Close the Loop unveils new soft plastics manufacturing line

Close the Loop has unveiled a new manufacturing line in Melbourne capable of converting 200,000 tonnes of soft plastic and toner waste into an asphalt additive for roads.

The new facility has the potential to divert two thirds of Australia’s total 300,000 tonnes of soft plastic waste from landfill annually. The TonerPlas asphalt additive comprises the equivalent of 530,000 recycled plastic bags, 168,000 glass bottles and 12,000 recycled toner cartridges per every kilometre of two-lane road.

The company’s product has already been laid on roads in major Melbourne and Sydney hubs in conjunction with integrated services company Downer, with the line opening to commercial scale during National Recycling Week.

Close the Loop Chairman Craig Devlin said the company has been at the forefront of the circular economy for more than 17 years.

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“Our goal of zero waste to landfill has seen us partner with manufacturers through take-back programs across multiple sectors, including printer cartridges, cosmetics and batteries,” Mr Devlin said.

Mr Devlin said its TonerPlas asphalt additive is a great example of how valuable materials can be recycled to not just create new products, but better-quality products.

“The addition of TonerPlas improves the fatigue life of traditional asphalt by 65 per cent, meaning longer lasting roads at a cost-competitive price.

“It also offers superior resistance to deformation over standard conventional asphalt for withstanding heavy vehicular traffic.”

He said that policy changes in China had highlighted the importance of a local recycling industry and improved energy use across the design, use and reuse of products through a circular economy.

Mr Devlin said Australia’s recycling industry needs to invest in future waste solutions with greater infrastructure research to meet problematic landfill demands.

“Our new manufacturing capacity to reuse soft plastics and toner into TonerPlas is a great example of what local companies can do. However, Australia needs to coordinate and invest in infrastructure to build a viable recycling industry,” Mr Delvin said.

“Banning plastic bags is a start, but it doesn’t solve the challenge”.

Scrunching the issue of soft plastics

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has compiled a comprehensive gap analysis on the market barriers to recovering soft plastics. Waste Management Review sat down with APCO’s Brooke Donnelly to discuss how it fits into the broader plastics issue.

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Downer and Close the Loop build NSW road from recycled plastics

Plastic from around 176,000 plastic bags and packaging and glass from around 55,000 bottles has been diverted from landfill to build New South Wales’ first road made from soft plastics and glass.

Downer and Sutherland Shire Council have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop, RED Group and Plastic Police to build the road in the Sydney suburb of Engadine.

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Toner from approximately 4000 used printer cartridges with more than 60 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 220 tonnes of asphalt used in the construction of the road along Old Princes Highway between Cooper Street and Engadine Road.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said this achievement demonstrates how committed organisations can find innovative solutions to waste reduction.

“The NSW Government has a comprehensive funding program designed to find more ways to make sure waste is taken out of landfill and put to good use,” said Ms Upton.

“In particular, the Product Improvement Co-investment program and the Circulate program together provide $10 million in funding to help find creative ways to reduce the amount of waste and find better uses than simply throwing it away.”

Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce said Council is committed to showing leadership in sustainability and the use of recycled products.

“Sutherland Shire Council collects over 25 thousand tonnes of recycling in the yellow top bins every year,” Councillor Pesce said.

“Using recycled plastic and glass in asphalt to create new road surfaces is just one of the innovative ways Council can reduce its environmental footprint through the use of recyclable material.”

Downer General Manager Pavements Stuart Billing said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in our natural environments.

“Through our partnerships and desire to make a difference, we’ve shown how to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste.”

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product, called Plastiphalt, 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 Billing said.

The project is co-funded through the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnerships with RedCycle and Plastic Police has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a NSW road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Downer partner with CDEnviro for Sydney detritus processing facility

A new Detritus Processing Facility in Rosehill, NSW, will divert more than 21,000 tonnes of waste annually from landfill, to be separated, cleaned and sorted into valuable products and materials for reuse.

The facility, opened by construction company Downer and partnered with CDEnviro, can recycle several different types of materials from everyday waste streams.

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Materials such as organic matter, sand, gravel, metals and plastics are able to be separated and then sold for reuse.

Downer’s Executive General Manager Road Services Dante Cremasco said the Detritus Processing Facility creates economic, social and environmental value for material that would end up in landfill, or end up as a pollutant in our natural environments.

“The Rosehill Detritus Processing Facility is capable of cost effectively processing, separating and cleaning upwards of 25,000 tonnes annually from everyday waste streams such as street sweepings or stormwater. Approximately 85 per cent of it is then converted into meaningful streams of use such as organic matter, sand, gravel, metals and plastic,” he said.

“The facility is about pulling product, not pushing waste, as these products can be utilised in compost, asphalt for roads that Downer builds and building materials,” Mr Cremasco said.

The facility is able to support the optimisation of street sweeping operations in metroplitian Sydney, which aims to enable some street sweepers to complete more than one load per shift.

“The proximity of the facility to street sweeping operations in metropolitan Sydney will see further benefits through improved efficiency with shorter distances travelled by street sweepers. This will in turn allow for improved productivity, reduced fuel consumption and longer equipment life.”

NSW Environment and Protection Authority (EPA) Director Resource Recovery Kathy Giunta said the EPA is committed to supporting research and the introduction of new technologies to boost recycling in the state.

“This project is one of several the government has supported through the Recycling Innovation Fund, a part of Waste Less Recycle More initiative and is a good example of innovation in recycling,” she said.

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.