Grease trap waste, spoiled milk, abattoir blood and rotten fruit may be an unlikely indicator of the health of our economy but for NuGrow founder Roy Wilson the amount of the not-so-fragrant cargo unloaded at his waste recycling plant at Swanbank, southwest of Brisbane, is an accurate barometer of economic prospects.

Mr Wilson has built a profitable business around transforming the economy’s cast-offs into nutrient rich and valuable compost and soil.

“When the amount of waste starts to rise, the economy is starting to improve,” he said.

The former Ipswich coal miner, who owns three other similar sites around Queensland, began NuGrow in the shadow of the now-defunct Swanbank Power Station 15 years ago.

While the overall economy might be a bit sluggish at the moment, according to Mr Wilson’s barometer, he said prospects for NuGrow were looking up as the company seeks to expand the number of processing sites and launch new products..

The company, which has an annual turnover of $15 million, still processes enough waste each year to fill 1.6 million wheelie bins.

Going for Growth is a Courier-Mail series, presented in partnership with NAB.

Nugrow is part of an expanding industry riding on increased environmental awareness and regulation. There are an estimated 120 businesses across Australia involved in organics recycling and composting with a turnover of $600 million, according to the Waste Management Association of Australia.

NuGrow’s method of transforming waste from mines, building sites, restaurants and factories has been likened to cooking.

Green waste such as grass clippings, branches and chipped wood is piled in rows to which liquid waste is added by a “window turner” compost machine.

This creates an oven-like environment, which after 16 weeks of “cooking” results in a reusable nutrient-rich compost mixture that is sold for landscaping, parks and roadways.

Mr Wilson is hoping to expand nationwide, using the processes perfected at Swanbank at various sites around Australia.

NuGrow is now working on an organic pellet fertiliser that can be used by farmers to reduce the amount of harmful flow off of chemical fertilisers to the Great Barrier Reef.

The pellets will be trialled at a cattle property adjacent to the Reef in the coming months.

NuGrow manager Peter Ellis said NuGrow was at heart a manufacturing business that used waste by-product rather than traditional raw materials to make a product.

Image: NuGrow founder Roy Wilson, at his Swanbank compost plant. Picture: Liam Kidston.