VIC EPA increases occupation of glass recycling facility

The Victoria EPA has increased its occupation of a glass recycling facility in Coolaroo, after stepping in to remove stockpile hotspots in October.

The action comes after a spot fire demonstrated that an industrial waste stockpile was not being appropriately managed to protect community and environment.

According to an EPA statement, recent stockpile monitoring has detected an increase in temperatures across areas that remain a concern to the EPA.

Since 25 October, the EPA has removed over 1100 truckloads of waste from the site, representing 10 per cent of the contaminated waste where hotspots are occurring.

“Works to remove hotspots and contaminated glass will continue for some months, with an estimated volume of 50,000 cubic metres of waste to remove,” the statement reads.

EPA Taskforce Manager Danny Childs said the EPA would continue to use all regulatory powers available to ensure hotspots are removed from the site as soon as possible.

“EPA will continue to undertake this work to reduce the risk to local communities and the environment,” Mr Childs said.

A regulatory oversight group consisting of EPA, MFB, WorkSafe and Hume City Council will continue a coordinated, multi-agency approach to drive compliance across the site.

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It’s time for glass out: Australian Paper Recovery

Victoria’s challenging commodities markets has inspired a rethink of traditional processing from commercial and industrial recycler Australian Paper Recovery.

As Victoria deals with the fallout of SKM, numerous solutions to the state’s ailing recycling market are being proposed, including additional bins for difficult waste streams.

Earlier this year, the City of Yarra announced plans to trial a fourth kerbside glass bin in 1300 households.

In making the decision, the council acknowledged that there less landfill space in future and this will place additional pressure on the waste and recycling industry.

Months later, other councils, such as Macedon Ranges Shire followed suit.

The City of Yarra’s move towards a fourth kerbside glass bin collection service is part of a bigger push towards cleaning up Victoria’s recycling crisis.

The Victorian Government is working in partnership with local government and the waste industry on a major overhaul of kerbside collection, with expressions of interest to be released in 2021.

It comes as KordaMentha secured a $10 million loan from the Victorian Government to help clean up SKM waste stockpile sites and resume waste processing.

Darren Thorpe, Australian Paper Recovery’s Managing Director, says the situation should serve as a wake-up call that the current system is broken and needs to be repaired.

“In the past it’s just been about quantity, with a let’s produce as many tonnes as we can per hour attitude, but now it’s all going to be about quality as we transition to a sustainable circular economy,” Darren says.

Australian Paper Recovery (APR) has collected waste paper, plastic and cardboard since 2002, but it’s recent market trends that are prompting a new approach to its traditional role as a commercial and industrial (C&I) processor.

APR has, over time, become an important resource for the C&I sector. It has handled more than two million tonnes of pre-consumer and post-consumer waste and processed it into new materials for domestic and international markets.

Darren’s extensive background in paper recovery helped propel the business forward, while also learning extensively along the way.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Darren’s career began in October 1984 at the Smorgon’s Paper Mill, following in the footsteps of his father and uncles. It was there that Darren made his start as an accounts payable clerk, learning the intricacies and nuances involved with fibre collection and recovery.

He then worked his way up to Regional Sales Manager, before the business expanded into rural Victoria in the mid 80s. But despite a streak of successes, the mill was unfortunately sold in September 1989, and the corrugating plant sold to Visy in partnership with Amcor.

Following this, Darren went onto work for Southern Waste Paper – now part of Visy, where he remained for 12-and-a-half years before starting APR in 2002.

Over the years, Darren turned his attention towards the C&I sector, with the paper manufacturing sector evolving throughout the mid 90s and early 2000s.

“Back in the 90s, there were seven paper mills in Victoria and now there’s four, so it makes a massive difference to fibre recycling. That is why the export market presented such a viable opportunity as there was no use for it here in Victoria,” he says.

“The closure of the Broadfield and Fairfield Mills also created an opportunity to send product overseas.”

The present state of the industry led Darren towards the overseas markets, working for Visy in WA. The same path inspired Darren to establish his own business in 2002, moving to Springvale, in Melbourne to start APR.

“For the first 18 months, we were just trading paper overseas because that’s what the market demanded,” Darren says.

In 2005, APR moved to Dandenong and started another operation at Laverton.

More than 17 years on, the company now has five facilities in Victoria, including its materials recovery facility (MRF) in Truganina, a C&I processing site at Dandenong and secure destruction and shredding facility in Fairfield.

