People Of Binfluence: The 2024 Binfluencer Awards

2024 Binfluencer award winners

Meet The Binfluencers at the 2024 Binfluencer Awards.

Story and photos by Gabiann Marin.

In a testament to its continuing focus on sustainability, Blue Mountains City Council hosted the local Binfluencer Awards to recognise and reward those who are working to encourage and increase waste avoidance, reusing or recycling in their local communities.  The winners came from a wide cross-section of the community: individuals, organisations and businesses. All are role models for sustainability and waste reduction. 

Key Points:

  • Blue Mountains City Council hosted the Binfluencer Awards to promote sustainability and waste reduction.
  • Research shows that highlighting role models and community engagement is the best way to create cultural and behavioural change.
  • The winners of these seriously fun awards came from a cross section of the community and include individuals, school groups, community organisations and businesses.

On the overcast morning of May 4th 2024, the sun broke through the clouds and shone its welcome warmth upon the small crowd of people assembling at the Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub in Springwood.

The group, a mix of award nominees, families and supporters, local government organisers, councillors and local politicians all basked in the unexpected sunshine, chatting together in the illuminated glassed-in meeting room as they eagerly awaited the announcements of who would be awarded as a person or organisation of Binfluence.

Event organiser,  Jo-Anne Allan, Project Officer for the Sustainability and Waste Team at Blue Mountains City Council, pitched the idea of the Binfluencer Local Waste Reduction Awards after getting feedback that this was something the community wanted to see.

“We had the opportunity to engage with community about waste and sustainability solutions and we had a whole lot of people saying ‘why don’t we recognise all the people who are doing things around Avoid, Reuse and Recycle, the everyday person on the street, the person making good choices in their kitchen and community groups?’ And so, we thought this was a way, even just a small way, for us to say thank you. You are making a difference and you are having an influence.“

The Council, including Mayor Mark Greenhill, enthusiastically embraced the idea, culminating in the Saturday morning Award Ceremony.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill

Mayor Mark Greenhill is a great supporter of the Binfluencer Awards.

Nominations flooded in, including a nomination for Winmalee’s own Lids 4 Kids advocate Daniela Monero, who brought her whole family along to celebrate the Award Ceremony.

Although Daniela was not ultimately a winner, she was excited by all the ideas and initiatives of the other nominees and really pleased to be part of the Awards. You can find out more about Daniela’s efforts for micro-recycling here.

“If I could have awarded a prize to everyone nominated, I would have done it,” Jo-Anne admits, “because no matter how small they might think their individual contribution is, it is actually huge.“

Indeed, all the research shows that real behaviour and cultural change comes through peer-to-peer and community role modelling and conversations. This makes Binfluencers very influential!

Winners were eventually selected across three different categories: Waste Avoiders, Recyclers and Reusers in both an under 18s and an over 18-year division, as well as a super solo overall winner, who most exemplified the spirit of waste reduction in the Mountains area.

As the Director Culture and Community Services at BMCC, Kirrilly Twomey took centre stage at the front of the room, the crowd hushed, realising that the wait would soon be over and the winners would soon be announced. 

kirrily twomey

Kirrilly Twomey started the award ceremony with an inspiring opening address about the Awards.

Aunty Sharyn Halls welcomed everyone to Country and spoke eloquently of Australia’s First Peoples’ care for and nurturing of the land and how we all must work together to ensure that the Earth, which sustains us all, continues to be looked after now and in the future.

Then Mayor Mark Greenhill officially opened the awards, reflecting both the impressive contributions of the nominees and the tongue in cheek fun of the Award Celebrations in his remarks.

“We are here today,” Mayor Greenhill announced, “to celebrate the heroes in our community who don’t wear capes. But if they did, they would make them out of re-purposed materials, they would re-wear them countless times before recycling them correctly.”

The crowd laughed appreciatively as Mayor Greenhill went on to point out that, in keeping with the theme of the awards, he was wearing a shirt and jacket sourced from an opportunity shop.

Once the Mayor had warmed up the crowd he invited State MP for the Mountains, Trish Doyle to join him to officially present the first three awards of the day.

The first award was for Binfluencers under 18 years of age who made impressive efforts to avoid waste. The winner was Kindlehill Senior High School, nominated for their innovative and inspiring Katoomba Street Send Plastic Packing campaign, created to encourage local cafes to avoid the use of single-use plastic packaging and advocating for the implementation of a bulk milk delivery system that reduces plastic milk packaging by 80%.

kindle hill binfluencers

Representatives from Kindlehill Senior School accept the award for their innovative high street campaign.

The students did more than just come up with the idea. They engaged with local businesses, approached the Federal Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe as well as Local Member Trish Doyle for larger political support for the project and have also managed to convince Bendigo Bank to help provide a sponsorship of $5,000 towards the initiative.

