Newcastle company Source Separation Systems wins contract to help Lake Macquarie residents embrace composting

Green theme: Source Separation Systems founders Peter Cruwys and Melanie Barstow at their Boolaroo warehouse. Picture: Marina Neil
Green theme: Source Separation Systems founders Peter Cruwys and Melanie Barstow at their Boolaroo warehouse. Picture: Marina Neil

“I’VE got two young kids, and if I can’t do anything and you can’t do anything, then what will be left for them and their kids?”

Peter Cruwys is up front about what drives he and wife Melanie Barstow in business, and their commitment to encouraging us all – from individuals to corporates – to live more sustainably is paying off financially and, they hope, environmentally.

The couple’s multi-million-dollar company, Source Separation Systems, is based in Boolaroo and makes the Compost-A-Pak range of plastic-free, organic bags, made from natural starch-based polymer sourced from corn.

While most of their business is to corporate, commercial and government, the bags are sold  on their website and in retailers like Woolworths and Coles.

The company recently won a contract with Lake Macquarie Council to supply households with a seven-litre organic waste bin and a roll of 150 compostable bags.

“Every resident can recycle food waste from their kitchen by scraping their plate into the bags and put it in their green waste bin which council picks it up and takes to [the tip] and composts it then uses that compost to put on local parks and gardens,” Mr Cruwys says, adding that the contract will initially generate three new jobs in his company, another 22 during the bins’ delivery and possibly another five full-time jobs afterwards.

Raised in Coffs Harbour and a 2000 graduate of a business and marketing degree at the University of Newcastle, Mr Cruwys’ passion for the environment was ignited after returning home from a five-year stint as national sales manager for a coffee company in Ireland.

“In Europe, recycling systems were sophisticated and when I got home I was in a taxi going from North Sydney to Randwick races and I saw Sydney Harbour as we came over the hill and it was amazing, and I was thinking how we take it for granted, then I get to Randwick and people are dropping crap everywhere,” he says. “It spurred me to help us as Australians recognise how easy it is to do what they do in Europe. If you as the disposer of the waste can take ownership of it and put it in right bin, it’s easy to continue at the back end of the business.”

A former Telstra executive, Ms Barstow drives operations and the brand while Mr Cruwys focuses on business and product development. 

Mr Cruwys still riles at the sight of single-use supermarket bags, which Coles and Woolies will soon phase out: “If you take our bags and put them in a commercial compost facility it takes 30 days for them to break down and be eaten by bacteria, but a bag made from petrochemicals, well it will be there long after you and I die,” he says.