Its network ensures it can partner with major organisations such as Australian Paper to deliver fibre for processing at Australian Paper’s Maryvale facility.

APR established a purpose-built facility in 2013 in Dandenong South at Thomas Murrell Crescent to allow it to service the market effectively.

Extensive planning went into improving on-site logistics, with a traffic management plan ensuring smooth vehicle movements.

“We needed to get vehicles in and out of the facilities in an efficient and safe manner, so we built a purpose-built facility in Dandenong in 2013 and designed it so we could get vehicles in and out in a timely manner,” he says.

Darren says that due to the ease of use of the facility, APR tripled its volumes. Working with major retail and hospitality outlets, APR covered the broader market segment.

But when China’s National Sword policy was announced in 2017, and a glut of materials was released into the market, APR began to reconsider its strategy and look at entering the municipal solid recycling space.

“We moved into the domestic space because of National Sword as we were dealing with regional MRFs who had a problem getting rid of mixed paper because the quality that they were making wasn’t meeting export or local quality specifications,” Darren says.

“So that’s when we went to Sustainability Victoria with a proposal in late 2017 which they supported. We were fortunate enough to get a grant of $475,000 to build our value-add fibre sorting facility.”

The proposal led to a new MRF at Truganina, which processes up to 39,000 tonnes of kerbside recyclables per annum.

The MRF sees materials run along a conveyor belt with contaminants removed, before running over several ballistic separators to pull out any fibre. Containers are then dropped down to conveyors to extract metal such as steel. Manual sorters take off milk, detergents and soft drink bottles.

As the MRF was continually refined, APR envisioned a plan to partner with other regional MRFs and value-add their fibre products.

But new opportunities soon emerged as the City of Yarra embarked on a single-stream glass recycling program.

GOING GLASS OUT

APR took a “glass out” approach and started to partner with the City of Yarra, with other metropolitan councils soon following suit.

“If you put all the commodities together in a single stream recycling program you have a lot of contamination due to the fact that broken glass is mixed in with other products,” Darren says.

“Once you separate glass, it’s a very valuable and recoverable resources that can be utilised in a circular economy through the likes of O&I and others such as aggregate companies such as Alex Fraser, Sunshine Groupe and Fulton Hogan.

“But when it’s contaminated with other products, it’s too hard for them to use, so by moving to a separate glass collection we are able to produce a much cleaner and valuable resource.”

He adds that glass is the biggest source of contamination in kerbside bins besides fibre, polymers, aluminium and steel. “We’ve made it quite clear to the councils that we will only receive material that has glass out.”

Taking its “glass out” strategy a step further, APR in September agreed on a new partnership with the City of Ballarat. From 30 September, the council will ask its residents to take their glass to several free drop-off sites around the municipality using containers provided by council or their own.

City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh in a statement said that for many years, Ballarat shipped its recycled material overseas for processing, which was no longer an option.

With quality now being a key priority, Darren says APR has continued to partner with a number of local manufacturers, including Huhtamaki and Norske Skog for fibre. Norske Skog is one of the world’s largest suppliers of newsprint while Huhtamaki produces consumer packaged goods such as egg, paperboard and plastic packaging.

Darren says that wherever possible, products are repurposed into their original form in a circular motion such as cleaning products or soft drinks. In other cases, waste streams like milk bottles are repurposed as plastic pellets. He says the main priority is adding as much value as possible and keeping products out of landfill.

“Vicfam Plastics is a company we’re working with to make the plastic pellets and they’ve been greater partners with us in other commodities in our business.”

Darren says APR aims to be as diligent as possible in ensuring material is contaminant-free and is in the process of auditing materials that come in from both councils and the C&I space.

Overall, Darren is excited about the future possibilities for APR and predicts the company’s current plans will only lead to further growth for the company.

“Our facility is the way of the future. The commodities that we’ll generate out of the sorting facility will provide end users with a quality product,” he says.

“All indications are that our MRF will be at capacity by Christmas and, as such, we’ll be looking to build a new facility taking on board the learnings from this facility.”

However, APR will only enter the market when a need presents itself, as its focus is quality, not quantity.

Its next stage is to build a receivable area with an additional 1200-square-metre facility planned in four to five months time at a cost of around $1.3 million.

