy O’Brien, ILT and ILT Foundation President, expressed deep pride in their longstanding support of Recycle South spanning over 25 years. 

“We are honoured to support an innovative organisation like Recycle South that shares our community focus. They have made significant contributions to the city's environmental endeavours, but more importantly, they continue to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” he said. 

So next time you recycle, remember the amazing individuals behind the scenes at Recycle South, whose dedication and hard work contribute to a more sustainable future. They're not just hard workers; they're a fantastic bunch of people too!

Published by arrangement

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