MOST of us throw away fruit and vegetable peelings but when Iain Chaney was confronted with pallets of orange peel, he saw the potential for a new product range.
Chaney had been involved in manufacturing for several years and in 1991 on a visit to a fruit co-operative in Mildura in Victoria he noticed a large number of pallets containing oil from oranges that had been squeezed.
''We were using orange oil in hand creams we were producing instead of kerosene as it smells nice and is a natural solvent,'' he says.
''When I saw this oil wasn't going to be used, I thought we could do something with it and bought the lot, which I didn't realise at the time but amounted to 20 tonnes worth.''
Soon, the environmental and sustainable range Orange Power was launched and within a year, Chaney and three other founders, had produced four products including a multipurpose cleaner.
Because they still had so much orange oil, they decided to bottle the oil and sell it as an air freshener.
''This is now our biggest selling product and comprises about 50 per cent of the company's sales,'' Chaney says.
''Overall that first batch of oil we bought lasted us nearly two years.''
Getting supermarket shelf space was crucial for promoting Orange Power and Chaney says looking back, the founders were quite naive about what needed to be done.
''We were lucky in that we were able to get our products into the major supermarkets,'' he says. ''It would be much more difficult these days.''
At the time of its establishment, the founders, who include Chaney's brother Andrew, wanted to focus on making environmentally sustainable products.
''We are committed to providing ethical products that also offer great performance,'' Chaney says.
''We want to make it easy for consumers to be green at home without sacrificing any of the quality.''
The company decided to eliminate palm oil from its products about four years ago after it realised how much damage its production does to the environment.
''It was impossible to find ingredients that were sourced from 100 per cent certified palm oil so we now use other oils including coconut oil in our products,'' Chaney says. ''It is more expensive but it means we can ensure our products are made using environmentally sustainable products.''
In 2010, the company bought the Aware Planet Ark brand, and now produces laundry products for sensitive skin. Both the Orange Power and the Aware ranges have been certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia, which audits green claims by brands.
The company also manufactures the Actizyme range of natural, enzyme-based drain cleaners and deodorisers.
''As far as I know, we're the only company that's performed the research [and absorbed the cost], of eliminating palm oil completely from our products,'' Chaney says.
The company now comprises 18 full-time staff and about 6-8 casuals.
Chaney agrees one major challenge with being ''green'' is marketing and promotion, especially as many companies are promoting themselves in the same way. ''There are a lot of greenwash products out there which just have a green sounding name but aren't really green,'' Chaney says.
''We are the only mainstream supermarket range that has had its green claims independently audited.''
Turnover is about $10 million a year and Chaney says because of its size it is difficult to compete with bigger players who do TV advertising.
''We do mainly magazine advertising and some social media but that's something we probably need to do more of,'' he says.
''But we continue to grow strongly, especially since we took on the two new product ranges.
''We are part way through a three-stage plan to set up a new factory in Dandenong [where all products are made] and are trialling new initiatives such as using gravity rather than pumps to move liquid products around the factory.''