Downer opens soft plastics asphalt plant in Lake Macquarie

Plastic bags, recycled glass and printer toner will be used in the construction of new Hunter roads as part of a $5 million overhaul of Downer’s asphalt plant in Teralba, Lake Macquarie.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser officially opened the site this week, with the ability to process thousands of tonnes each year of sustainable road and pavement materials for the Hunter Region and Central Coast.

The facility is one of the most advanced of its kind in Australia, capable of producing a wide range of products including asphalt containing recycled tyre rubber and Reconophalt, an innovative asphalt product that contains high recycled content from materials such as soft plastics, glass, toner and reclaimed road.

The soft plastics are collected through the RedCycle program, which has collection bins in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, while waste toner used in the product comes from the national Planet Ark recycling initiative.

Every kilometre of two-lane road made with Reconophalt contains the equivalent of 530,000 plastic bags, 168,000 glass bottles and 12,500 toner cartridges.

Cr Fraser said today’s opening, which coincides with World Environment Day, bolstered Lake Macquarie’s reputation for encouraging and embracing sustainable businesses and practices.

“I congratulate Downer on investing in new methods to close the loop on recycled materials,” Cr Fraser said.

“In the past 12 months in Lake Mac, we’ve seen the introduction of recycled glass sand in Council’s civil works, a trial of recycled materials in concrete footpaths and now this next step in our war on waste.”

Downer’s Executive General Manager Road Services, Dante Cremasco, said the milestone event held on World Environment Day demonstrates the importance of partnerships with councils and road authorities to maximise sustainable outcomes for the future growth of the region.

“The innovation our new Teralba asphalt plant brings will see us not only lower our carbon footprint, but also incorporate new streams of recycled materials into the asphalt we lay, further improving sustainable outcomes for the region’s local communities and their roads,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Downer’s investment in this flexible pavement products manufacturing hub allows us to reduce our reliance on increasingly scarce virgin materials by over 30 per cent and improve our energy consumption by up to 15 per cent, which are really pleasing outcomes for the region.”

Testing of the new Reconophalt material showed it lasted longer and was less prone to deformation than traditional forms of asphalt.

Footpath trial of recycled plastics in Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie City Council has used glass sand and recycled plastics on 30 metres of footpath as part of a project trialing the use of environmentally sustainable material.

‘Greencrete’ contains crushed glass sand and polypropylene strips made from 100 per cent recycled plastic which helps reinforce the concrete in place of steel mesh.

Manager of Lake Macquarie Asset Management Helen Plummer said 50 per cent of the fine aggregate used in the concrete was manufactured with glass sand rather than virgin material.

More than 5000 tonnes of glass is collected from Lake Macquarie homes each year, with a portion being sent to a Central Coast processing plant where it is washed and crushed into sand.

“We conducted extensive testing on the concrete prior to it being poured and it is a case of so far, so good.

“We will continue to monitor the footpath in coming months to see how it holds up to everyday wear and tear, and whether it cracks or wears differently to normal concrete,” Ms Plummer said.

Lake Macquarie council began trialling the use of recycled glass sand in civil works projects last June using the material in underground drainage pits.

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Lake Macquarie City Council push to swap sand with recycled glass

Recycled crushed glass will substitute sand in civil works projects as Lake Macquarie City Council pushes for local solutions to national issues.

The project aims to reuse thousands of tonnes of glass every year, with the potential to reuse 12,000 tonnes collected from across the Hunter region if other councils get involved.

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A plant built on the Central Coast is manufacturing the glass sand for the council’s trial.

The sand has similar applications to normal sand and can be used as a bedding material in drainage projects and other civil works.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said glass bottles, jars and other items collected from household recycling bins would be sorted and processed as usual at a materials recovery facility at Gateshead.

“There is a growing need across Australia to find an end use for recycled glass,” Cr Fraser said.

With companies finding it cheaper to import new glass than buy recycled, we need to start coming up with innovative, cost-effective alternatives.

“This collaborative project could help solve a national crisis in our own backyard,” she said.

Manager Planning and Sustainability Alice Howe said more than 5000 tonnes of glass were collected for recycling annually across Lake Macquarie.

“Our strategy is twofold: we are demonstrating the suitability of recycled glass sand for our own civil works program, and have amended our engineering guidelines to specify how this material can be used in development across the city ,” Dr Howe said.

“We aim to gradually increase the amount of recycled glass that is processed into glass sand and used in our own operations. If the rest of the region follows our lead, this initiative could close the loop on thousands of tonnes of glass each year.”

Dr Howe said if the end-use issues for recycled glass aren’t addressed soon, the stockpiles of material will continue to grow.