Barry proves where there’s muck there’s money

WHAT Barry Barwick’s business does, and does very well, is take the stuff nobody wants and turn it into something they will cheerfully pay for. It began modestly with bark trucked from Boyer, making industrial waste into garden mulch. That enterprise, soon part of the Barwick family’s loam and manure business in Granton, has in 40 years become a major supplier to commercial and home markets across Tasmania. Today, the bark plant is next door to the Boyer mill, and Barrry’s waste-not-want-not attitude remains core to the family business.

It was the early 2000s when another reprocessing opportunity came to the business. Local governments in Tasmania were beginning to realise the organic component of weekly rubbish collections demanded its own waste stream. Composting and mulching fruit, vegetable and meat scraps, garden waste, even dog poo and organic cat litter is not only cheaper than sending it to landfill, but produces a nutrient-rich manure. Reusing this stuff, Food Organics and Garden Organics (or FOGO), was the Barwick business ethos taken to the next level.

Today at a site in Interlaken, in central Tasmania, human eyes guiding multiple mini-diggers sift through 45-tonne FOGO loads five days a week. At the end of 14 weeks of the process, the smell is gone and truckloads of fertiliser are ready for transport to Tasmania’s orchards and farms. Barry says he was around 12 when he started driving trucks. While a bit fuzzy now on how he’d managed to buy his own truck at that age, he was quickly cutting and selling firewood at the back of his parent’s place in the Derwent Valley.

When the 1967 bushfires took the truck, it was time for a change of business direction. “I’d worked at the Granton service station after school, so when the opportunity came to move up from working there to buying it, I jumped at it.” A house for him and Jan came with the deal, and the business quickly expanded into tow trucks. Throughout, Jan – who’d left school at the ripe old age of 14 – kept the books. “She was, she is, very good with figures,” says Barry. “Our Caltex station in Granton sold more petrol than anywhere but one place, up north. We did well.”

Meanwhile, Jan’s family property, 21 acres that grew Moorpark apricots, provided the space for another business stream. They learned that the Boyer mill wanted someone to get rid of the bark stripped prior to papermaking. “The price, I think it was $27 a tonne, was the number we were prepared to pay. I literally dreamed it up,” recalls Jan. “But they agreed to it, and our landscaping business was launched.“ Today, the Barwick’s business has grown into three core entities: the original pine bark manufacturing, FOGO recycling and the most recent addition, reprocessing old rubber into construction and road-building materials.

This recycling stream, which currently takes in some 300,000 truck, car and tractor tyres a year from across Tasmania, came together in a moment of serendipity. “We figured out that our bark chipper (essentially a row of rotating steel teeth that hold and chop the bark), would also cut up tyres into manageable chunks of rubber, including the wire belts inside them,” says Barry. “That was a bit of luck.

The next thing to do was find someone who had the machinery to turn that raw product into something useful. “So we called this company in Melbourne, Tyrecycle, who were going down this path. They told us they’d been talking with a man who’d stockpiled tyres in Tasmania, but the deal had fallen over, literally that morning. “Our timing was perfect,” he adds. “It’s six years ago now, and we still talk about our luck in the timing of that phone call.” Now, every weekday, a 40-foot container goes off to Melbourne with what will become playground equipment, building materials and boat coatings, even additives for roadmaking.

The work of the business and its yards at Mornington, Glenorchy, Bridgewater, Boyer and Interlaken now requires the Barwicks’ sons Scott and Tyronn, and daughter Amanda. Grandsons and granddaughter are getting on the job training too. However, Barry and Jan remember their roots in New Norfolk. He as full-forward of the reserves football team and she as vice-president of the club.

The Barwicks has chalked up 37 years as a sponsor of New Norfolk and more recently, adding the Brighton club and the Southern Tasmanian Junior Football League to the list. As the old expression has it: what goes around comes around.