- Study at Deakin
- Campus life
- Industry and community
- About Deakin
Dr Trevor Thornton
Sorting through bags of hospital waste or standing in the mud and rain of a landfill may not be ideal working conditions for everyone. For Environmental Management lecturer Trevor Thornton this is the perfect way of obtaining data on businesses waste management practices in order to develop improved sustainability practices.
“Many people in charge of businesses think that what is going into the waste containers doesn’t have any value. Raw materials, unprocessed materials and production mistakes are being disposed of instead of finding their way into the market place. Conducting audits of their waste shows there is a lot of valuable materials that could be directed to other uses or should have been used in the production process in the first instance,” says Dr Thornton.
Environmental Management students are exposed to the various pressures organisations face and learn to develop strategies that assist meeting the “triple bottom line” – managing environmental, social and economic aspects of what the business does.
“Real world understanding is acknowledged by students and factored into their decision making. Students work with businesses early on in their studies to help them develop strategies to assist the business in improving environmental performance.”
Data and careful analysis of it should drive environmental decision making. So if that means sorting waste or estimating the types and quantities of waste disposed of to landfill, then that needs to happen.
Completing a Doctor of Technology in 2008, Dr Thornton’s thesis was on “Clinical Waste Management”, his prime research area. For years he has been assisting healthcare facilities look at how they manage waste and what can be done to improve their practices.
“Over the years many healthcare facilities were disposing of wastes inappropriately and as a result causing unnecessary environmental impacts and costing them money. By understanding what was going into the waste containers and then looking for the reasons, strategies that reduce these negative consequences can be developed.”
Dr Thornton began to realise many businesses could achieve improvements not only in their environmental performance, but also become more economically viable working for EPA Victoria, prior to joining Deakin.
“By examining waste, I can provide information to businesses as to how its processes and procedures are performing. Then using such tools as life cycle analysis, options are presented. These may be as simple as running staff awareness courses through to having specialists redesign packaging. We have limited resources that can be converted in to products and it is everyone’s responsibility to look at what they do and reduce unnecessary resource consumption.”