Waste Management Review speaks to RED Group’s Rebecca Gleghorn about the success of its soft plastics recycling program.
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.
- Downer partner with CDEnviro for Sydney detritus processing facility
- Downer partners with Close the Loop for Australian-first project
- Millions of tyres could soon be used in Australia’s roads
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.
Two Australian companies are working together to tackle the small amount of plastic waste that is processed in Australia.
The Guardian reported Replas and RED Group are collecting and processing soft plastic packaging.
In Australia, 300,000 tonnes of plastic waste is collected for recycling each year, according to the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association of Australia.
About 50 percent of the waste is sent overseas for processing and approximately 20 percent is reprocessed into pellets to be made into new products to also be sent overseas.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum estimated that the weight of plastics in the oceans will match that of fish by 2050.
Mark Jacobsen, director of marketing at recycling firm Replas told The Guardian technical challenges are not the main bottleneck for plastics recycling.
“Recycling in Australia is dead in the water,” he said.
“Unless people are willing to buy products made of their own waste.”
He said the whole economy has to change. Currently people still view plastic primarily as a waste product.
As a result, the company reportedly only accepts plastic waste from organisations willing to buy back the recycled products they make.
He said large supermarket chains, such as Coles and Woolworths, are some of those leading by example.
Some city councils are also incorporating recycled plastic into their operations, he said.
Replas partnered with RED Group some years ago, a Melbourne-based company that collect soft plastics for recycling through its REDcycle program.
The program collects and processes packaging separately, before sending it onto Replas for incorporation into their products.