A FIRM backed by Melbourne packaging billionaire Raphael “Ruffy” Geminder and a former executive of the Pratt family’s Visy Group wants to transform the way restaurants and airlines
deal with food and packaging waste as part of a revolutionary approach to recycling.
Later this month Melbournebased Closed Loop Environmental Services will launch an initiative called City Harvest, installing composting units in restaurants, taking the compost to establish gardens, growing vegetables and selling them back to restaurateurs.
Several Melbourne restaurants, including Cecconi’s in Flinders Lane, have signed up to the
program, which will be extended to Sydney restaurants and others across the country.
As part of the project, disadvantaged young people involved with charities will be trained in
commercial and horticultural skills to prepare and maintain the gardens.
The Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre at Albert Park has agreed to provide three sites to
establish indoor and outdoor gardens for the project, including one on a rooftop. A site also has
been identified at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Closed Loop chief executive Rob Pascoe said the initiative could boost the group’s $30 million
annual turnover by onethird across the next five years.
“The primary involvement from us will be managing people’s resources, which is what we call the
waste. That is how we will get our income. But we would expect that this would be a $10m
business just with the city restaurants in Australia within five years,” he told The Australian.
Closed Loop’s domestic composting unit known as CLO’ey converts food waste, including meat
and dairy, into compost in just 24 hours, using heating, agitation and airflow. It is hygienic and
odourfree. Units are sold at stores such as the Woolworthsbacked Masters Hardware, but they
cost more than $800
“The biggest issue facing the world today is feeding the world. The next big thing is going to be
about focusing on food. We are very proactively developing now, with our customers, organics
processing on site.
“Any venue doesn’t need to have waste. You can save a lot of money setting up a recycling
program and having onsite organic processing,” Mr Pascoe said.
“In 10 years, I believe an inkitchen composting unit that doesn’t smell will be just as essential as a
He said the key to more successful recycling was in specifying the inputs into the process. “Instead
of looking at recycling from the point of view of trying to recover a whole lot of waste, sort it out
and find markets for it, make products in the first place out of materials that you want back
because they have a value, then recycling will happen very quickly,” he said.
Closed Loop first came to national prominence at the Sydney Olympics, where it worked with
organisers to ensure all waste from the events was split and recycled.
The company still has a deal with the Olympic stadium at Homebush and has extended similar
deals to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Etihad Stadium in the Melbourne Docklands.
In 2001 it started doing recycling work for Qantas and introduced the famed “box meals”, which
revolutionised the way the airline delivered onboard meals.
Now it is working on a new initiative with the airline that it calls “the world’s largest recycling
“This is about being able to put a product on a plane (and) take it off on the other side of the world
and recycle it,” Mr Pascoe said.
“We want to set up collection systems at every airport Qantas flies to in the world.”
The group has two fulltime employees that work with the airline.
This year Closed Loop’s British business has also worked in partnership with Heathrow airport to
undertake an audit of waste at the world’s largest international airport, as part of its ongoing
The results are set to change the way the aviation sector views waste; from a significant cost and
into a valuable revenue stream.
The company currently does recycling for 11 airlines that fly in to Heathrow and also recycles
waste from the terminals.
Closed Loop, of which Mr Geminder is a 25 per cent shareholder and a director, was spun out of
Visy in 2001.
A year later when Mr Geminder led a management buyout of the industrial packaging assets
acquired by Visy from Southcorp, he acquired Visy’s interest in Closed Loop.
Those industrial packaging assets formed the centrepiece of Pact Group, owned by Mr Geminder
and his wife, Fiona daughter of the late Richard Pratt. After making a string of acquisitions over
the past decade, Pact is now a $1.3 billion enterprise, while Ms Geminder also owns a onethird
stake in Visy.
“We have four or five board meetings a year and Ruffy would come to almost every one,” Mr
“He is very active in the meetings. He is very interested in the business, albeit he is not handson.
“We have a large media production arm with which we do a lot of work for Pact. We buy some
packaging product from Pact.
“We also do work with Visy and buy product from Visy. We have maintained a great relationship
with Visy through (its executive chairman) Anthony Pratt.”
Visy and Pact are competing more aggressively in key parts of the packaging market but Mr
Pascoe said he had managed to maintain a good relationship with both. “I don’t talk to one about
the other. Anthony is patently aware that Ruffy is a shareholder in our business but he knows he is not involved in the daytoday running of the business. It works well for me.”