Investing to reduce construction and demolition waste and boost Australia's circular economy

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Tuesday, 20 June, 2023

Investing to reduce construction and demolition waste and boost Australia's circular economy

The challenge of Australia’s growing construction and demolition (C&D) waste stream is being addressed at a multimillion-dollar flagship facility in Queensland. Operated by Rino Recycling, the facility will showcase how Australia’s waste can be transformed into new products, cutting emissions and strengthening the circular economy.

The $89 million Rino Recycling plant, located in Pinkenba near the Brisbane Airport, is expected to deliver 55,363 tonnes of CO2-e abatement annually — equivalent to removing around 12,000 cars from the road each year.

Backed by a $75 million debt finance commitment from Australia’s ‘green bank’, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), the facility is designed to provide a substantial boost to Australia’s recycling sector while also expanding onshore recycling capabilities.

Brisbane aims to implement a comprehensive sustainability strategy to achieve a climate-positive Olympic Games1, with developers looking for ways to handle the waste that is being generated from expansion.

According to Australia’s 2022 National Waste Report, 29 million tonnes of waste came from the construction and demolition sector last year, amounting to 38% of all waste generated in Australia, with much of it sent to landfill.

Less than a third of all C&D waste in the world is recovered and reused. The CEFC is helping to alleviate the growing waste stream, with CEFC lifetime commitments to the waste, recycling and bioenergy sectors during the past decade to more than $560 million.

CEFC Industrials Lead Mac Irvine said, “As we look to deliver a net zero emissions economy by 2050, we need to cut emissions wherever they occur, from the way we build to the way we recycle. This facility demonstrates how to unlock the untapped value of what is considered ‘waste’ to deliver a more sustainable low-emissions built environment.”

With the Rino Recycling facility able to process more than one million tonnes of concrete, excavation and skip bin waste per year, it will help address the under-developed C&D recycling sector using leading global recycling technology by Turmec from Ireland and CDE from Northern Ireland.

The technology means the plant can more effectively separate products to produce materials for use as road bases, aggregates and in landscaping products, displacing the use of virgin materials and creating the potential for further emissions savings.

Irvine notes that the CEFC has a particular focus on large-scale projects which use clean energy technologies and increasingly work with companies that focus on turning urban and industrial waste into new energy sources and valuable products, creating an important revenue stream while also reducing landfill gas emissions. Australia’s waste sector requires significant new investment in infrastructure and equipment as we transition to a low emissions circular economy.

“The CEFC has provided finance to deliver on a range of programs to improve recycling outcomes across Australia. As an experienced investor in the bioenergy, recycling and energy-from-waste sectors, we see immediate and important investment opportunities in recycling and resource recovery, drawing on proven technologies with the potential to deliver long-term economic and environmental benefits. The Rino facility will preserve a number of its finite resources by recycling existing material,” Irvine added.

“The new plant offers a solution to the challenges of C&D waste in South East Queensland while also supporting the long-term circular economy. This is an important example of how we can value materials that would otherwise be discarded, contributing to a more resilient and sustainable supply chain.”

1. Brisbane City, IOC Future Host Commission Questionnaire Response, May 2021. p8.

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