Downer partners with Close the Loop for Australian-first project

Soft plastics from plastic bags and packaging and glass bottle equivalents will be diverted from landfill to construct a Victorian road in an Australian-first trial.

Integrated infrastructure organisation Downer and Hume City Council have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group to set a new benchmark in sustainability.

The trial will comprise approximately 200,000 bags and packaging and 63,000 glass bottle equivalents. The initiative is supported by the Victorian Government’s Resource Recovery Market Development Fund, more information on that here. 

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from more than 4500 used printer cartridges and 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 250 tonnes of asphalt that will be used to construct a road in and around Rayfield Avenue, Craigieburn, located in Melbourne’s north.

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Downer’s Executive General Manager Road Services, Dante Cremasco said the milestone event showed that partnerships with other thought leaders can create economic, social and environmental value for products. He added these are products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in our natural environments.

Mr Cremasco said that together with its customer Hume City Council and partners, Downer has set a new benchmark in the construction industry.

“What is also pleasing to see is that this sustainable, cost competitive road has a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue life and a superior resistance to deformation making the road last longer, and allowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco said

Hume Mayor Geoff Porter said the council was proud to join Downer and its partners in the Australian-first trial.

“Hume City Council is very proud to be home to Australia’s first road which sees soft plastics and glass diverted from landfills and repurposed to create local roads,” Cr Porter said.

“We look forward to monitoring the trial of this recycled asphalt and how the new surface performs over time.”

Cr Porter said sustainability is a key priority for the council and its community.

“This is just one way we are working in partnership to respond to recycling industry concerns and highlights the importance of residents and businesses recycling materials, particularly soft plastics and glass, properly,” Cr Porter said.

Downer partnered with Close the Loop and RED Group to tailor waste products such as soft plastics to suit a road construction application.

Close the Loop Australia General Manager Nerida Mortlock said its partnership with Downer and RED Group has allowed the company to work collaboratively to improve the way it designs and manufactures sustainable outcomes for waste that can be reused.

“We are very pleased to set yet another industry benchmark, seeing soft plastics used for the first time in an Australian road,” Ms Mortlock said.

RED Group Elizabeth Kasell said it demonstrates a great step toward a circular system, where soft plastic packaging recovered through the REDcycle Program and other materials previously destined for landfill can be used as a resource for Australian roads.

Vict Govt launches Resource Recovery Market Development Fund

The Victorian Government has announced a new $2.5 million fund to help develop markets for Victoria’s recyclable waste, and boost research and development into recycling.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Tuesday launched the Resource Recovery Market Development Fund in Craigieburn, Melbourne where major road builder Downer is trialling an asphalt mix containing recycled plastic bags, printer cartridges and glass in road surfacing.

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Downer received $67,000 from the fund, which will be managed by Sustainability Victoria and support researchers and industry in finding new ways to use recovered resources.

Downer estimates that up to 15 per cent of asphalt could contain soft plastics and that up to 10 million tonnes of recyclable waste could be diverted from landfill every year using their new approach.

Sustainability Victoria provided Close the Loop with $40,000 for equipment to develop the plastic additive used in the asphalt mix.

The fund builds on $80 million over four years invested by the Victorian Government into waste and resource recovery.

Applications for the Resource Recovery Market Development Fund will open in July.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the new fund will help support new industries and stimulate a circular economy for recyclable material.

 

Record number of print cartridges recycled

Australians have recycled a record 13,500 used printer cartridges every working day, according to Planet Ark.

The data shows since the launch of their Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program, more than 3.5 million cartridges have been returned for recycling or remanufacture.

Ryan Collins, Recycling Programs Manager at Planet Ark, said a key factor in this success is the industry’s willingness to participate in this voluntary product stewardship scheme, which ensures the environmental impact of their products is responsibly managed at the end of their useful life.

“The success of ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ is a direct result of the commitment demonstrated by our program partners. With their participation the program has been able to build an extensive collection and processing infrastructure that makes it easy for households and workplaces to recycle their cartridges, which is clearly reflected in the previous year’s results,” Mr Collins said.

Collectively, the participating cartridge manufacturers Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera have helped Australians divert 34 million cartridges from landfill, which is equivalent to more than 14,500 tonnes of materials, since the program began in 2003.

“Working within a closed loop or circular process, like the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program, which allows us to recover and reuse valuable materials and keep them circulating, is essential.

“It doesn’t make good business sense to send useful and valuable materials to landfill, when they can be salvaged and directed back into the economy. We’re particularly proud of the fact that the program has consistently achieved zero waste to landfill every year.”

Printer cartridges can take between 450 and 1,000 years to break down in landfill, and e-waste is the fastest-growing form of waste. Rapid innovation, decrease in product lifespan and declining prices of both electronics and raw materials have led to more and more items being discarded.

Planet Ark data shows that Australian consumers are by and large supportive of responsible waste management and recycling. In a recent study, 82 per cent of participants stated that they will recycle even if it takes more effort.

Once they are collected, used printer cartridges are sorted and, depending on their type, returned to the manufacturer for remanufacturing, or dismantled, with plastics, metals, toner and ink collected for recycling by resource recovery partner Close the Loop®. Bags and ties that help transport the cartridges once the collection box is full get recycled.