Casafico's manufacturing plant in Braeside, Victoria.

Family-run building materials manufacturer Casafico has been quietly turning waste into building materials for over 15 years, including prefabricated wall panels and coatings made from up to 50 per cent recycled materials.

The six-person company has big plans to grow and will bring on three new employees before the end of the year.

At its manufacturing plant in Braeside, Melbourne, the company collects waste such as paper, polystyrene and glass and turns it into new building products.

The company moved into the recyclables space about 25 years ago, says Casafico managing director Ric Mucci, when his father Tony Mucci developed a light-weight block made of recycled materials.

Since then, the company has been working with universities to devise innovative building products made out of recyclables, including coatings with a waste aggregate component.

These products result in less waste in landfill and have other attractive qualities such as their light weight and insulating properties.

One of the manufacturer’s key products are modular wall panels. The panels contains recycled polystyrene, which provides superior insulation and fire resilience, and is light weight. Mucci says that, unlike most wall panels, Casafico panels don’t need to be delivered by heavy trucks.

The particle of polystyrene is combustible but it’s always manufactured with an anti-flammable agent, so that it melts rather than ignites. The panel’s polystyrene components are separate so there’s nowhere for the flame to spread, which is why the product has a high fire rating.

Premium price?

Mucci says the coatings that use recycled elements are available at comparable prices to conventional coatings, while its prefabricated blocks are still priced at a premium, although Mucci expects prices to fall as production expands.

The company recently partnered with a builder on a development that will use its recycled products, avoiding sending about 27 cubic metres of waste, per house, to landfill.

He says the costs ended up about 10 per cent more than a volume build but were comparable to a smaller build.

“But the quality is way up there,” he says.

Demand for sustainable building products is growing, especially in the context of Victoria’s recycling crisis. But Mucci says for most of the industry it comes down to price, followed by performance and quality.

Victorian waste crisis

Casafico accepts waste polystyrene from job sites, customers and local council to use in its products, nearly all of which contain a recycled element. It collects old newspapers from local businesses and purchases glass from local recyclers.

With the waste crisis driving up the cost of recycling in Victoria, the company is currently charging much less than landfill to take selected waste streams. For polystyrene, for example, it’s charging $25 a cubic metre compared with $120 or more to send the same amount to landfill.

Dropping off waste polystyrene

Much of the processing of the waste – including pulverising materials – is done onsite. Mucci says polystyrene is a well-established waste stream and the company is eyeing other waste products, such as carpet and rice husks.

Casafico’s long-term vision is to locate its manufacturing plants close to major waste sources all around the world.

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