Zeo is right in the heart of Mullumbimby, which is right in the heart of the Northern Rivers, in New South Wales, Australia … smashed by a once in a 100-year flood last week. The damage and the losses are catastrophic. It seems like we are experiencing these once in 100-year weather events every 3 to 5 years, maybe even more frequently than that.
Thousands Homeless as Buildings Condemned
There are already two thousand homes condemned, which can non longer be lived in, in an area under incredible housing pressure before this weather event. It is expected that 1500 or more additional homes will be condemned when the waters recede.
We need to build at least 2,000 (maybe 3500 or 4000) new homes and repair thousands more, as well as repairs to vital infrastructure. I’m deeply moved by both the human and natural tragedy and the excellent community spirit and resilience demonstrated when it is needed the most.
Homes to Landfill
There are countless tales of bravery, heroism and heartbreaking loss, including loss of life for many humans and many more animals. But this story is not about that; many others can tell those stories way better than I can.
This is about the almost unbelievable piles of trash generated by the monstrous volume of water, mud, sewerage, floating cars, trees, power, lines, shipping containers and more ripping through towns, shops and homes at breakneck speed, with an incredibly destructive force.
Image of house in Mullumbimby, Northern New South Wales
Walking around Mullumbimby, between storms, before the ADF (Australian Defence Force) arrived to assist with the clear up was like walking through a war zone during a ceasefire. Streets piled higher than my head, the entire width of the pavement, on both sides of the road, as far as my eyes could see. Not just on one street but piled high on many roads that run through and around town.
I saw everything people owned turned to trash overnight. There are piles of wooden tables and chairs, mattresses everywhere, cupboards and shelves, vinyl record collections, strollers, trampolines, entire kitchens, walls, all sorts of furniture made from wood composites like MDF and plywood. The list is endless, and so are the piles. I’m guessing I might have seen thousands of tonnes in Mullumbimby alone. Combined with the losses in nearby Ocean Shores, Murwillumbah, Lismore and some other badly damaged towns, the volume of waste materials is likely in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes.
Image of Lismore Library after the 2022 floods
Volunteer, Council and ADF Clean-up
The quickest possible clean-up is critical to make neighbourhoods safe and enable people to rebuild their lives. So, the ADF and the council and private waste companies are moving as much as they can off to the local Resource Recovery Centre A.K.A - The Tip to dispose of it as quickly as possible.
Of course, they’ll make all reasonable efforts to separate and recycle as much scrap metal as possible (I hope), especially the more valuable alloys. But most of that wood and all of that wood composite is going to landfill. The volume of emergency waste being disposed of is so vast that locals cannot currently access the local Resource Recovery Centre to dispose of usual household and garden waste, as they usually can.
Image of house in Mullumbimby with the contents post 2022 flood
CELLULOSE IS NATURE’S BUILDING BLOCK, AND IT’S PILED HIGH AS FAR AS THE EYES CAN SEE
Along with that, all of that wood and composite are hundreds, possibly thousands of tonnes of other organic waste matter - the kind of waste that is rich in cellulose - The feedstock necessary for manufacturing Zeoform Micro Pulp.
Supply Chain Constraints
The global market for construction materials was already under considerable supply chain inflationary pressures. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has exasperated the global supply chain issues and inflationary pressures. This storm, creating a sudden and unprecedented local demand for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of new building and construction materials, might ironically be called the perfect storm.
Experts are predicting some families won’t rebuild for 18 months or more due to labour and material constraints. The total monetary cost will run to billions of dollars. However, the emotional losses will be impossible to put a price on.
The scale of the losses deeply saddens me. Added to that is the frustration I feel watching hundreds of thousands of tonnes of raw material go to landfills because the infrastructure does not exist locally to repurpose that volume of waste using Zeo’s proven Value Transformation Methods. I estimate that Zeo could have repurposed 50% or more of the total volume of debris I saw on the streets. That’s a lot of added value and many people we could put to work.
Image of Bruxner Highway, the key logistical route for goods and services to reach our region
Zeoform Nine-Step Value Transformation Method
Zeo has a Nine-Step Zeoform Value Transformation Method for turning cellulose waste into consumer products and construction materials. We transform cellulose into Zeoform Micro Pulp with just water, a mechanical refiner, and no toxins. We have proven methods for adding value by turning Zeoform Micro Pulp into all sorts of products. You can think of Zeoform Micro Pulp as a kind of liquid, shapeable wood.
We also developed a method for transforming waste - like woodchips, sawdust, old tyres, class 4 weeds (lantana, camphor, devils fig etc.), hemp hurds, leaves, palm fronds, and more into bricks, blocks, wall panels, tiles, floors and other construction components. Zeo has a Seven-Step Zeocrete Value Transformation Method for this type of waste that involves a non-toxic mineral binder and low-tech machinery and moulds.
When I looked at all those tonnes of soggy chipboard, and MDF (and lots of other suitable aggregates, once suitably cleaned, sorted and sized) piled up on the streets, waiting to be landfilled, I lamented the lack of scaled-up Zeo infrastructure.
Zeocrete - Like Hempcrete- But Better!
Surely it would make sense to collect and sort all of the viable materials hidden amongst the genuine landfill. Given the cost of replacing and repairing all of these homes and businesses, It has to be worth considering an alternative to cutting down more trees and importing another few thousand shipping containers from China.
What if we could build a waste reclamation facility locally (on high ground), big enough to handle this volume of raw material? What if we invested in scaling up Zeo’s local capacity and built a global showcase in climate event resilience and sustainability? What if we had the necessary resources to create hundreds of meaningful jobs?
Regrettably, many displaced peoples will be seeking new ways to stay viable in the area they call home. We need to assist in generating more choices for them, including housing solutions and the latest industry and employment opportunities.
I believe Zeo has the technology to help. Without weather events adding to the load, enough local waste is generated to warrant serious consideration to Zeo’s proposal for adding value and creating jobs. We can’t raise capital quickly enough to take advantage of this tragedy. Still, we expect this kind of weather event to become more prevalent and many more houses and household things to be turned to waste long before their time.
Experts say the cost of building back from this disaster will run to billions of dollars. To put this number in perspective, scaled up Zeoform and Zeocrete factories are valued at tens of millions of dollars.