Yarra City Council: crushing contamination

Waste Management Review speaks with Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, about the council’s ongoing trial of kerbside glass separation.

In the beginning of June of this year, 1300 Abbottsford households were greeted with new crates for their glass waste.

The crates were delivered to the inner north suburb of Melbourne as part of a kerbside glass collection trial, developed by the Yarra City Council.

The problem of crushed glass and contamination has been discussed at length in the resource recovery sector. However, as Waste Management Review reported in May, government action on the issue has been slow.

With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Yarra City Council is attempting to buck this trend by taking tangible steps to reduce contamination in the densely populated municipality. Another motivating issue is the lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.

Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, says recycling rates across Yarra are high, with the majority of residents being active recyclers. Despite this, Chris says recent changes to the recycling industry have promoted a proactive response from the council in an attempt to get ahead of potential future problems.

“Recent challenges in the waste and recycling industry will have an impact on all councils. A reduction in recycling processing in Melbourne will see additional pressures on the remaining processors,” Chris says.

“Making sure we minimise the amount of waste we send to landfill and improve the quality of recycling will ensure we continue to have a sustainable waste collection service into the future.”

The Yarra trial will run for 12 months and builds on a successful 2018 food and garden organics (FOGO) separation trial.

“The initial FOGO trial provided extremely useful data and information about the collection process and user behaviour, and identified that Yarra residents were willing to trial new ways and methods for kerbside recycling,” Chris says.

“This was very heartening for us and encouraged us to combine FOGO and glass separation in a larger trial area.”

Chris says results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

The trial has been named the Yarra Waste Revolution and includes a targeted education and communications program.

“Recycling contamination is an ongoing issue for all councils, partly because, generally speaking, people do not have a good grasp on what is considered contamination when it comes to the kerbside recycling bin,” Chris says.

“We saw a great opportunity to make our recycled materials cleaner and more valuable, which ensures they get a new life, while also sending less waste to landfill.

“The improved quality of the material will lead to higher value, increased market demand, market diversity and the development of domestic markets for recycled products.”

According to Chris, public response to the trial has been positive, with most residents supportive of the new service and the city’s efforts to reduce waste sent to landfill.

“In only a few short weeks, there has already been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the material being presented in glass recycling bins,” he says.

“The Yarra Waste Revolution is a major change for residents, so this is a phenomenal achievement by the community in a very short amount of time.”

To implement the trial, Yarra City Council has enlisted the support of the state government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and the Alex Fraser Group.   

“Partnerships with industry and government agencies are critical to the success of this trial. We all need to work together to find solutions to the current recycling crisis,” Chris says.

“Our collection contractors, processors and industry partners share our vision to find solutions to the recycling crisis, and are helping us collect and sort the materials here in Victoria.”

Chris says research partners have also helped council understand the lifecycle analysis of the city’s new collection model, and what that will mean for environmental outcomes.

“We couldn’t implement a trial without their participation and of course, the financial and technical support provided by our government partners,” he says.

“We are actively seeking out opportunities to work with all levels of government, and the waste industry, to deliver on a new circular economy approach to waste management.”

Following the trial, Chris says Yarra will consider expanding the service throughout the city.

“We have had the courage to explore alternative methods and innovate in order to develop a more sustainable kerbside model that transitions away from the current system which relies heavily on export markets,” Chris says.

“Our long-term ambition is to move our community towards producing zero waste by supporting circular economies and minimising the amount of waste produced.”

Chris adds that making sure Yarra residents are confident in the sustainability of their waste and recycling service is key to achieving viable and environmental outcomes.

“We recognise the changes we are implementing at a local level require buy-in and commitment from our residents, but are confident that we have the support of our community, who are very focused on sustainability,” he says.

“Our Yarra Waste Revolution trial to separate glass and food and organic waste only started in June this year, and while it is a bit premature to provide solid data or analysis, the early signs are very positive.”

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SKM closure prompts glass collection roll out

Victoria’s Moyne Shire Council will soon introduce a fourth kerbside bin for glass collection across the entire shire, bucking the trend of short-term limited trials.

