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Recycling at forefront for electrical training

TAFE Queensland's electrical training materials are being recycled with local business Pipemakers Australia once apprentices are done with them.

TAFE Queensland trains the most electrical apprentices in the state, with more than 6,000 apprentices in training in the Certificate III Electrotechnology Electrician (UEE30820) as at June 30 2023, with its flagship Acacia Ridge trade training facility hosting the largest cohort of these apprentices.

Training these students requires the use of thousands of lengths of PVC conduit products each year which local Acacia Ridge business Pipemakers Australia supplies to the campus, and electrical teacher Rob Witham has been working hard to ensure offcuts and used lengths of the product are recycled after use.

Following some discussion with Business Manager of Utilities Training at TAFE Queensland Acacia Ridge, Keith Evans, and Pipemakers, Rob organised for Pipemakers to collect and recycle the used products on a regular basis, breaking down the material to re-manufacture it into the essential PVC conduit products it supplies.

TAFE Queensland electrical apprentices are required to design, install, and test an electrical switchboard in a simulated work environment, incorporating various wiring systems and different types of electrical conduits from scratch, meaning pre-cut, bent, and joined sections of conduit are not re-used by later classes. Instead, longer sections of used conduit are re-purposed until they become too short for viable use in an apprentice’s project, at which time they are set aside for recycling at Pipemakers’ facility.

The initiative was a ‘no-brainer’ according to the TAFE Queensland teacher, who said throughout his electrical trade career he had rarely been able to recycle onsite materials due to contamination.

“We have a great opportunity with the conduit we use for training because it’s perfectly clean. The main problem with recycling this material is that when it’s removed from real-world use it has often been painted over and been in use for many years. Our conduit is used inside and never painted, so it’s ready to be broken down straight away,” Mr Witham said.

“To me and the other teachers, recycling is really important, we always reuse materials wherever we can but once these conduit lengths are too short to use again we wanted to make sure they are recycled properly,” he said.

Pipemakers salesman Callum Hennessey was on site at the Acacia Ridge campus to collect two bags of conduit ready for recycling and said Pipemakers was happy to work with TAFE Queensland to recycle everything possible.

“Pipemakers Australia is committed to the continuous development in numerous areas of its environmental policies including reclaiming offcuts and scrapped products. Given the nature of TAFE Queensland’s use for our product, they return a much larger volume of material than most of our clients,” Mr Hennessey said.

“As a signatory to the Australian PVC Industry Product Stewardship program, Pipemakers is highly committed to reducing the waste volume from the use of its products,” he said.

TAFE Queensland Acacia Ridge Utilities Training Business Manager, Keith Evans, said that in addition to enacting recycling policies for its training wherever possible, TAFE Queensland also used such initiatives as an education piece for the future of the electrical industry.

“Applying sustainable energy principles and work practices are an essential requirement for all electrical competencies taught at TAFE Queensland. It is an expectation that the sustainable work practices apprentices have learnt are then competently applied in their own working environment,” Mr Evans said.

This recycling effort is just one example of the ways in which TAFE Queensland teaching teams across hundreds of different qualifications and dozens of campuses around the state are implementing TAFE Queensland’s Social and Environmental Sustainability Action Plan.