While ensuring its operations are economically viable is the number one priority, Darren hopes APR can make a vital contribution to the sector at a critical juncture.

“We’ve shown the initiative to go out there and do something different because no-one wants to keep doing the same thing and have a broken system. We need to make some changes even when it’s difficult,” Darren says.

He says that the challenges going forward will be getting the message out to the community to stop ‘wishcycling’.

“Education, commitment and understanding by residents will certainly be a major influence in the way we view recycling in the future. Developing more local production opportunities and government procurement policy for recycled products will also be part of the now ‘broken system’ we are trying to fix,” Darren says.

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NSW councils sign recycling target MOU

Leveraging collaborative purchasing power, the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) has set a new annual target of recycling 45 million glass bottles.

According to a SSROC statement, 11 member councils have unanimously signed a memorandum of understanding, which sets out how they will work together to develop a framework for regional procurement of recycled material in infrastructure.

“Australia’s current domestic markets for recycled materials and the infrastructure needed to process them into a clean, usable form is woefully inadequate,” the statement reads. 

“With the Council of Australian Governments set to ban the export of recyclable materials – following restrictions on Australian exports due to high levels of contamination – developing domestic markets for these materials is crucial to avoid stockpiling and landfilling of valuable resources.”

SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said SSROC’s approach to joint regional procurement will create sufficient demand to influence market development, beyond what individual councils can achieve. 

“Not only will it allow councils to procure safe, affordable, and high-quality materials, but this model can be rolled out across the Sydney metropolitan area and indeed the entire state,” Ms Dougall said. 

Member councils will initially focus on introducing more glass and reclaimed asphalt pavement into road construction. Following which, they will begin investigating other materials such as plastic, tyre crumb and textiles.

“Since 2018, SSROC has led a series of workshops and collaborations with engineers, procurement experts and specification bodies, to develop the recognised performance standards for adopting a range of recycled materials in civil works,” the statement reads.

“This has enabled this innovative process to be done in a safe and cost-effective way.”

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean praised the SSROC for their commitment to tackling waste in NSW.

“We need all levels of government and industry working together and embracing initiatives like this,” Mr Kean said.

We look forward to working closely with councils and industry so that together we safeguard the future of NSW.”

The 11 member councils include Bayside, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury Bankstown, City of Sydney, Georges River, Inner West, Randwick, Sutherland, Waverley, and Woollahra.

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Yarra City Council: crushing contamination

Waste Management Review speaks with Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, about the council’s ongoing trial of kerbside glass separation.

In the beginning of June of this year, 1300 Abbottsford households were greeted with new crates for their glass waste.

The crates were delivered to the inner north suburb of Melbourne as part of a kerbside glass collection trial, developed by the Yarra City Council.

The problem of crushed glass and contamination has been discussed at length in the resource recovery sector. However, as Waste Management Review reported in May, government action on the issue has been slow.

With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Yarra City Council is attempting to buck this trend by taking tangible steps to reduce contamination in the densely populated municipality. Another motivating issue is the lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.

Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, says recycling rates across Yarra are high, with the majority of residents being active recyclers. Despite this, Chris says recent changes to the recycling industry have promoted a proactive response from the council in an attempt to get ahead of potential future problems.

“Recent challenges in the waste and recycling industry will have an impact on all councils. A reduction in recycling processing in Melbourne will see additional pressures on the remaining processors,” Chris says.

“Making sure we minimise the amount of waste we send to landfill and improve the quality of recycling will ensure we continue to have a sustainable waste collection service into the future.”

The Yarra trial will run for 12 months and builds on a successful 2018 food and garden organics (FOGO) separation trial.

“The initial FOGO trial provided extremely useful data and information about the collection process and user behaviour, and identified that Yarra residents were willing to trial new ways and methods for kerbside recycling,” Chris says.

“This was very heartening for us and encouraged us to combine FOGO and glass separation in a larger trial area.”

Chris says results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

The trial has been named the Yarra Waste Revolution and includes a targeted education and communications program.

“Recycling contamination is an ongoing issue for all councils, partly because, generally speaking, people do not have a good grasp on what is considered contamination when it comes to the kerbside recycling bin,” Chris says.

“We saw a great opportunity to make our recycled materials cleaner and more valuable, which ensures they get a new life, while also sending less waste to landfill.

