A new era of procurement: Repurpose It

Repurpose It’s George Hatzimanolis explains why the company is building Australia’s first construction and demolition washing plant.

More than 15 years in the civil works and construction industry led George Hatzimanolis down the path of recycling.

Working for Downer in asphalt surfacing and business management, George found his passion in developing asphalt made from recycled materials. One such project was asphalt made from 99 per cent recycled materials, including waste toner, which was used across municipalities in Melbourne.

Ultimately George realised his vision was to reduce the construction industry’s reliance on extractive resources and instead re-use its existing resources.

“My goal is to re-use more waste material which will ultimately form a large part of procured products in the construction industry moving into the future,” George says.

“For us we see huge opportunities to open up other avenues to re-use these materials in energy, earthworks and road resurfacing.”   

George knew it was possible to close the loop on construction and demolition (C&D) materials such as aggregate, sand and asphalt – he just needed the right technology. It’s a process he says is recoverable via wet processing, which means the materials need to be washed and separated before it can be made into new products.

In March of last year, he and his four business partners established Repurpose It. With experience in logistics, organics, road maintenance and street sweeping, the directors saw potential to convert a 150-acre clean fill they recently acquired into a world-class resource recovery park. George says Repurpose It was founded on the goal of introducing international best practice technology to convert traditionally difficult to treat waste streams into a valuable resource.

Located in Melbourne’s north in the City of Whittlesea, the site’s standout service will be home to Australia’s first construction and demolition washing plant, expected to open in late 2018. The company received a $500,000 grant through the Victorian Government’s Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund to build the plant. George attributes the success of the grant funding to having a first-mover advantage on the unique technology. It all aligns with the state government’s plans to tackle waste volumes in metropolitan Melbourne, which are predicted to grow by 63 per cent by 2042, according to the 2016 Metropolitan and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

The plant will separate waste materials by density as well as washing them for re-use in sand and aggregates across the construction materials industry. The washing plant will wash materials which include rail ballast, glass, excavation materials and demolition waste fines.

George says that Repurpose It’s low-emissions washing plant will process 200,000 tonnes of material per annum. The washing plant will generate 17,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, compared to the standard 22,000 tonnes across other industry operations. George explains it will all take place through advanced screening, scrubbing and water treatment.

“Unless you can separate the materials by density and float them in water, which is what our technology does, C&D waste is problematic to treat,” George says.

In the coming year, the challenge for George will be to ensure the construction industries can access the product nationwide through the various state and territory-based specifications, which stipulates a list of acceptable materials for use in state roads and infrastructure. He says discussions are already underway with the Australian Road Research Board, Cement Industry Federation, VicRoads and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia to change the specifications to accept recyclable materials of a higher grade – akin to virgin materials. Talks are also underway with universities such as Swinburne University of Technology to further test the materials with the road authorities. This would modernise the specifications, he says, as the industry has traditionally only used recyclables when utilising low-grade materials.

“We will be working to gain wider endorsement and acceptance of our sustainable products. Some of these specifications are up to 20-30 years old,” George says.

“Sustainability in construction is starting to move in the right direction with certification processes such as the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star certification process. We’re finding the specification aspect of it has been slow to progress, but we are working towards improving that.”

About Repurpose It

Established in 2017, Repurpose It’s fundamental belief is that landfills are a thing of the past, and that all waste can be converted to valuable resources. The company’s services range from: multiple transfer stations, including operating one of Australia’s largest; to waste management consulting; construction materials and soil amendments, organics and green waste processing, waste transport and collection, resource recovery and bin supply and collection.

It owns no landfills and prides itself on the concept of industrial ecology – which focuses on shifting industrial processes from linear systems to a closed loop process.

Repurpose It has already employed 20 full time staff. George says the business is still actively recruiting and its workforce is growing rapidly.