Hanson’s circular economy vision

Hanson circular economy

Hanson continues to find innovative ways to improve its environmental impact while creating a circular economy hub set to become a state asset.

Hanson’s Wollert Quarry and Renewable Energy Landfill on Melbourne’s northern fringe could be the poster child for modern waste management.

Since opening in 2000, the landfill has provided a safe end-of-life for waste generated across Melbourne and Victoria. At the same time, Hanson has established itself as a leader in sustainability – creating and restoring natural habitat, powering homes with green energy, and diverting useful and valuable waste streams from landfills.

“But we believe we can do even better,” says Chris Lynch, Project Manager of Hanson’s Wollert Resource Park. “Ideas like the Resource Park will help Melbourne tackle the challenges to become a leader in the circular economy.”

Hanson is dedicating more than 20 hectares of its current site to the Wollert Resource Park, creating what Chris hopes will be a circular economy powerhouse for Victoria.

Locating the Resource Park on the same site as the landfill will take advantage of the existing waste streams. It will divert recyclable materials such as organics, metals, and soils from landfills while creating products that provide increased circularity for the construction materials business.

Chris Lynch, Project Manager, Wollert Resource Park. Image: Hanson

Chris says the legislative framework, particularly in Victoria with the Circular Economy Act, provides the right environment to invest in circular economy activities. The Resource Park will expand waste processing and disposal infrastructure, help provide clear streams for increasing waste volumes, and improve the public’s knowledge of recycling practices.

“There are so many exciting developments in waste technology that are focused on recovering waste for as long as possible through repair and reuse before it enters the environment through disposal,” Chris says.

“Hanson wants to be at the forefront of this type of service offering, ensuring valuable resources such as building materials and tyres can be recovered and repurposed for new uses.”

It’s an ethos that runs company-wide. Hanson is part of the Heidelberg Materials group, which is driving circularity by reducing and reusing materials and natural resources through its Sustainability Commitments.

Its aggressive target is to achieve 50 per cent of its revenue from sustainable products that are either low-carbon or circular. By 2030, it also wants to offer circular alternatives for 50 per cent of its concrete products.

“Our Sustainability Commitments 2030 support our vision to build a more sustainable future that is net zero, safe and inclusive, nature positive, circular and resilient,” Chris says.

He says proper waste management, like the types overseen at Wollert, is critical to ensuring that waste is disposed of appropriately. It also seeks to minimise its impact on human health and the environment.

Hanson is still in the early design and development phase of the regulatory approval process to allow for recycling activities at Wollert and hopes to partner with councils and businesses that share the company’s vision. 

The company is meeting with several waste suppliers who are interested in providing services for the Resource Park. Chris is also keen to speak with other like-minded individuals and councils who want to join the journey to transform the way waste is managed.

Hanson currently supports several local councils in safely disposing of their waste through landfill operations. Chris is aware of the challenges faced by local government, including increased littering, illegal dumping, and environmental pollution. All these issues can impact local communities and budgets. In 2019-20, Victorian councils alone spent more than $706 million on delivering waste management services, according to the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

“Local councils can be at the forefront of this new waste management approach, too,” Chris says.

“By collaborating with initiatives like resource parks, councils can benefit from alternative options to expensive landfill and treatment.

“We’re here to help councils to process and dispose of their waste responsibly and hopefully create new resource streams through projects like the Wollert Resource Park.”

The Resource Park will be delivered in two precincts; general resource recovery and waste-to-energy.

Work on a development licence and planning permit for the waste-to-energy facility are underway. Chris says it will be the last piece to the puzzle to make the Resource Park circular.

“By locating waste-to-energy at the landfill site and integrating it with other resource recovery activities, we will extract truly residual material from each waste stream,” he says.

“We would have done everything we can to recycle waste up to this point. Our last chance for recovery before landfill is waste-to-energy. It’s aligned with the government’s waste hierarchy and a way for us to provide baseload renewable energy back into the grid.”

There are two ways in which waste-to-energy can be transformed into useful resources: energy and construction material.

The energy produced will supplement Hanson’s existing landfill gas-to-power station, which is already generating energy back into the grid for more than 10,000 homes from gases captured from the landfill.

The bottom ash left after the waste-to-energy process could also be used as a virgin material substitute and offered as one of Hanson’s construction materials.

While Hanson is still in the early design and development phase, Chris says there’s potential to create a co-located repair café and maker space for some difficult-to-recycle materials, such as textiles.

An education space and a regular site tour schedule are also being developed to support school curriculums, tertiary courses, industry interest groups, and research projects.

Hanson has also entered a partnership with local social enterprise Whittlesea Community Connections to collect seeds from native plants growing at Wollert landfill.

The seeds will be propagated at nugal biik plants and seeds nursery and eventually find their way back to the landfill revegetation project. In the past 20 years, Hanson has planted hundreds of thousands of trees on the site.

Chris says the partnership with nugal biik has helped deliver a good outcome for Hanson and the nursery. It provides job pathways for members of the community who may have been disadvantaged, and profits that can be reinvested back into community programs.

Hanson’s goal is for the Wollert Resource Park to operate indefinitely as a critical asset for Victoria and the local community.

“The Resource Park will bring us one step closer to creating new jobs, energy and investment in Whittlesea. But we appreciate that the circular economy can be a new idea for people to understand. So, we are committed to developing a community engagement approach to ensure people are provided with clear information about the Resource Park and opportunities to have any concerns they have understood,” Chris says.

“We want to inspire the community to play a positive role in waste management and help us contribute to becoming a circular economy.”

A Wollert Resource Park website is in development and is expected to go live in 2024. 

For more information, email resourcepark@hanson.com.au

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