“The improved quality of the material will lead to higher value, increased market demand, market diversity and the development of domestic markets for recycled products.”

According to Chris, public response to the trial has been positive, with most residents supportive of the new service and the city’s efforts to reduce waste sent to landfill.

“In only a few short weeks, there has already been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the material being presented in glass recycling bins,” he says.

“The Yarra Waste Revolution is a major change for residents, so this is a phenomenal achievement by the community in a very short amount of time.”

To implement the trial, Yarra City Council has enlisted the support of the state government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and the Alex Fraser Group.   

“Partnerships with industry and government agencies are critical to the success of this trial. We all need to work together to find solutions to the current recycling crisis,” Chris says.

“Our collection contractors, processors and industry partners share our vision to find solutions to the recycling crisis, and are helping us collect and sort the materials here in Victoria.”

Chris says research partners have also helped council understand the lifecycle analysis of the city’s new collection model, and what that will mean for environmental outcomes.

“We couldn’t implement a trial without their participation and of course, the financial and technical support provided by our government partners,” he says.

“We are actively seeking out opportunities to work with all levels of government, and the waste industry, to deliver on a new circular economy approach to waste management.”

Following the trial, Chris says Yarra will consider expanding the service throughout the city.

“We have had the courage to explore alternative methods and innovate in order to develop a more sustainable kerbside model that transitions away from the current system which relies heavily on export markets,” Chris says.

“Our long-term ambition is to move our community towards producing zero waste by supporting circular economies and minimising the amount of waste produced.”

Chris adds that making sure Yarra residents are confident in the sustainability of their waste and recycling service is key to achieving viable and environmental outcomes.

“We recognise the changes we are implementing at a local level require buy-in and commitment from our residents, but are confident that we have the support of our community, who are very focused on sustainability,” he says.

“Our Yarra Waste Revolution trial to separate glass and food and organic waste only started in June this year, and while it is a bit premature to provide solid data or analysis, the early signs are very positive.”

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SKM closure prompts glass collection roll out

Victoria’s Moyne Shire Council will soon introduce a fourth kerbside bin for glass collection across the entire shire, bucking the trend of short-term limited trials.

Moyne Shire Mayor Mick Wolfe said the shire was initially planning to trial for only six months in one region, however, the recent closures of SKM resulted in too many recyclables going to landfill.

“Moving ahead with a shire-wide rollout of glass-only kerbside collection is not just better for the environment, it’s better economic management of our waste,” Mr Wolfe said.

“Under a new campaign, Better4Moyne, council will be working with residents to improve waste separation, ultimately reducing the amount of recyclables going to landfill.”

Mr Wolfe said introducing a fourth bin for glass, which currently accounts for roughly 40 per cent of recycles in yellow kerbside bins, will make all recycling easier to process.

“Council will no longer be reliant on SKM, as there are other facilities that can process recyclables that are not contaminated by glass,” Mr Wolfe said.

“There are also facilities that will take the glass, crush it and use it as a substitute for sand in road making. Not only is this a better solution for the environment, it’s better for the economy.”

Moyne Shire Council CEO Bill Millard said the new Better4Moyne campaign will focus on correct separation of waste, using all four kerbside bins.

“The purple-lidded glass collection bins will be emptied monthly, yellow lidded recycling and green lidded FOGO bins every two weeks, and the red lidded landfill bin will continue to be collected weekly,” Mr Millard said.

“Over the coming months we will be focusing on our Better4Moyne waste education campaign, and continue to work with our waste collection contractors to finalise the revised collection schedule.”

Council will provide further roll out details to residents in the coming weeks.

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Ballarat enters contract with Australian Paper Recovery

Glass will not be permitted in City of Ballarat recycling bins from 30 September, due to a new contract with Australian Paper Recovery.

City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh said Australian Paper Recovery has local markets for the processing and reuse of paper, cardboard, quality plastics and cans, but does not have a market for glass.

“Residents will be able to take their glass to one of several free glass drop-off sites around the municipality, either using their own container or one provided by council,” Ms McIntosh said.

“Alternatively, residents can put glass in the normal garbage bin, which will be collected and sent to landfill.”

Ms McIntosh said that for many years, Ballarat shipped its recycled material overseas for processing, which is no longer an option.

“Australia is now competing with other countries to access smaller and shrinking markets for our recyclables – so we are looking for local markets and local solutions,” Ms McIntosh said.

