Scalable partnership: Repurpose It and Downer

Repurpose It has partnered with integrated service company Downer to support its recently unveiled construction and demolition washing plant. 

Almost two years ago, the four founders of Repurpose It came together with a unique set of skills.

Each partner brought an array of knowledge and abilities from varying sectors, from logistics, to road sweeping and construction, organic waste processing and infrastructure maintenance.

They also shared a common pursuit of treating waste as a resource. When the opportunity presented itself, they acquired a unique 150-acre site in early 2017 in the Melbourne suburb of Epping. The site had been recognised by the state government as a significant hub for resource recovery and
solidified the business case. 

Since that time, the operators have made significant achievements in cementing their reputation in the Victorian market as a leader of repurposing construction and demolition (C&D) waste. From their work with the North Eastern Program Alliance on Victorian level crossing removal resource recovery, to being recognised by Westpac in the top 20 businesses of tomorrow, the founders sowed the seeds of growth.  

The end of March marked the launch of Repurpose It’s Australian-first construction and demolition plant – a facility that will divert more than 500,000 tonnes of C&D waste from landfill per annum. 

Using its unique wet processing technology, the plant will be able to accept a variety of waste streams, from traditional excavation waste such as rock, sand and silt, to waste mixed with other manmade inert materials, including concrete, grit and rail ballast. It will also be configured to handle non-destructive drilling and drainage waste, and additionally dirty glass, which it will scrub clean.

Reflecting on the company’s achievements over the past 22 months, Repurpose It Founder George Hatzimanolis revealed that integrated services leaders Downer had secured a 50 per cent partnership with Repurpose It. The new partnership will see the establishment of common board members with governance and oversight into new projects and opportunities for expansion in Victoria. 

He tells Waste Management Review that Downer’s vision for a circular economy made sense for Repurpose It to enter into a partnership with the sustainability-focused company. 

“We knew that Downer had potential to be a very important client and they had an intention to get into this space. With long-standing relationships, it made sense to leverage the best abilities of the two businesses,” George says.

Dante Cremasco, Executive Manager Road Services at Downer, says Downer’s ownership structure ensures it can continue to drive costs down while achieving its sustainability goals.

“We don’t own any virgin quarries anywhere in Australia and as a result of that, we’re always driven to ensure we can keep our costs down and that products have gone through the cycle can be repurposed into something even better the second time around,” Dante says.

Dante says that Downer is able to sell repurposed products into the marketplace, but mostly it intends on utilising these products in its own contracted infrastructure projects and existing manufacturing operations.  

He says that Downer has a large products and services division that can use the repurposed materials to manufacture road construction materials to raw material inputs required in asphalt, microsurfacing and rejuvinators. Dante says the company also has its asset management services through DM Roads that maintains networks on behalf of agencies such as VicRoads and other local government authorities. 

“We’ve also got the research and development capability of 18 scientists. These are PhD scientists up the road in Somerton that will take these materials and ensure they’ve been used in the best way possible.”

George says that Downer procures extensive amounts of sand and aggregates, and anything they can do to reduce their reliance on extractive resources is a step towards progress. 

“There’s some natural synergies in the offtake and the business procures a lot of materials themselves locally,” George says.

“There’s a substantial balance sheet that sits behind the Downer business as one of the largest employers in Australia and a market leader in infrastructure and maintenance. That gives us the ability to grow and help Repurpose It reach its full potential in many ways beyond the capacity of the founders.”

Dante says that one of the advantages of the washing plant technology is that increasingly scarce virgin materials can be preserved for longer on bespoke projects.

“Ultimately we’re producing products that are as good and, in many cases, better than virgin material simply because any unsound portions from these materials have already been obliterated by time, weather and the impact of traffic.”

Adding to the organisational synergies is Repurpose It’s research grant in partnership with RMIT University to investigate the use of recycled glass for its washing process. George says that Repurpose It is fortunate to now be able to leverage Downer’s research and development capabilities, with the company’s facility just a few kilometres away from the Epping site.

As for the future, the pair hopes to use their unique capabilities to scale up, while continuing to push for updated specifications of recycled materials. 

“We find VicRoads has been more than willing in recent times to embrace new specifications. 

“Of course, there’s still some other work to be done across water infrastructure-related specifications, but there’s support at the highest levels of government, and this is just the beginning of making a circular economy a reality,” George says.

Pictured: George Hatzimanolis and Dante Cremasco shake hands at the Repurpose It C&D washing plant launch.