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Repurpose it closes the loop for organics recycling

Repurpose It organics recycling

Repurpose It has never set out to be a traditional waste management company. Resource recovery and a circular economy have always been the key drivers.

As George Hatzimanolis, Chief Executive Officer explains, it has always been about adding value to the community, customers and the environment more broadly.

Those core principles are now being implemented as Repurpose It closes the loop for organics recycling.

Food and organic waste from all sectors is being turned into mulch and compost at the company’s advanced organics facility in Victoria.

A 3000-square metre decontamination hall for packaged and unpackaged food waste was commissioned at the end of 2021 and is now operational. With a combination of mechanical and automated systems, the facility will process up to 200,000 tonnes annually of food waste at capacity.

An open windrow compost pile is also operational, and a decontamination shed for in vessel composting tunnels is expected to be commissioned later in 2022.

George says the facility is “full steam ahead” and processing more volume than anticipated, including organics from waste recyclers who have reached their capacity.

“There are some volume constraints in the organics market at the moment,” he says. “A lot of long-term tenders and existing facilities are pushing toward the tail end, but volumes have ramped up and more food organics are ending up in waste streams.

“Repurpose It is servicing the needs of its commercial and local government customers but is helping other waste recyclers.”

George says a Victorian Government waste policy target to divert 80 per cent of organics from landfill by 2030 is encouraging more councils to introduce food organics garden organics (FOGO) services. That, combined with above average rainfall in 2021-22 which provided optimal growing conditions for gardens, created a perfect storm for organics recycling.

It also creates new opportunities.

“Organics in landfill is one of the largest methane and CO2 emitters of any waste stream,” George says. “Obviously to mitigate the impacts to our climate it’s important we find ways to capture the organic waste stream and divert it from landfill. The more we recycle and recover the better placed we are to do that.

“But there’s also opportunity around soil health. Decarbonisation of soils is serious. We have an opportunity to add carbon back and improve soil health with the use of compost. We can value-add a benefit to an organic waste stream.”

Repurpose It organics recyclingRepurpose It acquired organic landscape supplier Bark King in July 2021 and will complete a transition to the Repurpose It brand in July 2022. The company produces a range of VicRoads and Australian Standards soils, compost, barks and mulches from organic and timber waste.

George says the company is focused on creating products for better soil health for specific markets. It has partnered with Melbourne Polytechnic to be involved with some of its studies and is keen to offer graduates a secondment to bring horticultural expertise into the business.

“Bark King supplies over 400 clients. Those clients have very specific needs whether they are commercial growers, landscapers or in agriculture. Our ability to supply a range of soil amendments and growing media is important,” he says.

“It’s important we are known as much for the product we supply as our resource recovery efforts. Products procured back in a form that can add value.

“It’s a very exciting path.”

For George, that path is beyond traditional organics processing. He has ambitions to produce energy from commercial food waste and is applying for an Environmental Protection Authority licence to build an anaerobic digester at the Epping site.

“Potentially, we can take Repurpose It off the grid,” he says. “We are a reasonable-sized energy user. We do have a carbon footprint that we’re trying to reduce. This is an important opportunity for us.”

George is hopeful the project could be operational within 24 months of licence approval. He says as industries move to meet national and Victorian recycling objectives there will be more market opportunities to source commercial food waste, which will help fast track the project.

In the short-term, Repurpose It will look to expand its geographical footprint. Two sites in south- east Victoria are relatively under-developed. A recent acquisition of land in Hallam gives the company an opportunity to increase organics and recycling capabilities.

George says there is also potential to expand into regional Victoria, particularly as growing regional councils look to move away from landfill and find other ways to manage their waste.

“There’s huge opportunities for a business like ours to operate and set up facilities fit-for-purpose and adopt similar principles,” he says.

The City of Whittlesea is an example of the organics closed loop at work for council partners. Repurpose It has a 10-year contract to receive all food and garden organics from the municipality. Recently, the company donated compost made from FOGO to the Mernda Community House for use in its community garden.

“It’s a really good news story to be able to partner with a local community in that way and demonstrate what a local circular economy looks like,” George says. “Partnering with our local councils and any community members to be able to buy our product back is really important to drive a better outcome.”   

For more information, visit: www.repurposeit.com.au

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