“The urgency to find a sustainable new recycling approach intensified after the recent collapse of SKM, which collected recyclables for more than 30 Victorian councils, including the City of Ballarat.”

Ms McIntosh said she knows the change may concern some residents.

“It concerns us too, but we have looked at all possibilities and at this stage, this option is the best and most cost-effective,” Ms McIntosh said.

“Our approach also means council will be able to ensure our recycling is processed locally and genuinely reused, at no additional cost to residents.”

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PhD candidate develops glass waste construction columns

University of Queensland PhD candidate Danish Kazmi is developing a technique to transform glass waste into geotechnical columns and reduce the use of sand in the construction industry.

The geotechnical engineering student is investigating the use of crushed glass waste as an alternative to sand for ground improvement during construction works.

“Both sand and glass waste have a similar chemical composition, so we expect them to behave similarly when optimally used in geotechnical construction,” Mr Kazmi said.

“My research looks at the performance of glass waste within ground columns as an environmentally friendly alternative to sand columns, which are commonly used at the moment.”

Mr Kazmi said the columns are designed to strengthen the earth below a building and improve its load-bearing characteristics.

“Using glass waste in this way not only preserves precious sand resources and promotes closed-loop recycling, but could also reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry by cutting down on the amount of sand that needed to be quarried,” Mr Kazmi said.

“I have always been passionate about helping to create circular economies.”

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Victorian council urges residents to separate glass

Macedon Ranges council in central Victoria is urging residents to separate glass from other recyclable material at kerbside.

In a media statement, council said it was working with its waste contractor, Four Seasons Waste, to find alternative processing options following the closure of SKM Recycling.

“An alternative processor has been identified, but this processor will only accept recycling loads which do not contain glass,” the statement reads.

“Council is asking residents to not place glass in recycling bins, effective immediately, so it can explore this option further.”

Acting Assets and Operations Director Anne-Louise Lindner said residents needed to work with council to find alternatives to landfill.

“We really hope the community will come on board and help us to remove glass from recycling bins,” Ms Lindner said.

“Shards and small pieces of glass can become embedded in paper and cardboard in recycling bins, and contaminate the other recyclables.”

The Victorian Government recently announced that councils affected by SKM’s closure would receive a rebate to cover additional costs incurred to deal with recyclable waste.

“This new funding has a particular focus on finding innovative solutions to the problem, and by trying to remove glass from our recycling, we’re already making progress in this area,” Ms Lindner said.

Ms Lindner said council would conduct bin audits in the coming weeks to monitor the level of glass in kerbside recycling bins.

“If we can see glass has been removed from bins, we may be able to divert recycling from landfill and send the glass-free recycling to this new processor,” Ms Linder said.

“Council has long been advocating for a solution to the recycling issue, which involves all levels of government working together.”

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Researchers develop concrete solution for recycled glass

Deakin School of Engineering researchers have found ground waste glass can be used as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete – a material commonly used in industrial flooring.

Senior engineering lecturer Dr Riyadh Al-Ameri said the addition of glass resulted in a stronger product that was less costly to produce.

“This research provides the evidence the construction industry needs to see the potential of glass as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete and, potentially, concrete,” Dr Al-Ameri said.

“Concrete is a major construction material and sand is one of its primary components, so finding an alternative to sand makes good economic sense.”

Polymer concrete uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cements as a binder.

According to Dr Al-Ameri, this produces a high strength, water-resistant material suited to industrial flooring and infrastructure drainage, particularly in areas subject to heavy traffic such as service stations, forklift operating areas and airports.

“We have found that substituting sand with ground recycled glass makes the polymer concrete stronger and is a sustainable use of one of the major types of recyclables in the domestic waste stream,” Dr Al-Ameri said.

“Any changes that reduce the cost of production will lead to significant gains across the industry, potentially on a global scale.”

Deakin Engineering student Dikshit Modgil worked with Melbourne-based Orca Civil Products as part of his masters research into the suitability of recyclable glass in polymer concrete production.

Orca Civil Products Director Alan Travers said the research partnership had produced results that would be useful in taking the concept further to commercialisation.

“The specific type of waste glass used in this project was unsuitable for recycling back into glass and the amount that is stockpiling is becoming a community problem,” Mr Travers said.

“The concept has even more appeal to us because of predicted shortages of natural, mined sands in the medium term.”