Moyne Shire Mayor Mick Wolfe said the shire was initially planning to trial for only six months in one region, however, the recent closures of SKM resulted in too many recyclables going to landfill.

“Moving ahead with a shire-wide rollout of glass-only kerbside collection is not just better for the environment, it’s better economic management of our waste,” Mr Wolfe said.

“Under a new campaign, Better4Moyne, council will be working with residents to improve waste separation, ultimately reducing the amount of recyclables going to landfill.”

Mr Wolfe said introducing a fourth bin for glass, which currently accounts for roughly 40 per cent of recycles in yellow kerbside bins, will make all recycling easier to process.

“Council will no longer be reliant on SKM, as there are other facilities that can process recyclables that are not contaminated by glass,” Mr Wolfe said.

“There are also facilities that will take the glass, crush it and use it as a substitute for sand in road making. Not only is this a better solution for the environment, it’s better for the economy.”

Moyne Shire Council CEO Bill Millard said the new Better4Moyne campaign will focus on correct separation of waste, using all four kerbside bins.

“The purple-lidded glass collection bins will be emptied monthly, yellow lidded recycling and green lidded FOGO bins every two weeks, and the red lidded landfill bin will continue to be collected weekly,” Mr Millard said.

“Over the coming months we will be focusing on our Better4Moyne waste education campaign, and continue to work with our waste collection contractors to finalise the revised collection schedule.”

Council will provide further roll out details to residents in the coming weeks.

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Ballarat enters contract with Australian Paper Recovery

Glass will not be permitted in City of Ballarat recycling bins from 30 September, due to a new contract with Australian Paper Recovery.

City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh said Australian Paper Recovery has local markets for the processing and reuse of paper, cardboard, quality plastics and cans, but does not have a market for glass.

“Residents will be able to take their glass to one of several free glass drop-off sites around the municipality, either using their own container or one provided by council,” Ms McIntosh said.

“Alternatively, residents can put glass in the normal garbage bin, which will be collected and sent to landfill.”

Ms McIntosh said that for many years, Ballarat shipped its recycled material overseas for processing, which is no longer an option.

“Australia is now competing with other countries to access smaller and shrinking markets for our recyclables – so we are looking for local markets and local solutions,” Ms McIntosh said.

“The urgency to find a sustainable new recycling approach intensified after the recent collapse of SKM, which collected recyclables for more than 30 Victorian councils, including the City of Ballarat.”

Ms McIntosh said she knows the change may concern some residents.

“It concerns us too, but we have looked at all possibilities and at this stage, this option is the best and most cost-effective,” Ms McIntosh said.

“Our approach also means council will be able to ensure our recycling is processed locally and genuinely reused, at no additional cost to residents.”

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PhD candidate develops glass waste construction columns

University of Queensland PhD candidate Danish Kazmi is developing a technique to transform glass waste into geotechnical columns and reduce the use of sand in the construction industry.

The geotechnical engineering student is investigating the use of crushed glass waste as an alternative to sand for ground improvement during construction works.

“Both sand and glass waste have a similar chemical composition, so we expect them to behave similarly when optimally used in geotechnical construction,” Mr Kazmi said.

“My research looks at the performance of glass waste within ground columns as an environmentally friendly alternative to sand columns, which are commonly used at the moment.”

Mr Kazmi said the columns are designed to strengthen the earth below a building and improve its load-bearing characteristics.

“Using glass waste in this way not only preserves precious sand resources and promotes closed-loop recycling, but could also reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry by cutting down on the amount of sand that needed to be quarried,” Mr Kazmi said.

“I have always been passionate about helping to create circular economies.”

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Victorian council urges residents to separate glass

Macedon Ranges council in central Victoria is urging residents to separate glass from other recyclable material at kerbside.

In a media statement, council said it was working with its waste contractor, Four Seasons Waste, to find alternative processing options following the closure of SKM Recycling.

“An alternative processor has been identified, but this processor will only accept recycling loads which do not contain glass,” the statement reads.

“Council is asking residents to not place glass in recycling bins, effective immediately, so it can explore this option further.”

Acting Assets and Operations Director Anne-Louise Lindner said residents needed to work with council to find alternatives to landfill.

