Brandon and his brigade reduce paper wastage

Drop by a factory unit in Cockburn and you will hear the busy whirring of paper shredders manned by a variety of workers passionate about their work.

The unit or ‘bunker’ is the home of Brandon’s Shredding Boxes and is a place where people with disability known as ‘Brandon’s Brigade’ can shred paper and be part of a workplace. They can make a toastie at the sandwich bar or create a healthy fruit or veggie drink at the juice bar.

Brandon Tomic is the face behind the microenterprise Brandon’s Shredding Boxes and it was his interest in shredding paper that sparked an idea for his future career.

The 22-year-old North Lake was man diagnosed with autism at age two. He requires one-on-one support at work and when out and about in the community. After Year 12, his parents decided that he needed a solid plan instead of just daily activities.

He joined the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) after transferring from the previous state-based WA NDIS.

His NDIS plan is now with APM’s Success office where APM’s Local Area Coordinator worked with Brandon and his family, as well as the NDIS, to make sure his plan continued to be the most appropriate to support the achievement of his goals.

Simone and Rob Tomic decided a ‘gap year’ would be the best way to work out what be a good daily fit for Brandon. This was planned, so Brandon could access the community, with help from a support worker, and experience different activities.

Simone was inspired when she remembered Brandon had enjoyed shredding at school. She let him have a go of their home shredder and from there his microenterprise was born.

Brandon uses his NDIS plan to access the things he loves with the help of a regular support worker from NDIS provider Interchange. This includes a worker to accompany him to paper collection sites while he collects boxes and meets clients. He also has supervision at the workshop while shredding paper.

Brandon’s Shredding Boxes has gone from a set-up of six commercial shredders in the family garage to a factory unit in Cockburn. It services an area from Joondalup to Rockingham with some companies in the CBD and West Perth engaging them for wastepaper disposal.

Individuals who were having a home clean out of unwanted documents were welcome to access the service, Simone said.

When Brandon isn’t shredding paper, at the Bunker, he is out with a support worker collecting and dropping off paper recycling boxes.

“He loves the van. He loves to go out and do the box swaps. A lot of the companies never had a recycling program. The papers just went into the bin. So now they are engaging in a recycling program and supporting people with disability.”

Simone said the bunker is a friendly meeting place where people with disability could participate in their first social enterprise - The Brandon’s Shredding Boxes Community Recycling Program.

“It creates another option for them otherwise they are just going to the shopping centre, the swimming pool. It gives people another outlet and they know they are working.”

“Hopefully, next year, I will be able to employ one of them. That’s my dream,” she said.

Participants could learn to shred paper, create papier mache and make their own juice and sandwich. The cost of the two-hour session is $25 and includes all materials and food.

Most of the shredded paper is sent for garden mulch, packing material or moulded into papier mache seed bombs which are sold at the factory unit or through Facebook.

Simone said Brandon had experienced so much personal growth because of his involvement in the microenterprise and they wanted to offer the same opportunity to others.

“He loves coming to work. The best thing we created was a sense of independence for him. For me, I love it when they all come in.”

Simone said the bonus of the environmentally friendly business was that it educated the community about disability. It showed that people with disability have employment potential.

They also have local students who come to the bunker for a free work experience program, Simone said.

She stressed that all shredders must have a one-on-one support worker to work at the bunker.

Last year, Brandon was a recipient of an AMP Tomorrow Fund Grant acknowledging the important environmental work the microenterprise does in the community. The grant was the catalyst for the enterprise moving out of the family home and into commercial premises.

Boxes cost $15 for a 30 litre box, $20 for a 50 litre and $45 for a 100 litre. Bigger 240 litre boxes are being investigated. The service is contract free and users are charged for the paper disposal once the box is collected.

Simone said they would love to open another bunker north of the river and were also looking into buying a van with a hoist so they could transport the bigger, and heavier, boxes more easily.

“The van will come in handy because instead of making three trips a week we will only need to make one,” Simone said.

Simone said the Brandon was ‘blessed’ to have access to the NDIS. The scheme made it possible for him to run his own business because he was able to access support workers.

“We are so grateful. It (the NDIS) is like a godsend.”

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.