Return and Earn celebrates International Women's Day 2023
This International Women’s Day, we’re shining a light on some of the amazing women working behind the scenes of Return and Earn from scheme partners NSW Environment Protection Authority, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.
They share their insights and reflections into who inspires them, what they wish they’d known when they were younger, how the world is changing, and what they see for the future.
Tracy McLeod Howe, Exchange for Change Chairperson
I always say, if you want to achieve something, then you must embrace the fear. When my kids say, “I want to do this”, or “I wish I could do that”, I say, “Well, just do it, even if you’re scared.” Everyone is scared when they take a chance on something. Fear is normal, and you just need to run towards it!
Over the years, I’ve noticed a change in leadership in corporate, government and non-profits; there are more and more women breaking through barriers. In the past 10 years especially, I’ve seen more and more women in the room—and more women in the room being taken seriously.
I’ve also seen technology enable a real democratic capacity for anyone to become involved. Social media means someone can get their message heard, regardless of background, gender or culture. It has become a way for young people to find a platform and be heard —someone like Greta Thunberg is now speaking at the United Nations.
Tracey Boyes, TOMRA Cleanaway Board member
When I look to the future, I see incredible innovation underway in resource streams such as textiles, batteries and solar. It’s moving so quickly that it quite often takes my breath away. There is so much opportunity for us all to grab, and I’m excited to be part of it.
I would advise my younger self not to be afraid—there will be challenges where the answer or path forward isn’t clear, but if you’re open to listening, creating and being uncomfortable, the way will swim into focus just enough to take that next step. And that is enough.
When I think about women who inspire me professionally, I’m a patchwork quilt—my Mum for her tenacity and forthright nature, a family friend for her grace, a previous Board director for her grit and assertiveness, a current peer for her enthusiasm, Julia Gillard for the way she articulates those things she cares about deeply, and Jacinta Arden for showing that you can both have heart and deliver results.
Nikita Nagpal, Acting Commercial Manager, Exchange for Change
Traditional gender roles are no longer valid, and men are now dealing with new expectations. Fortunately, many men find it completely normal to take parental leave, do household chores and be the primary caregiver. I have been fortunate to work for a company like Exchange for Change which has a team of strong women in leadership. The CEO of Exchange for Change, Danielle Smalley, has inspired me. She has very strong ideals and is so approachable.
Sustainability is a broad, relatively new field—and it is expanding. I encourage every young individual to be curious and ask questions about what role they can play. I also encourage them to seek experienced insights early and often—you don’t have to learn all the lessons alone. I have been fortunate to be part of an organisation where I have found many fantastic mentors.
Jasmine Arnold, Operations Supervisor, Cleanaway
My sister inspires me to never let anything get in my way and to just get back up when I’m feeling defeated. She has always told me I can do anything I put my mind to and that the sky is the limit.
I would tell my younger self to educate myself on sustainability and how our actions affect ourselves, the environment, and the generations to come. If I had educated myself earlier, I would have known about the opportunities for work in the sector sooner; and working at Cleanaway makes me feel like I am giving back and doing something to improve the environment and people’s lives.
One amazing development I’ve seen at work is companies providing women on-the-job education and upskilling, particularly around skills needed for roles that could be seen as “traditionally male”, such as truck driving and operating machine recycling facilities.
Jayne Tabone, Driver, Cleanaway
I wish I could have told my younger self to start work with Cleanaway years ago—driving trucks is amazing! The fact that I’m helping the environment by recycling is an added bonus. The suburbs have been a lot cleaner since Return and Earn started.
There are a lot more women in higher management roles these days, as well as in traditionally male-dominated industries. Since starting at Cleanaway, I’ve noticed out on the roads there are a lot more women driving trucks. It’s not just a male role anymore.
Recycling is more common these days too. Kids are now taught from a young age about the positive outcome recycling will have on their future.
Marta Scuccuglia, Community Engagement Manager, Exchange for Change
My mother, Maria Concetta, is my personal and professional role model. She is the youngest and most rebellious of seven kids. She worked for over 45 years in the insurance sector, which remains a male-dominated industry in Italy. My mother loved her job – she was competent and brave. She had a high sense of responsibility and stood up for herself regardless of political and gender-based biases.
In Italy, gender-based inequality is, in a sly way, embedded in society and culture. Women who fight the status quo, like my mother, are an exception. As a single woman arriving in Australia, I was moved by so many examples of women who worked to overcome gender-based inequality. From scientists to policymakers, from entrepreneurs to artists, women in Australia continue to inspire me through their work. I am glad to see that there is a steady change of leadership in the waste and recycling sector, which the industry can benefit from.
Courtney Melton, Senior Field Site Attendant, TOMRA
I’m lucky to be surrounded by many inspiring women. I aspire to be like Tomra’s Operations Manager, Heather Sandberg. She is a kind, knowledgeable, confident, and supportive leader in a very demanding position while also being a busy mother.
When it comes to working in sustainability, I’d advise my younger self to just go for it! Working for TOMRA has been amazing. I started as a casual and since then have been given multiple opportunities for growth and experience. Working for a company doing great things for the environment is very rewarding.
Since beginning with TOMRA, I’ve been a part of many changes at the container deposit points, all of which have only made my job easier. Being able to control things such as bin weight and having the correct training make doing my job possible for anyone.
Donna McLachlan, Administration & Customer Service Officer, TOMRA Cleanaway
I’m inspired by Dolly Parton. She inspires me to not limit myself, to persevere and believe no goal is unattainable. I’d advise my younger self not to be discouraged from taking opportunities even when it appears to be a more male dominated industry. You need to be the change you want to see.
I was happy to see Cleanaway hosting a Women’s (truck) Driving Academy, which provided a safe environment for women to learn, and gave them the opportunity to enter what was previously considered to be a “man’s job”.
Since Return and Earn launched, I’ve noticed a positive change in peoples’ perspective around recycling, and a recognition of how their contribution can make a difference in litter reduction and sustainability.