Rubbish and waste is part of our everyday life but rarely do we wonder where it goes.

George Hatzimanolis is part of a team of 180+ employees who make a living out of waste management at a Victorian company which has just received its latest accolade.

Last week, Repurpose It was recognised as one of Australia and New Zealand’s Most Innovative Companies. The resource recovery business was ranked no.8 on the annual list published by The Australian Financial Review BOSS, out of 700 nominations in the Manufacturing and Consumer Goods category.

“We’re quite excited being a Victorian business that’s only five years old, to be nominated and in the top 10 across a variety of different sectors,” CEO George Hatzimanolis told Neos Kosmos.

He believes their willingness to invest in an Australian-first technology was a key factor that made them stand out.

“The actual product itself that we got nominated for was our washing plant in Epping that we use to recover recycled sand from excavation waste that traditionally would go to landfill.

The Repurpose It resource recovery park was established in Melbourne’s Epping taking the place of 150-acre clean fill. Photo: Supplied/Repurpose It

“We’re the first company to have done that type of process in Australia.”

The washing and recycling facility deploying technology identified in Europe by Repurpose It, had also won them one of the two Premier’s Sustainability Awards they received in 2020.

Often innovation is talked about in vague or generic terms.

For the compilation of the AFR’s list, now in its 11th year, the innovation prowess of nominated companies was judged by a behavioural science consultancy using set criteria within a three-part methodology.

The third part, was based on an online survey completed by employees assessing their company culture, of which Mr Hatzimanolis states he’s proud of.

“I think one important thing with our approach, is to understand that innovation doesn’t just happen. It’s a process and it takes discipline.

“It’s not just sort of sporadic brainwave ideas that work. They take time, they take a process to come up with, to be evaluated, and then to be embedded in.”

Waste management is a ‘backend’ business but most Melburnians would have come across projects where Repurpose It has involvement.

CEO George Hatzimanolis (middle) with the six co-founders of Repurpose It (L-R) Michael Wilson, Mark Centofanti, David Wilson, Abraham Pace, Elvis Centofanti and Anthony Van Schaik. Photo: Supplied/Repurpose It

“Think about large infrastructure projects. If you’re based in Melbourne you drive past the roadworks all the time you see level crossing removals or think about projects like the Metro tunnel, the Northeast link. Each of those generate all sorts of waste streams. In demolition you’re removing or you’re excavating existing infrastructure and all that needs to go somewhere. Quite often in the past a lot of that would just be mixing in the landfill, sitting and decomposing over time.

“We use our technology to wash and repurpose that back into construction materials that can then be given a new life.”

After infrastructure and constructions’ material, food and garden organics from household bins is the second biggest stream of their business, with timber waste following.

The next venture for Repurpose It, Mr Hatzimanolis reveals, will be directly investing in renewably energy sources.

“So, taking food and garden organics, and using it as an energy source to produce enough power to take our operation off the grid.”

And he credits his heritage country, Greece, for delivering him the inspiration boost to bring it forward.

“I’m a very proud Greek and it ties to that. Just the other day, I noticed that Greece went for the first time in its history for five hours on total renewable energy. That made me quite proud and after seeing it it sort of gave me an additional inspiration. For a country like Greece to be able to do this, on such a scale, I think it set a really strong target for me to make sure we realise that ambition.”

Repurpose It is also nominated as a finalist in three categories for the industry’s 2022 Waste Innovation and Recycling Awards to be held in partnership with and during Waste Expo Australia. Winners will be announced on Wednesday 26 October.