South Australia project raises circularity outcomes for construction and demolition waste

construction and demolition waste

An iconic project in South Australia highlights the potential to lift Australia’s construction, demolition, commercial and industrial waste recovery rates. 

A $400 million redevelopment of South Australia’s Market Square is one of the most significant projects currently being undertaken in the state. Creating a new social and commercial hub for the city, the project will transform Adelaide’s skyline. 

It’s also shifting the dial for Australia’s resource recovery and landfill diversion targets.

Bringing together resource recovery giant ResourceCo, and leading demolition company Delta Group, the redevelopment is an example of how circularity for construction and demolition waste can be integrated into large-scale projects.

Delta Group, which is responsible for the project’s demolition works, selected ResourceCo as its resource recovery partner to recycle a large proportion of material from the site. Since demolition began in June 2023, Delta has overseen the breakdown and movement of more than 600 loads of concrete from the CBD site to ResourceCo’s recycling facility in Wingfield. ResourceCo has recycled the concrete into new products for the civil construction market and infrastructure projects across Adelaide.

“When it comes to the circular economy, there’s a lot we can achieve when we’re engaging with each other and not just working alone,” says Mitchell Bacon, ResourceCo Environmental Development Manager.

“This project is an important case study on how the industry can move forward. 

“Awareness of the demolition material being recycled, and the real benefits of it being reused in the same or another project, will ultimately drive more sustainable outcomes for infrastructure projects.”

construction and demolition waste
City of Adelaide Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith praised the resource recovery of the Market Square project during a tour of the site with Brad Lemmon, ResourceCo’s Chief Executive Officer of Recycling and Waste. Image: ResourceCo

The Adelaide Central Market is an iconic site, and South Australia often proclaims to have a progressive approach to resource recovery – it was the first jurisdiction to introduce the Container Deposit Scheme in 1977, the first plastic shopping bag ban in 2009 and the first ban on single-use plastics in 2020. 

Merging the central market and the state’s resource recovery credentials made perfect sense to the Adelaide City Council. During a visit to the site, Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith acknowledged the work in recycling concrete from the project as an environmental win.

“When you’re dealing with an organisation that wants to do the best by the environment, you’re pretty lucky if you’re in South Australia because we’re really ahead of the pack when it comes to recycling waste, and reusing demolition material,” Jane says.

“ResourceCo has recycled 12,500 tonnes of concrete from this project. That’s 12,500 tonnes that doesn’t go to landfill, doesn’t fill a hole in the ground, and we don’t lose that embedded energy.

“This recycling activity has been a win-win for everybody involved, but particularly the environment. It means there has been less waste going to landfill and less quarrying into the future.”

Although in some instances ResourceCo and Delta do compete (both companies have construction and demolition waste crushing operations in Victoria), it’s not the first time they have collaborated.

Elliot Nuberg, Delta Group’s South Australia State Manager, estimates more than 50,000 tonnes of concrete and mixed building waste have been diverted from landfill because of their collaboration.

“ResourceCo’s approach to resource recovery, including a network of sites, gives us confidence that the material we’re handling can be processed with minimal operational disruptions,” Elliot says. “We invest significant energy into operating with strict operational controls with an emphasis on safe and efficient demolition processes. Doing so gives us the ability to very specifically separate waste streams.”

construction and demolition waste
Elliot Nuberg, Delta Group’s South Australia State Manager, says partnerships like the one with ResourceCo help meet recycling and reuse targets on major projects. Image: ResourceCo

Both Elliot and Brad Lemmon, ResourceCo’s Chief Executive Officer of Recycling and Waste, see these types of partnerships as a means to take resource recovery to the next level and push up the quality of recycled materials so they are incorporated into a build.

“ResourceCo’s bit in the process is to fine-tune the material to produce increasingly high-quality materials. But it all starts at the demolition site. If you don’t get it right at the demolition end, and the two parties aren’t working close together, it’s much more complicated and complex to succeed,” Brad says.

“Recyclers can, and should, continuously strive to produce the highest quality product as possible. When this happens the whole recycling system grows, becomes more effective and there’s far greater market confidence in the high-end quality material being produced.”

Despite recycled materials often coming under more scrutiny and testing than many virgin materials, there remains a reluctance from some sectors to use these products. Brad identifies the reason as mostly a historic resistance and a suspicion that’s built in around recycled material. 

“Recyclers have significantly evolved and, in many cases, matured into being a producer of quality materials. That being said, not all perceptions about the quality of the products have come along on the same journey,” he says.

“It’s incumbent on the broader resource recovery industry to continue to evolve, keep improving the quality of our products and, importantly, continue to demonstrate credentials of our products.”

ResourceCo is working with end-users to develop products to specification. It’s also producing environmental data to verify the materials and processes used. Mitch hopes that working to meet industry demands will make recycled products more competitive and attractive to procurement staff. 

“The opportunity sits with decision makers and local government to buy back recycled content and we need to make the benefits clear and as easy for them as possible,” he says.

“The more decision-makers understand the true benefit of recycled content, and they can sell it, the better it is for all of us.”  

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