This year the students have been capitalising on their success, working to fundraise the additional $24,000 needed to fully realise this campaign across Katoomba Street. With eight cafes already signed onto the program and a 9th to soon confirm, it’s clear that this initiative is going have a huge impact on waste reduction and avoidance, with the scheme already on track to save 36.9 tonnes of plastic waste over 5 years.

The representatives of the school are a testament to how the power of community and young people coming together can have a resounding impact on our plastic waste reduction and, thanks to the replicable nature of this idea, something that can be rolled out in other high streets across the Mountains and eventually across the nation.

Next up the winners of the award for Reuse in the under 18s category was announced: the Green Warriors from Blaxland East Public School. This environmentally-centred student representative committee are dedicated to helping reuse food scraps across their campus utilising their own purpose-built compost system and  being outspoken and forward-thinking advocates for green waste solutions.

East Blaxland Public School’s Green Warriors won Binfluencer Under 18 yrs Re-Use category

East Blaxland Public School’s Green Warriors won the Under 18 yrs Reuse category

Ella, a year six student representative for Green Warriors was very pleased to receive the prize, and although she assured me that she would be a zero-waste advocate even if the prize didn’t exist, she can see the benefit of such awards for the community.

“This helps raise awareness for everyone about what they can do to be active, and the winners get to be role models,” she said.

Green Warriors Ella and Jenna believe you are never too young to start caring about waste.

The next award for Recycling in the under 18 years category was perhaps the most hotly contested with three young people sharing this award. All the winners effectively used the Return and Earn recycling program to benefit both the environment and their local communities.

Sisters Isme and Eva Bernard, nominated by their proud parents, won for their extensive bottle and can recycling, the proceeds of which they donated to local charities, after putting some aside for a family holiday. The girls and their parents were not there to receive their award and it was accepted on their behalf by Mayor Mark Greenhill.

The other recipient of the award was Elijah Lonsdale (and his monkey puppet Crumpet), a local YouTuber and advocate for the Down Syndrome Community, who started a community recycling program to convert return and earn bottles and cans into funding for a range of Elijah and Crumpet children’s books, written by Elijah. Once printed, the books are donated to families and schools around the Blue Mountains. Elijah and his parents were on hand to receive Elijah’s prize, although Crumpet the monkey was unavailable and had to send his apologies.

Elijah Lombard

Binfluencer Award Winner Elijah Lombard shows off stickers which feature him and his absent friend Crumpet, who was unable to make it to the Awards.

Elijah’s win demonstrated how important recycling and waste reduction is, even for authors and media superstars with big social media followings and a slew of popular children’s books to their name.

“It’s all about the Earth and the Community and that is the crux of the Award,” Elijah stated after thanking the organisers for recognising his contribution to waste reduction.

The over 18s Avoid Waste award winner also had a strong connection with giving back to local children. Blue Mountains Parents for Climate walked away with a well-deserved win for their regular Kids Toy and Clothing Swap events, which help recycle good quality toys and clothes throughout the community, helping to provide valuable help and a great deal of fun to families across the Blue Mountains. You can read more about their work here

parents for climate awards

Mayor Mark Greenhill and MP Susan Templeman with Binfluencial group Blue Mountains Parents for Climate.

Also receiving an Outstanding Contribution Award in this category was Wentworth Falls resident Belinda Coates who has managed to create almost zero waste and no plastic rubbish thanks to careful and considered use of her kitchen bin. 

For the past 30 years she has refrained from using plastic bin liners, or any forms of plastic and thanks to her recycling efforts, compost bins and thoughtful disposal of non-compostable food waste, Belinda has almost zero waste in her fortnightly red bin pickups.

”I line my kitchen bins with used paper. Anything messy, like meat bones, gets wrapped and frozen before being placed in the bin,“ Belinda explains, for anyone who would like to emulate her remarkable waste reductions. “Anything else I need to dispose of just goes in loose. There is absolutely no need for any plastics, we can avoid them.”

Binfluencer Belinda Coates of wentworth falls

Belinda Coates suggests you need never use a bin liner again

Belinda believes that we have simply forgotten how to be zero waste heroes, and thinks the Binfluencer awards are a great way to “teach young people about how our parents used to deal with waste. Our parents dealt with rubbish without having huge amount of plastic and without having to wrap everything in plastic,” she says, crediting the earlier generations with some valuable insight into how we can all work towards a zero-waste future.

