Repurpose It creates circular economy with organics recycling

organics recycling circular economy

Repurpose It is using organics recycling to highlight the benefits of a circular economy, while encouraging Victorians to live with purpose.

Australia is staring down the barrel of a National Waste Policy target to halve the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030 and shift material use to a circular economy.

But 30 per cent of Victorians still believe recycling goes into landfill, according to a survey by resource recovery business Repurpose It. Thirty-three per cent of respondents don’t understand what the term circular economy means, while 88 per cent openly stated they don’t know enough about how recycling is conducted.

The team at Repurpose It is determined to turn those results around.

A poster child for the circular economy, for the past five years Repurpose It has been transforming waste such as soil, timber and concrete, food and garden organics, into products that can be reused in industries as diverse as infrastructure, construction and landscaping.

Keen to debunk the myths around recycling, Repurpose It has partnered with award-winning landscape designer and television host Jamie Durie to produce online series Living with Purpose. 

The series showcases the journey of household and commercial waste, from unusable scraps to repurposed materials ready to be put to use back in the community.

“The more businesses that can get involved in the circular economy the better off we’ll be,” Jamie says. 

“Repurpose It’s circular economy journey not only is reducing landfill and taking a waste product and turning it into something wonderful, but it’s ticking all the boxes that all levels of government are looking for at the moment.

“It’s an amazing story. I’m watching this and asking, ‘why can’t we repeat this 20 times across the country?’.”

Organics recycling is of growing economic and environmental importance for Australia. A report released in 2022 by the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) shows that across the decade, the recycled tonnage of organic waste has grown by 2.4 per cent each year. Garden organics was the largest portion of organic materials recycled nationally, comprising 41.6 per cent of materials. Food organics was 7.2 per cent.

“I’m watching this and asking, ‘why can’t we repeat this 20 times across the country?”

Ashley Johnston, General Manager Organics at Repurpose It, says any food and organic waste that is taken to the company’s Epping facility is diverted from landfill and made into compost, mulch and soils. 

Organic waste has been processed in an open windrow compost pile and a decontamination hall for packaged and unpackaged food that was commissioned at the end of 2021.

New composting tunnels have now been built to process larger quantities of organic waste to create nutrient-rich compost. 

Ashley describes the tunnels as fit-for-purpose bunkers, engineered to push air through the floor. Constant monitoring of temperature and moisture levels ensures a suitable environment for microbes to get to work.

The tunnels reduce the maturation process from 55 days to 14 and will enable Repurpose It to process an additional 90,000 tonnes of organic waste annually.

“We’re already supplying one million cubic metres of product back to Australia,” he says.

Some compost is processed outside of the tunnels for another 30 days to produce more mature products. All the resultant composts and soils are tested in the company’s grow room to ensure there are no contaminants, have nutrient value and meet Australian standards.

“We’re working at this every day to ensure we recover as much valuable resources as we can,” Ashley says.

The quality of those recovered resources is also reliant on what is put in household FOGO bins and is one of the catalysts behind Living with Purpose.

Repurpose It donates back to local community groups to show them how mulches and composts can help feed their gardens and community centres. Ashley says it’s important to show that the cleaner the materials put into recycling, the cleaner the community environment will be.

All FOGO that arrives in Epping is hand-sorted to take out anything that shouldn’t be there. On one of Jamie’s visits, that included a pair of underwear.

organics recycling
New composting tunnels at Repurpose It’s Epping site will enable processing of larger quantities of organic waste.

“Repurpose It goes to great lengths to refine all of these materials to make sure they’re fit for sale and fit for a circular economy,” Jamie says.

“Cleaning the product is something not many people know about. Taking organics out of landfill then separating, and then turning it into products that can go back into the environment in a clean concise way is a beast of a process and it’s dirty work.

“We found people don’t know enough about how recycling is conducted, and hope that by opening the doors and showing them, they can learn how to use their FOGO bins properly. The series was created to show the little things done at home each day can play a part in our future.”

In a traditional linear economy, products are manufactured, used, and then discarded as waste. In contrast, the circular economy promotes a closed-loop system where products and materials are reused, repaired, remanufactured, and recycled to extend their life span and reduce resource consumption and waste generation. 

The City of Whittlesea is an example of the organics closed loop at work for Repurpose It partners. Repurpose It has a 10-year contract to receive all FOGO from the municipality. 

Earlier this year, Repurpose It donated landscaping products to Lalor North Primary School for use in its community garden.

Ashley says it was while watching an episode of Living with Purpose that the extent of Repurpose It’s contribution to a local circular economy was evident.

“There were people sitting in parks and enjoying the natural environment of their municipality that included products made at Repurpose It,” he says.

“Everything that leaves Repurpose It can come back and be recycled again.”

Find episodes of Living with Purpose on YouTube and at  

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