“We really hope the community will come on board and help us to remove glass from recycling bins,” Ms Lindner said.

“Shards and small pieces of glass can become embedded in paper and cardboard in recycling bins, and contaminate the other recyclables.”

The Victorian Government recently announced that councils affected by SKM’s closure would receive a rebate to cover additional costs incurred to deal with recyclable waste.

“This new funding has a particular focus on finding innovative solutions to the problem, and by trying to remove glass from our recycling, we’re already making progress in this area,” Ms Lindner said.

Ms Lindner said council would conduct bin audits in the coming weeks to monitor the level of glass in kerbside recycling bins.

“If we can see glass has been removed from bins, we may be able to divert recycling from landfill and send the glass-free recycling to this new processor,” Ms Linder said.

“Council has long been advocating for a solution to the recycling issue, which involves all levels of government working together.”

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Researchers develop concrete solution for recycled glass

Deakin School of Engineering researchers have found ground waste glass can be used as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete – a material commonly used in industrial flooring.

Senior engineering lecturer Dr Riyadh Al-Ameri said the addition of glass resulted in a stronger product that was less costly to produce.

“This research provides the evidence the construction industry needs to see the potential of glass as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete and, potentially, concrete,” Dr Al-Ameri said.

“Concrete is a major construction material and sand is one of its primary components, so finding an alternative to sand makes good economic sense.”

Polymer concrete uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cements as a binder.

According to Dr Al-Ameri, this produces a high strength, water-resistant material suited to industrial flooring and infrastructure drainage, particularly in areas subject to heavy traffic such as service stations, forklift operating areas and airports.

“We have found that substituting sand with ground recycled glass makes the polymer concrete stronger and is a sustainable use of one of the major types of recyclables in the domestic waste stream,” Dr Al-Ameri said.

“Any changes that reduce the cost of production will lead to significant gains across the industry, potentially on a global scale.”

Deakin Engineering student Dikshit Modgil worked with Melbourne-based Orca Civil Products as part of his masters research into the suitability of recyclable glass in polymer concrete production.

Orca Civil Products Director Alan Travers said the research partnership had produced results that would be useful in taking the concept further to commercialisation.

“The specific type of waste glass used in this project was unsuitable for recycling back into glass and the amount that is stockpiling is becoming a community problem,” Mr Travers said.

“The concept has even more appeal to us because of predicted shortages of natural, mined sands in the medium term.”

Dr Al-Ameri said the next stage of Deakin’s research would look at substitutes for the aggregate in polymer concrete, optimising the substitution rate, assessing durability, and the commercialisation of the new product.

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Alex Fraser: recycling through the ages

As Alex Fraser celebrates its 140th anniversary, Waste Management Review details the company’s efforts to become one of Australia’s leading providers of recycled construction materials.

Not many Australian companies have 140 years of operation behind them. Such a milestone is even more extraordinary when you consider the enormous changes that have occurred over the past century – from two world wars to some of the most challenging economic recessions.

Alex Fraser is one organisation that recently hit that 140-year milestone, attributing its long history of success to investment in its people and its business. As a result, the company was able to swiftly respond to major shifts in material usage and keep pace with changing community expectations.

While the company is synonymous with building a sustainable construction sector, its humble beginnings were in the metals sector.

In 1879, Alex Fraser was a founding member of a metal broker firm, in Queen Street, Melbourne, run by the Melbourne Metal Exchange (MME).

With the price of metal fluctuating on an almost daily basis, Fraser and his fellow MME members controlled the entire output from Barrier Mines as well as other important mines throughout the country with silver, lead, zinc and tin the principle metals.

In the early 1920s, Fraser made the decision to retire and return to his country of birth, leaving the business to a clerk employed with the company – Archibald McKellar. McKellar’s 11 years with the business helped him grow the business throughout the Great Depression and eventually take over as owner.

With the passing of McKellar Snr, his son Archie took over after World War II in the 1950s. Margins were difficult at the time and with stiff competition in the tin and lead business, McKellar Jnr set looked for new opportunities, starting with the demolition and recycling of metal from returned fighter jets and tanks from the war.

