Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (love in truth) is epitomised in the work of Upper Hutt man, Stewart Homan, whose passion for justice and stewardship of the earth has led him to make shredding machines to recycle almost anything from tyres to computers and disposable nappies. All Stewart’s company, F V Evans & Sons, needs is recycling clients and, unfortunately for the environment in Aotearoa New Zealand, they are nearly all overseas.
Stewart Homan joined the company 38 years ago as an apprentice engineer and worked his way up through the ranks to become the company’s general manager.
At about the same time his passion for justice was being nurtured through becoming an associate of the Presentation Sisters with wife Teresa and a few years later becoming a Catholic.
‘Everything matters,’ says Stewart. ‘All are God’s creatures and we are called on to care for the earth.’
Pope Benedict speaks of the common good as being the ‘good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity … the more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them’ (#7).
As Stewart sees it, the common good is enhanced when everyone turns the things for which they no longer have a use back to the earth. The machines Stewart’s company builds will break down car and truck tyres at the rate of 200 to 3,000 an hour to fine granules that can then go back into road-making. Once mixed with the tarmac, they act as an efficient water repellent while their rubber componentry preserves the lives of the tyres using them.
New Zealanders consume a vast amount of computer hardware which is difficult to dispose of. But Stewart’s machines will shred computers and using ancillary extraction apparatus will extract the range of minerals, non-ferrous and ferrous metals which can then be reused. No part of an obsolete computer is wasted.
Then there are the nappies which New Zealanders use in the millions each year. An American study found that in the United States, disposable diapers comprise half a household’s weekly refuse where there is a baby. Attempts have been made in the US to recycle these but so far no one has come up with a cost-effective method. Stewart’s company is supplying machinery that will be used in a process devised to separate the soiled part and flush away the excreta while preserving the remaining lining and plastic for reuse.
‘Your subconscious steers your life in different directions. I’ve been in this job for 38 years now – it’s getting easier because it has a purpose. I meet some really interesting people who are motivated as I am to care for the earth. Ok they’re business people but it’s fun meeting them and talking with them and going through the business of solving their problems.’
As Presentation Associates, Stewart and Teresa are very concious of the need to recycle and make endeavours to do this. We have been able to go to lots of workshops and we’re really interested in stewardship. It helps build on the charism and is an extension of what we’ve been doing in our parishes.’
Stewart’s justice principles also permeate his work as a manager. Everyone works an eight-hour day and a 40-hour week. There is no weekend work or overtime unless a worker wants it. ‘Weekends are family time,’ says Stewart. The company has a good record in retaining its staff and a few have been there almost as long as he has while others have service of five years plus.
Meanwhile their home is open to allcomers and all benefit from the Homans’ sense of justice and the common good which is the focus of everything they do.
Images: Top left: Stewart Homan holds an expanding wrapper for bottles made from recycled corrugated cardboard. This was made using a shredder.
Above right: The remains of shredded wool carpet which can be made into new carpet using the same jute backing.
Above: Jordan Mackle finishes a machine that shreds used ‘disposable’ nappies, separating and discarding the excreta, while making the lining and the plastic into a form which can be reused. An American researcher has found that disposable nappies are the third largest single consumer item in landfills and represent about 4 percent of solid waste. (Ann LinkDisposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention . April 2003. Women’s Environmental Network. www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php)