Boosting bottom lines

A man manipulates a piece of machinery

The Northern Rivers Regional Circular Economy Accelerator

Southern Cross University’s ReCirculator provides independent advice to businesses on incorporating Circular Economy principles into their day-to-day operations.

To do this, the ReCirculator undertakes research into which technologies best suit a business’s needs for recovering and reusing resources from their commercial waste stream.

While primarily geared to assisting businesses within the New South Wales Northern Rivers region, the program also works with commercial operations and projects across Australia.

The ReCirculator program is a $2 million Federal Government-funded initiative forming part of the Strategic University Reform Fund (SURF).

Professor Dirk Erler standing in front of machinery

“The difficulty for industry lies in not having the capacity to really test processes and techniques. ReCirculator solves that by testing and evaluating new waste management processes that deliver economic, social, and environmental gain.”

Demonstration projects

The ReCirculator is running six demonstration projects targeting significant waste streams in key Northern Rivers industries. The efficiencies established in these pilot projects are scalable, meaning they can be adapted for commercial uptake by similar businesses in the future.

  • Project 1: Thermal treatment of waste
  • Project 2: Plastic waste recycling into the Circular Economy
  • Project 3: Capturing nutrients from industrial wastewater
  • Project 4: Carbon accounting
  • Project 5: Waste identification and sorting
  • Project 6: 3D printed housing – Studio Kite

Industries supported by these pilot projects include food production and manufacturing.


Testing the quality of biogas generated through an anaerobic digester at Richmond Dairies in Casino. This gas can be used to heat and power the factory.

Recirculator equiptment 1

Collecting wastewater from the anaerobic digester at Richmond Dairies to test ways of extracting nutrients which can then be used as a fertiliser.

Recirculator equiptment 2

Casino Hide Tanners - breaks down organic pollutants in effluent, meaning it can be safely used for irrigation, rather than having to be disposed of at specialised landfills.

Recirculator equiptment 3

Using the Static Pile Inoculated Composting process at scale, this project demonstrates how composted material can improve pasture and build soil health.

Investigating alternate options for managing solid wastes

The ReCirculator acts as an economic growth driver by:

  • saving costs
  • improving productivity
  • regenerating resources
  • creating resilient jobs.

It helps local businesses to enhance their efficiency by adopting circular economy principles that:

  • assess the composition of their waste streams and any materials and energy that could be recovered from it
  • combine wastes from compatible partners to create commercially marketable outputs and/or products, and
  • identify, trial and optimise technological solutions to waste reuse and recovery, and assist with their uptake on a commercial scale.

To do this, the ReCirculator:

  • provides access to the technical facilities and expertise of Southern Cross University and its research partners for waste characterisation, testing of resource recovery potential, plus piloting and optimising suitable technology before commercial adoption
  • provides techno-economic modelling expertise to identify and apply commercially viable solutions
  • acts as a trusted technology broker for industry, using links between Southern Cross University and both national and international technology and research providers, and
  • maintains a network between the university, industry, regulators and government to foster information sharing and technology adoption to create meaningful change.

This is a targeted approach to a common goal – a better, safer, more sustainable world. 

Benefits of a circular economy

Reduce waste and pollution

Keep products and materials in use

Create employment through products developed from waste materials

Meet the team

Professor Andrew Rose in lab

Professor Andrew Rose

Academic Director

Andrew is a career academic with a lifelong passion for science and the environment who continues to balance hands-on teaching and ongoing research projects with governance duties such as chairing SCU’s Academic Board. Andrew has been instrumental in setting up the ReCirculator, and now serves as the program’s Academic Director.

View Andrew's full profile on the Southern Cross University website

Dirk Erler

Professor Dirk Erler

Chief Investigator

Dirk Erler, the ReCirculator’s Chief Investigator, a Professor of Biogeochemistry who will focus on the remediation of liquid waste streams within the ReCirculator program. Dirk’s background is in nutrient and mineral cycling in both natural and engineered aquatic systems.

View Dirk's full profile on the Southern Cross University website

Dr Shane McIntosh

Dr Shane McIntosh

Lead Investigator in Thermal Processing

Shane McIntosh has joined the ReCirculator team as Lead Investigator on Thermal Processing. Shane has research expertise in biorefining processes for waste remediation and valorisation, and has worked extensively with domestic and international industries on waste-related projects.

View Shane's full profile on the Southern Cross University website

Ernest Du Toit with plastics display II.

Dr Ernest Du Toit

Technical Manager

Ernest is an experienced process engineer who has worked in various industries including oil and gas, agriculture and biopharma. As Technical Manager, Ernest manages the ReCirculator’s technical services and liaises with existing and prospective industry partners to develop research projects through the ReCirculator.

View Ernest's full profile on the Southern Cross University website

Ms Susan Lang-Lemckert (Program Manager, ReCirculator)

Ms Susan Lang-Lemckert

Program Manager, ReCirculator

Susan comes to the ReCirculator with a background in all levels of government and a passion for communications and engagement. As Program Manager, Susan administers the ReCirculator’s day-to-day operations and is the first point of contact for all things to do with the program.

Dr Sydur Rahman standing in a Lab

Dr Sydur Rahman

Technical Officer

With an Environmental Engineering background, Sydur has research expertise in the areas of wastewater treatment and management, environmental chemistry, water resources management, and hydrologic and hydraulic modelling. In his role as Technical Officer, Sydur provides technical and research support to all areas of the ReCirculator program.

Toby Shapiro Ellis standing next to machinery

Mr Toby Shapiro Ellis

Technical Assistant

Toby graduated from SCU's Civil Engineering program, and has a background in geotechnical and structural engineering. As The ReCirculator’s Technical Assistant, Toby provides support for the program’s experiments, adapting existing technologies to improve sustainable resource practices in the Northern Rivers.

Latest news

The ReCirculator and Plastics Pirate bring the Circular Economy to Stanthorpe

SQNNSW Innovation Hub and Southern Downs Regional Council invited Southern Cross University’s ReCirculator team and their industry partner, Plastics Pirate, to conduct a Circular Economy demonstration and information session at Stanthorpe on 6 December.

Attendees from the Granite Belt Growers Association, Southern Downs Regional Council, local industry – and from as far afield as Glen Innes and Kingaroy – saw how the Plastics Pirate pyrolysis technology can convert waste plastic into fuel or feedstock for new plastics.

The overwhelming interest shown at this event will support further demonstrations within the region and, ultimately, the commercial rollout of the technology.

Group of workers smiling in front of machinery

Social says #circulareconomy

Primary school students recently visited Southern Cross’ facilities to learn about #circulareconomy principles and the University’s ReCirculator project.

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Recirculator program at local school 2022

Students eye on the future

Students from Tweed Coast primary and secondary schools took part in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) challenge at Kingscliff High School on Friday, October 28, with primary students building and racing their own miniature solar cars.

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Simon Hartley with students in community garden