For years Central Environmental founder, Ian Butcher, had been increasingly frustrated by all the construction waste going to landfill, so he decided it was time to do something about it – and now it’s paving roads in the Manawatu.
Since 2002, Central Environmental’s sister business, Central Demolition (which Butcher also founded), has been removing asbestos and demolishing buildings throughout New Zealand. And until 2019, most of that waste was going straight to landfill. In fact, New Zealand’s waste infrastructure ‘hole’ has been valued at $1.5 billion dollars, and as a country we lag behind many other countries when it comes to recycling and reuse. This was something that didn’t sit well with Butcher.
“We had always tried to salvage and recycle what we could, but it was a rather ad hoc process. And because a lot of the demolition work involved getting the building down and gone quickly, the limited time put pressure on us to get the job done.
“Now that there is far more emphasis on recycling and recovery of materials, it has allowed us to make a far more conscientious effort to ‘do the right thing’ – which I’ve actually always been passionate about.”
And over the past year, with the support of local Councils and funding from the Ministry for the Environment (MFE), Central Environmental has been able to take things to the next level by setting up a purpose-built site in the heart of the Manawatu.
“The District Council set aside some land for us to use and basically said ‘we will support you until it’s ready, go for your life’,” Butcher says.
“So we have done all the earthworks, bought a big dump truck and have had four guys full time moving earth. We even salvaged a whole building to turn into our head office.”
The site has its own concrete crusher, which has been working flat out to process the recyclable materials and turn it into aggregate of different sizes which can then be reused in a variety of settings. Their biggest customers are road construction contractors, as the product is perfect as a road base, and because the local councils around the region – like Palmerston North City Council and the Rangatikei and Manawatu District Councils – have been so supportive of everything Butcher and the team have been doing, they are able to provide them with a cheaper rate for the aggregate.
“So it’s a win-win for everyone,” Butcher says.
But it hasn’t been cheap. Central Demolition has funded a lot of the equipment to get Central Environmental up and running with the right machinery and equipment, as well as developing the site itself (around $1.5 million). The MFE funding is also delivered in stages, when they reach certain milestones – and they are only at the first stage right now.
And of course there were a few times Butcher was worried about the giant leap of faith he was taking, even though he knew that at the end of the day, it came down to it being the right thing to do.
“Yes, it did cost a lot, but it is what it is – it’s just money at the end of the day and what we have been able to achieve is just fantastic.
“Everything that has been brought to us, we have been able to process, and everything we have produced has been bought.”
While Butcher has been successful in what he set out to do, but he is quick to note that at the end of the day, his achievements in business have plenty to do with the great team of people he has built around him.
“We have an honest approach to business, believing in being upfront and as helpful as we can be. We prefer to look for solutions, rather than issues, which is why we knew that doing something about the negative impact our industry was having on the environment was very important.”
So what does Ian have his sights set on next for Central Environmental?
A lot. From finishing the set up of his Manawatu site, to hopefully developing further locations around the North Island, he also has his heart set on finding an environmentally-friendly way to deal with treated timber – as it still ends up in landfill, leaching toxins into the ground.
“Ultimately, I want us to be able to offer a full resource recovery service for demolition and construction waste, not only what comes from Central Demolition, but from any other business, and we’re definitely on our way to getting there.”