Brookfield and Oxford pioneer recycling initiative at 388 George

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BROOKFIELD Properties and Oxford Investa Property Partners have set a new benchmark for sustainability by recycling office fit-out at its $200 million 388 George St redevelopment that would otherwise end up in landfill.

Achieving an Australian industry first, some 19 tonnes of existing desktop materials were recycled.

The unique recovery was the culmination of a three-year grant issued by the City of Sydney to Edge Environment to uncover recycling options for melamine coated particle board, a material heavily found in office fit-outs and currently un-recyclable across much of Australia.

Through this innovative study coordinated by Edge Environment and with the co-operation of key partners including Profile of Design, City Move and DTL Timbers, OIPP and Brookfield Properties some 19 tonnes of discarded desktops were processed into new, useable product.

Combining the innovative recycling initiative and the re-homing of furniture, the refurbishment in its entirety saw some 93 tonnes of furniture recovered – the weight of approximately nine school buses – as well as 75 tonnes of glass, 112 tonnes of carpet and 200 tonnes of metals. The combined total of recovered materials almost equates to the weight of an Airbus A380 aircraft.

Brookfield Properties national sustainability manager Danny De Sousa said: “We are thrilled to have discovered meaningful sustainability initiatives that provide tangible and measurable benefits. Our incredible sustainability team has ultimately paved the way for more responsible waste management in the future.

“We’ve finally found a solution to a common and persistent problem in redevelopment and commercial office fit-out and we are proud to further reduce our impact on the environment while elevating the standard for green practices in Australia.”

OPP fund manager Nicole Quagliata added: “We’re excited to see what else we can do with this initiative in the future.”

Edge Environment associate consultant Blake Lindley said reusing commercial office furniture such as desks and cabinets is the best option when it comes to sustainability.

“However through this successful trial we are seeing real progress on a problematic and persistent waste stream for industry. This project stands on the shoulders of five years’ work by the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) and we continue to work across industry to make sure the success of this project becomes the norm, not the exception.”

The innovative process involved the initial removal of hardware or fixings left in the furniture such as screws and brackets, then cutting the furniture into uniform panels, sanding both sides of the recovered panel followed by gluing the panels together to create a ‘master panel’.

The master panel is then ripped and grooved turning it into a usable bearer. Usually destined for landfill, these bearers can be reused multiple times and sustain many cycles of this process.

Strip-out waste was first acknowledged by the BBP in 2014 as an under-explored, under-reported and poorly understood waste product from commercial buildings. Seminal work delivered by the Institute of Sustainable Futures developed some key statistics that shed light on the extent of this problem revealing that 61 tonnes of waste material is generated for every 1,000 sqm of office space refurbished, with an average recycling rate of just 21%.

Xavier Terrell of DTL Timbers said: “It’s been fantastic to collaborate with Brookfield Properties’ sustainability team to achieve a cost-effective recycling method of materials. The 388 George Street materials have now been reprocessed for second life of material including bearers for under packaging instead of adding to the significant landfill burden.”

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