Many of these initial opportunities saw Alex Fraser become a pioneer in commercial recycling, including plastics and dry nylon recycling. During the 60s and 70s, demolitions became a prominent activity for Alex Fraser and by the late 70s, its primary industry.

The early 80s marked the beginning of a new age in Alex Fraser’s recycling story as it embarked on one of its most ambitious projects yet. Led by Jamie McKellar and his brothers Robert and Peter, the family’s third generation began to transform large quantities of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, like concrete, asphalt, brick and stone, into new construction resources such as aggregates and roadbase.

With the establishment of its first concrete recycling site in Port Melbourne, Alex Fraser started to grow its employee base from an initial few to more than 260 across five recycling plants in Queensland and Victoria.

Alex Fraser Asphalt was launched in the 1990s. It quickly expanded to include two high-capacity asphalt plants on opposite ends of Melbourne’s metro area and five asphalt crews renowned for their quality workmanship and reliability.

Together, Alex Fraser’s recycling and asphalt operations work with local governments, contractors and asset owners to build greener roads throughout Melbourne and Brisbane, reducing the carbon footprint of construction by up to 65 per cent.

DEVELOPING A REPUTATION

One of its biggest milestones arose in 1992, when governments, councils and contractors began to recognise and support the use of recycled C&D. Alex Fraser worked closely with government to develop VicRoads specifications. These specifications have been periodically updated and set an outstanding example of government agencies supporting the use of recycled content.

Alex Fraser went from strength to strength, winning the Western Ring Road and Albert Park Grand Prix track projects and laying the foundations of Melbourne’s Crown Casino. As of 1987, it was responsible for almost half of Victoria’s C&D recycling effort.

By 2008, Alex Fraser became a major recycling enterprise, having produced 20 million tonnes of sustainable construction materials. Peter Murphy, who has been with Alex Fraser for more than 15 years, transitioned the company into its next phase of growth, stepping up to the role of Managing Director in 2011 after the company changed hands to John Swire & Sons.

Peter’s background in logistics drove Alex Fraser’s commitment to reliability, ensuring responsive delivery to its valued customers. He and his team consistently benchmark locally and internationally which has helped foster a culture of innovation and best practice at Alex Fraser.

Peter led the establishment of a network of world class recycling facilities, and spearheaded Alex Fraser’s innovative recycled glass projects.

Fast forward to 2019 and Alex Fraser’s notable achievements span turning glass into construction sand, converting historically landfilled concrete into recycled aggregates and roadbase, and using a wide variety of recyclables in its quality asphalt mixes, including recovered asphalt, glass and plastics.

It is now responsible for producing up to four million tonnes of sustainable construction material per annum, recovering millions of tonnes of demolition and glass waste and paving more than 1000 kilometres of green roads every year.

This year the company is in the midst of commissioning a world-first glass recycling plant and new high recycled technology asphalt plant, doubling the volume of recycled sand produced in Victoria while drastically increasing the volume of recycled materials incorporated in its asphalt mixes.

Peter credits the company’s innovation and agility to its people who are always looking for the next improvement, and to strengthen long-term relationships with customers and regulators.

“We work hard to provide reliable services, so our customers can get their projects done on time, on spec and on budget. On all our customer projects, supply timelines are integral to performance. If we can give them a high volume of consistent material, their project will be more efficient,” Peter explains.

He says that it was rewarding to see the efforts of Alex Fraser’s people recognised last year with the company winning the Waste and Recycling Award at the Victorian Transport Association Australian Freight Industry Awards.

“The prize commended our game-changing glass recycling operation that diverted hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill and provides resources that are badly needed to fulfil Victoria’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure pipeline,” Peter says.

“It also substantially reduces heavy vehicle movements. There’s plenty of talk about recycling lately. We’ve been doing it for a long time on a large scale and have continued to innovate and invest.”

R&D CONTINUES

Of course, none of Alex Fraser’s achievements would be possible without its continued efforts to improve the end markets for recycled materials. The company conducts ongoing research and development with partners including CSIRO, Australian Road Research Board, Melbourne’s RMIT, Melbourne University and Swinburne University. Testing over an extended period on materials and pavements demonstrates that recycled aggregate matches, if not exceeds, the performance of the equivalent virgin material.