Rachel Grimshaw, the founder of Blue Mountains Facebook Group Pay it forward won the award for the Reuse over 18 years category. Rachel, along with her two-page admins and the 20 thousand members of the Pay it Forward Facebook page, have re-homed thousands of unwanted items over the past 13 years, saving them from landfill and providing hundreds of people with good quality free furnishing, toys and household goods.

rachel grimshaw pay it forward blue mountains

Rachel Grimshaw won for her administration of the Blue Mountains Pay It Forward Facebook page

In the Reuse category, local business Thumbs Up Renovations gained an Outstanding Contribution nod for their efforts to reuse and rehome second hand kitchens and building materials which would otherwise be simply discarded during new renovation and kitchen installations.

thumbs up renovations

Thumbs Up Renovations prove their kitchen renovation business can be waste warriors

Nicole Riley won the Recycle category for her tireless efforts to incorporate recycling stations at the Magpie Markets in Lawson and Springwood Growers Market, where she has been running a trial recycling program since 2023, encouraging patrons and vendors to cut down on their waste creation and provide and use sustainable alternatives.

nicole riley lawson markets award winnder

Nicole Riley has shown that Blue Mountains Markets can provide sustainable solutions for waste

Another Outstanding Contribution Award went to Cheryl Griswold, a support teacher for children with special needs at Lawson Public School, who not only assists Nicole with the recycling stations at the markets, but also champions recycling, waste reduction and composting at Lawson school more generally.

“Some of the students call me the crazy bin lady, but actually they all now appreciate how important it is to think about what they are throwing away,” Cheryl says over the noise of the excited award winners chatting post-award ceremony.

 “Although I am receiving the recognition, it really is a group effort,” Cheryl continues. “I am lucky that the students and teachers at Lawson school are so supportive of what I am trying to do [with the recycling, composting and waste management] and encourage and facilitate me so well.”

cheryl griswold lawson public school

Cheryl Griswold says she couldn’t be a Binfluencer without the support of the staff at Lawson School who happily posed beside Cheryl, Mayor Greenhill and Susan Templeman MP to demonstrate that support.

And the main award goes to…

Once all the general category winners and outstanding contributions were announced, it was time to announce the overall winner: The Main Binfluencer of 2024.

The feted honour went to much loved coffee cart, Roasters with Altitude, from Blackheath, for their wide-ranging ethical waste management and efforts to create a truly circular business economy. 

As a tourist hotspot, cafés are a key part of our Mountains business community and Roasters with Altitude have endeavoured to create a business model which demonstrates that cafés can be at the forefront of sustainability: creating a successful local coffee cart which hosts its own vegetable garden, free range chickens, a water tank, bee hives and composting area all supported by a solar power system.

2024 binfluencer award winner Roasters with Altitude

Overall Binfluencer of the day Roasters with Altitude: Libby Bleakly and Chris Blainey, with Mayor Mark Greenhill, State MP Trish Doyle and Federal Member Susan Templeman

Chris Blainey, co-proprietor of Roasters with Altitude, is quick to point out that even as a small business their efforts have an impact. “It’s a way to show community that even a little bit helps and ripples continually makes waves, it gains momentum,” he says, getting a touch emotional.

His wife and business partner, Libby Bleakley, gives him a supportive smile as she agrees and adds, “We also want to acknowledge our customers who do so much to support us.”  

You can read more about their wonderful business in this story on Blackheath Local News.

There is no doubt that Roasters with Altitude is a worthy overall winner, but every nominee and category winner continues to make impressive contributions to our community and they are great role models to demonstrate how we have the power to do so much in our own homes, gardens, community groups, schools and small businesses. 

As Jenna Condie, one of the representatives from Binfluence Award-winning organisation, Blue Mountains Parents for Climate states: “This just shows how individual action, in connection with community, can change culture. And awards like these show that we are not working alone. There really are a lot of us all doing our own individual thing but working together and that makes a real difference. “ 

jenna condie

Jenna Condie and her daughter

Become a Binfluencer!:

  • Avoid –  creating waste by removing plastics from your life, and making conscious decisions about purchases to reduce packaging, technology  and food waste.
  • Reuse – wherever possible re-purpose items that may not be suitable for their original role. Cracked teapots become great planters, old CDs can be turned into decorative tree hangings which can double as handy bird scarers for your fruit trees. There are so many ways and things that can be re-used and re-purposed.
  • Recycle – wherever possible choose recycled products or products that can be recycled appropriately. Get involved with the Return and Earn bottle and can collection system, create compost and worm farms to sustainably re-purpose your food waste, and recycle textiles and fabrics through the council’s innovative textile recycling bins at the Glenbrook and Katoomba Resource Recovery & Waste Management facilities.
  • For more information and great tips on waste reduction check out the Council’s Sustainability resources and fact sheets:

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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

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About Gabiann Marin

Gabiann has worked as in-house writer/editor for Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Médecins Sans Frontières across Australia, Africa and the Asia Pacific. She is an award winning novelist and children’s book author, having won or been shortlisted for several Australian and international writing prizes. She was one of the key designers and the writer of the award-winning multimedia interactive narrative, Kids Together Now, which focuses on helping children deal with issues around bullying and racism. In addition to her role as storyteller for the Planetary Health Initiative, she tutors in narrative and writing at Macquarie University and works as a writer, story developer and script producer.

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