Dr Al-Ameri said the next stage of Deakin’s research would look at substitutes for the aggregate in polymer concrete, optimising the substitution rate, assessing durability, and the commercialisation of the new product.

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Alex Fraser: recycling through the ages

As Alex Fraser celebrates its 140th anniversary, Waste Management Review details the company’s efforts to become one of Australia’s leading providers of recycled construction materials.

Not many Australian companies have 140 years of operation behind them. Such a milestone is even more extraordinary when you consider the enormous changes that have occurred over the past century – from two world wars to some of the most challenging economic recessions.

Alex Fraser is one organisation that recently hit that 140-year milestone, attributing its long history of success to investment in its people and its business. As a result, the company was able to swiftly respond to major shifts in material usage and keep pace with changing community expectations.

While the company is synonymous with building a sustainable construction sector, its humble beginnings were in the metals sector.

In 1879, Alex Fraser was a founding member of a metal broker firm, in Queen Street, Melbourne, run by the Melbourne Metal Exchange (MME).

With the price of metal fluctuating on an almost daily basis, Fraser and his fellow MME members controlled the entire output from Barrier Mines as well as other important mines throughout the country with silver, lead, zinc and tin the principle metals.

In the early 1920s, Fraser made the decision to retire and return to his country of birth, leaving the business to a clerk employed with the company – Archibald McKellar. McKellar’s 11 years with the business helped him grow the business throughout the Great Depression and eventually take over as owner.

With the passing of McKellar Snr, his son Archie took over after World War II in the 1950s. Margins were difficult at the time and with stiff competition in the tin and lead business, McKellar Jnr set looked for new opportunities, starting with the demolition and recycling of metal from returned fighter jets and tanks from the war.

Many of these initial opportunities saw Alex Fraser become a pioneer in commercial recycling, including plastics and dry nylon recycling. During the 60s and 70s, demolitions became a prominent activity for Alex Fraser and by the late 70s, its primary industry.

The early 80s marked the beginning of a new age in Alex Fraser’s recycling story as it embarked on one of its most ambitious projects yet. Led by Jamie McKellar and his brothers Robert and Peter, the family’s third generation began to transform large quantities of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, like concrete, asphalt, brick and stone, into new construction resources such as aggregates and roadbase.

With the establishment of its first concrete recycling site in Port Melbourne, Alex Fraser started to grow its employee base from an initial few to more than 260 across five recycling plants in Queensland and Victoria.

Alex Fraser Asphalt was launched in the 1990s. It quickly expanded to include two high-capacity asphalt plants on opposite ends of Melbourne’s metro area and five asphalt crews renowned for their quality workmanship and reliability.

Together, Alex Fraser’s recycling and asphalt operations work with local governments, contractors and asset owners to build greener roads throughout Melbourne and Brisbane, reducing the carbon footprint of construction by up to 65 per cent.

DEVELOPING A REPUTATION

One of its biggest milestones arose in 1992, when governments, councils and contractors began to recognise and support the use of recycled C&D. Alex Fraser worked closely with government to develop VicRoads specifications. These specifications have been periodically updated and set an outstanding example of government agencies supporting the use of recycled content.

Alex Fraser went from strength to strength, winning the Western Ring Road and Albert Park Grand Prix track projects and laying the foundations of Melbourne’s Crown Casino. As of 1987, it was responsible for almost half of Victoria’s C&D recycling effort.

By 2008, Alex Fraser became a major recycling enterprise, having produced 20 million tonnes of sustainable construction materials. Peter Murphy, who has been with Alex Fraser for more than 15 years, transitioned the company into its next phase of growth, stepping up to the role of Managing Director in 2011 after the company changed hands to John Swire & Sons.

Peter’s background in logistics drove Alex Fraser’s commitment to reliability, ensuring responsive delivery to its valued customers. He and his team consistently benchmark locally and internationally which has helped foster a culture of innovation and best practice at Alex Fraser.

Peter led the establishment of a network of world class recycling facilities, and spearheaded Alex Fraser’s innovative recycled glass projects.

Fast forward to 2019 and Alex Fraser’s notable achievements span turning glass into construction sand, converting historically landfilled concrete into recycled aggregates and roadbase, and using a wide variety of recyclables in its quality asphalt mixes, including recovered asphalt, glass and plastics.