Part of its ongoing work is liaising with individual local government areas and businesses to educate them on the environmental and commercial benefits of using recycled material.

Peter says that as natural resources deplete and quarries move further afield, transport costs increase sharply.  Recycled materials are not only a sustainable option, but often the most economical.

Alex Fraser’s desire to benchmark recycled materials led to a decision to partner with RMIT Centre of Design and conduct a life-cycle analysis of its recycling operation compared with a quarrying operation.

In May 2008, the results of the RMIT research were released indicating the carbon footprint of recycled crushed concrete is 65 per cent less than equivalent quarried material. These findings have subsequently been independently verified in accordance with international standard ISO14040.

“Demand is increasing and the constant challenge is to ensure that all of these major projects happening across the country are aware of sustainable alternatives,” Peter says.

“The consistent quality, compaction, transport and density benefits of recycled construction materials are well recognised as presenting substantial savings to construction costs, so they are well supported across the sector.”

He says that Alex Fraser’s recycled road base and aggregates comply with road building authorities’ specifications, such as VicRoads and Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the vast majority of local governments also support the use of recycled content.

“VicRoads has a strong track record of choosing recycled materials for some of its biggest projects, including the M1 and M80,” Peter says.

Last year, Alex Fraser developed PolyPave™ – a high-performing asphalt product containing recycled materials, including plastic, glass and RAP. Melbourne’s City of Yarra was the first of many councils to incorporate the new material in its roads through a resurfacing project in late 2018.

Peter says that Alex Fraser has been planning for the long term and sets a very high benchmark in operating standards for its sites.

“This includes ensuring our operations are ‘not seen and not heard’ through extraordinary measures to address air quality management, acoustics, traffic and visual amenity as well as constantly working to reduce the carbon footprint of our own operations and our customers’.”

Alex Fraser’s original Laverton site in the 1980s.

POSITIONED FOR GROWTH

Alex Fraser was last year acquired by construction and building material supplier Hanson Australia. Complementing Alex Fraser’s unique sustainability offering is Hanson’s technical expertise, sophisticated systems and large site network.

Peter says that Hanson’s ownership strengthens the viability of recycled materials, with great synergies between the two businesses.

“We are working together to improve efficiencies at Alex Fraser and Hanson, including recycling Hanson materials.”

As for the future of Alex Fraser? The company has continued to invest and aims to expand its capabilities with new materials and new locations.

“The new integrated facility at Laverton is a demonstration of a thriving circular economy at work. It has answered a long-standing question around how successfully waste materials can be recycled into quality resources for greener roads.”

Peter says that Alex Fraser will continue to be agile, evolving its business to align with community needs as it works towards another prosperous 140 years.

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The City of Yarra to trial kerbside glass collection

The City of Yarra in Melbourne has announced plans to trial a fourth kerbside glass bin in 1300 Abbotsford households.

According to the City of Yarra website, starting in June the city will provide residents with a purple-lidded bin for glass waste in addition to the current garbage, recycling and food and garden waste bins.

“We need to change how we recycle as individuals, as a community and as a municipality,” the website reads.

“Our current model of consumption and waste is not working for the planet, environment or our community. We’re all part of the waste system and together must all be part of the solution.”

The trial is estimated to run for 12 months and builds on a successful food and garden waste collection (FOGO) trial conducted last year.

Results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

“Currently the glass in the kerbside recycling bin is creating contamination,” the website reads.

“Broken glass damages the quality of other materials, by removing it recycling will be better quality and more valuable to processors.”

The website highlights that a lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne, is creating additional pressure on the waste and recycling industry.

“For years we’ve ignored the potential of locally processing our recycled materials like glass,” the website reads.

“We are being proactive and exploring new ways to collect and manage your recycling to help fix the recycling industry, create local jobs and use waste as a resource instead of sending it to landfill.”

Following the trial period the city will consider expanding the service through Yarra.

The trial will be run with support from the State Government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and Alex Fraser Group.

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