Alison Price, founder and managing director of SoilCyclers Pty Ltd, Queensland, Australia
2020 Australasian WE Empower Awardee
Alison Price understands the struggles of being a woman entering the Australian construction industry. While trying to break into one of the most male-dominated industries in Australia, Price was building a company that emphasized the need for recycling industrial waste when “sustainability just wasn’t trendy.” Despite these hurdles, her company has grown significantly and offers various services from topsoil amelioration to mobile composting and soil remediation. WE Empower intern, Revere Wood, interviewed Alison Price and elaborates on her company’s impact on the UN SDG’s.
SoilCyclers’ vision is to make onsite recycling business as usual for its clients by providing innovative, cost-effective, planet-saving solutions to reduce the use of virgin resources, avoid the risk of importing contamination to sites, and transform onsite waste into reusable materials. Price remarks, “my business is all about preventing resources ending up in landfills and transforming waste materials sites already have into products they would be purchasing. SoilCylers’ crews divert thousands of cubic metres of waste from landfill every week.”
Ameliorating commercial development
Price has always looked to solve more than problems by interlocking their solutions. This is why she tackled both SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 13 Climate Action simultaneously. By engaging with a circular economy model—where the producer of waste is also the user of the recycled waste—Price is solving the issues of industrial waste filling landfills and keeping trucks off local roads in tandem. Moreover, there is less risk of contamination for her clients and the build sites as they are not importing potential contamination issues from other sites in the form of recycled products with variable quality controls. SoilCyclers works as a “middle-company” by converting industrial waste into purchasable, reusable material. Price notes that recycling can be more damaging to the environment than if it is left in landfills unless it is done right. Recycling runs the risk of contaminating soil and water supply with Persistent Organic Pollutants unless the company recycling abides by environmental regulations and keeps sustainability in its core values. For SoilCyclers, “when you make the most sustainable outcome the most commercial outcome, it is a no-brainer. It becomes easy to sell sustainability when it is a sensible, commercial choice.”
For Price, SDG 5 Gender Equality and SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth are interlinked. Construction is the third highest paying industry in Australia. Yet, women only represent 3% of frontline workers, 1% of trade workers, and 13% of workers overall. Women likely to seek out employment in construction are redirected to jobs like daycare and haircare, which do not pay as well. Price wants to “take the gender out of the job.” Creating more space for women in the industry gives them higher paid jobs and, in turn, creates economic growth. Construction offers more flexible work arrangements, which is enticing for women.
Price is working to create a more equitable and sustainable future through infrastructure. Despite the construction industry being very capital-intensive, Price and SoilCyclers are working to create behavior change:
“Sustainability wasn’t trendy ten years ago, […] For [Price], the burden of overcoming that behavior change [required her] to find other ways to support the environment and convince clients to make those changes.” She “wants to start changing that thought process so [Australia] is no longer a dig-and-dump society, but [to treat] what we have onsite as a resource.”