It is now responsible for producing up to four million tonnes of sustainable construction material per annum, recovering millions of tonnes of demolition and glass waste and paving more than 1000 kilometres of green roads every year.

This year the company is in the midst of commissioning a world-first glass recycling plant and new high recycled technology asphalt plant, doubling the volume of recycled sand produced in Victoria while drastically increasing the volume of recycled materials incorporated in its asphalt mixes.

Peter credits the company’s innovation and agility to its people who are always looking for the next improvement, and to strengthen long-term relationships with customers and regulators.

“We work hard to provide reliable services, so our customers can get their projects done on time, on spec and on budget. On all our customer projects, supply timelines are integral to performance. If we can give them a high volume of consistent material, their project will be more efficient,” Peter explains.

He says that it was rewarding to see the efforts of Alex Fraser’s people recognised last year with the company winning the Waste and Recycling Award at the Victorian Transport Association Australian Freight Industry Awards.

“The prize commended our game-changing glass recycling operation that diverted hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill and provides resources that are badly needed to fulfil Victoria’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure pipeline,” Peter says.

“It also substantially reduces heavy vehicle movements. There’s plenty of talk about recycling lately. We’ve been doing it for a long time on a large scale and have continued to innovate and invest.”

R&D CONTINUES

Of course, none of Alex Fraser’s achievements would be possible without its continued efforts to improve the end markets for recycled materials. The company conducts ongoing research and development with partners including CSIRO, Australian Road Research Board, Melbourne’s RMIT, Melbourne University and Swinburne University. Testing over an extended period on materials and pavements demonstrates that recycled aggregate matches, if not exceeds, the performance of the equivalent virgin material.

Part of its ongoing work is liaising with individual local government areas and businesses to educate them on the environmental and commercial benefits of using recycled material.

Peter says that as natural resources deplete and quarries move further afield, transport costs increase sharply.  Recycled materials are not only a sustainable option, but often the most economical.

Alex Fraser’s desire to benchmark recycled materials led to a decision to partner with RMIT Centre of Design and conduct a life-cycle analysis of its recycling operation compared with a quarrying operation.

In May 2008, the results of the RMIT research were released indicating the carbon footprint of recycled crushed concrete is 65 per cent less than equivalent quarried material. These findings have subsequently been independently verified in accordance with international standard ISO14040.

“Demand is increasing and the constant challenge is to ensure that all of these major projects happening across the country are aware of sustainable alternatives,” Peter says.

“The consistent quality, compaction, transport and density benefits of recycled construction materials are well recognised as presenting substantial savings to construction costs, so they are well supported across the sector.”

He says that Alex Fraser’s recycled road base and aggregates comply with road building authorities’ specifications, such as VicRoads and Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the vast majority of local governments also support the use of recycled content.

“VicRoads has a strong track record of choosing recycled materials for some of its biggest projects, including the M1 and M80,” Peter says.

Last year, Alex Fraser developed PolyPave™ – a high-performing asphalt product containing recycled materials, including plastic, glass and RAP. Melbourne’s City of Yarra was the first of many councils to incorporate the new material in its roads through a resurfacing project in late 2018.

Peter says that Alex Fraser has been planning for the long term and sets a very high benchmark in operating standards for its sites.

“This includes ensuring our operations are ‘not seen and not heard’ through extraordinary measures to address air quality management, acoustics, traffic and visual amenity as well as constantly working to reduce the carbon footprint of our own operations and our customers’.”

Alex Fraser’s original Laverton site in the 1980s.

POSITIONED FOR GROWTH

Alex Fraser was last year acquired by construction and building material supplier Hanson Australia. Complementing Alex Fraser’s unique sustainability offering is Hanson’s technical expertise, sophisticated systems and large site network.

Peter says that Hanson’s ownership strengthens the viability of recycled materials, with great synergies between the two businesses.

“We are working together to improve efficiencies at Alex Fraser and Hanson, including recycling Hanson materials.”

As for the future of Alex Fraser? The company has continued to invest and aims to expand its capabilities with new materials and new locations.

“The new integrated facility at Laverton is a demonstration of a thriving circular economy at work. It has answered a long-standing question around how successfully waste materials can be recycled into quality resources for greener roads.”

Peter says that Alex Fraser will continue to be agile, evolving its business to align with community needs as it works towards another prosperous 140 years.

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