First published 21 September 2020

Soil recycling may be an overlooked player in the quest for sustainable business practices, but it’s one of the most important. We talk to Founder and Managing Director of SoilCyclers, Alison Price.  

When people think of implementing sustainable practices, they tend to think of recycling, hybrid vehicles and solar panels. While important, there’s a key player that’s often overlooked.

It’s soil. Healthy soil is alive with microorganisms and creates connections with plants critical for ecosystem survival. Fertilizers, pesticides and poor land management, however, can cause soil to die. Dead or unhealthy soil has fewer nutrients, is less capable of storing carbon emissions, and harms the local eco-system.  

QUT Business School Alumni Alison Price didn’t know much about soil when just starting out in business. She hadn’t planned on working in the construction industry, either. 

“I don’t know too many girls that dream of wearing fluoro orange and steel cap boots,” she says. 

Yet she had a passion for the environment, and it was this passion that led her to start SoilCyclers, one of Australia’s largest mobile soil recycling and amelioration businesses. 

“We live in this beautiful part of the world where we have these challenging soils that erode quite easily,” she says. 

“It takes thousands of years to make topsoil and we’re now at a point where we’re damaging that soil and wasting that soil faster than it’s being formed naturally.”

“As a female coming into a non-traditional industry, I was able to challenge the way we had always done things and found a niche that can make a difference for clients and their bottom line but also the environment,” she says.  

“I very quickly realised there was an opportunity to make a huge difference to the environment.” 

Eleven years on, the SoilCyclers team have recycled more than a million cubic metres of topsoil for contractors and commercial landscapers on hundreds of sites across the eastern coast of Australia, converting the soils to meet Australian Standards and Transport and Main Roads specifications. Each year, this takes around 30,000 truckloads off local roads, reducing the impact on our local infrastructure. 

“As an industry, we generate a lot of waste,” says Alison. “The normal mentality is to take unsuitable soil away and dump it then bring back new materials.”

The alternative offered by SoilCyclers is not just environmentally-friendly but profitable, saving clients more than $5 million in 2019. 

Alison encourages entrepreneurs to consider implementing practices that are good for the environment. 

“Start somewhere, and do something,” she says.

“Be prepared to make some really difficult decisions. It’s actually really hard sometimes to be profit-focussed and do the right things for the environment, but the one thing you can never take back is your reputation. Build a business around doing the right thing environmentally, and do the right thing environmentally all the time.” 

SoilCyclers is Queensland’s largest mobile soil recycling, decontamination, amelioration and waste reduction business.To hear more about Alison and SoilCyclers, tune into QUT Entrepreneurship’s online Lunch and Learn on October 1. Register here.