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.

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First SA road built with plastic bags and glass

The first South Australian road built with soft plastics and glass at Happy Valley in the City of Onkaparinga will utilise plastic from approximately 139,000 plastic bags and packaging and 39,750 glass bottle equivalents.

Downer and City of Onkaparinga have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group for the project, following similar projects in NSW and Victoria.

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from about 3200 used printer cartridges and more than 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 265 tonnes of asphalt used to construct the road along Caribbean Crescent in Happy Valley.

Downer Executive General Manager Road Services Dante Cremasco 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 natural environments.

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“Together with City of Onkaparinga and our partners, we have proven that with thought leadership and the tenacity to make a positive difference, we have set a new benchmark in the state when it comes to sustainability by creating new avenues to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product called Reconophalt has enhanced properties of improved strength and resistance to deformation making the road last longer, andallowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco added.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said this is an exciting South Australian first and demonstrates council’s commitment to working with industry on innovative and cost-effective solutions to a changing operating environment.

“The City of Onkaparinga manages and maintains over 1350 kilometres of sealed roads and works hard to ensure they’re well maintained as cost effectively as possible and in line with leading asset management principles,” Mayor Thompson said.

“We also collect approximately 14,000 tonnes of recyclables every year. Major disruptions in international markets for recyclables over the last 12 months present significant challenges, as well as emerging opportunities.”

“Creating local demand for recyclables products is one such opportunity and this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by government working with industry.”

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

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnership with RED Group 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 SA road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Recycled glass and soft plastics trial on ACT Govt road

ACT Roads Minister Chris Steel has announced a trial of a material composed of recycled glass and soft plastics as part of the state government’s annual resurfacing program in October.

Plastiphalt – a material composed of recycled glass and soft plastics – will be trialled on existing sections of Horse Park Drive and Gundaroo Drive during the ACT Government’s $16 million 2018-19 road resurfacing program.

“For every tonnes of Plastiphalt placed, the equivalent of 800 plastic bags, 252 glass bottles and 18 used printer toner cartridges will not find their way to landfills,” Mr Steel said.

Three-hundred kilograms of recycled asphalt is also used for every tonne of the material.

The 2018-19 resurfacing program will see approximately 230 lane kilometres, or approximately 1,000,000 square metres of roads resurfaced, across the ACT road network.

“The resealing program is an important part of the maintenance of Canberra’s roads as it covers small cracks and imperfections which could cause potholes and overall deterioration. It protects and extends the life of our roads and improves road safety,” Mr Steel said.

The program of works is expected to be completed by April next year.

The City of Sydney to trial weekly e-waste pickups

The City of Sydney will trial separate weekly residential rubbish collections for food waste and textiles and introduce weekly e-waste pickups.

It says the plan is part of the “most comprehensive strategy” to tackle residential waste in Australia.

Council unanimously approved the collections as part of its new Leave Nothing to Waste strategy. The council said residents and businesses strongly supported its ambitious target of zero waste to landfill when the strategy was open for comment earlier this year.

The new services include a trial of residential food waste collection – targeted groups of residents can opt-in to have their food waste collected separately and taken to a facility. From there, it will be converted into high grade compost or energy. The services also include clothing and textiles collection from apartment buildings, where residents will be able to throw all their old clothing in a communal waste bin, which will then be collected and recycled. A weekly kerbside electronic waste collection will also be introduced and residents will be able to book in a free pick-up each week, with their old electronics taken to a facility where precious minerals and materials will be collected and reused. Finally, the plan includes a community drop-off centre for problem waste streams such as gas bottles, paints and chemicals.

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Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the plan would set a new benchmark for residential waste collection across the country.

“Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about where their rubbish ends up, which is why our new waste strategy has been so well received,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Our residents generate close to 65,000 tonnes of waste every year – and while 69 per cent is now diverted from landfill, we’re now taking practical steps to increase that to 90 per cent by 2030.

Mayor Moore said cheap clothing and fast fashion has led to a sharp growth in textile waste. He said more than five per cent of the average red bin is made up of clothing.

“Our textiles collection trial will seek to solve this waste stream, with separate clothing bins to become a feature of bin rooms in many apartment buildings across the city.”

“Although we had broad support for all the measures we’ve proposed, our residents have shown great interest in the food waste trial, which we will strive to get up and running over the next two years.

“Food waste makes up one third of the average red bin and can be converted into a valuable resource. Some of our residents have already taken matters into their own hands.”

As a result of feedback from community consultation, the council will also investigate including soft plastics on the list of items to be accepted at the community waste drop-off centre.

“The ABC’s War on Waste program put the spotlight on how harmful soft plastics can be. Residents and businesses have asked us to look at how the City can help keep soft plastics such as shopping bags out of landfill and waterways.

“We will continue to pressure the NSW Government to ban the plastic bag,” the Lord Mayor said.