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Alex Fraser responds agilely to COVID

Alex Fraser has thanked its customers for their support of its COVID-19 hygiene and social distancing measures, as the company experiences a spike in demand amid Victoria’s continued infrastructure boom.

Construction has long been held in high regard by governments, the community and businesses as an invaluable outlet to stimulate economic growth in times of crisis. In Australia, the COVID-19 health crisis has fast become an economic one, as the Federal Government, states and territories leaped into action to reduce community transmission via stage 1, 2 and 3, restrictions.

Governments have assured communities and the road construction sector that vital infrastructure pipelines will continue. Construction was also been declared essential under stage three restrictions, with new guidelines introduced to the sector, agreed to by a number of unions and industry associations.

The NSW Government has extended construction hours so they can adhere to social distancing by spreading their work throughout the week.

Over in Victoria, the state’s premier Daniel Andrews has said construction will play a major role in Victoria’s economic recovery following COVID-19.

“It’s probably too early to tell what the impacts of this coronavirus will be on a whole range of different projects: both government projects — level crossings, road and rail, hospitals, schools — and also private sector projects,” Mr Andrews told ABC.

“When we get to the other side of this, the biggest construction boom in our state’s history will need to be even bigger. We will need to do more to protect jobs, to create new jobs, and to make sure that we bounce back from this as strong as we possibly can.”

As the pipeline charges on, the state’s biggest transport project, the Metro Tunnel Project is keeping Victorians in work, with the last two tunnel boring machines hitting the pavement.

The Frankston line also remains shut from late May as part of the biggest level crossing construction blitz – the Level Crossing Removal Upgrade (LXRA).

Alex Fraser is supplying thousands of tonnes of recycled products for construction and maintenance projects across Victoria like the LXRAs. The company is currently experiencing a spike in demand across its three Victorian sites, and has agilely responded to ensure the health and safety of its customers and its people.

Recent projects include supplying the Southern Program Alliance almost 200,000 tonnes of tonnes of recycled construction materials on the Mentone and Cheltenham Level Crossing Removal Upgrade (LXRA).

The project, expected to be completed in early 2021, is using recycled materials and is expected to save 170,000 tonnes of material from landfill, 1110 tonnes of Co2 emissions, and 185,000 tonnes of natural resources.

Works commenced in April 2019, as contractors removed level crossings at Balcombe Road in Mentone and at Cheltenham’s Charman and Park Roads. The construction of the two new stations is complemented by a 3.5 kilometre shared use path and expansive public space.

It’s not only rail projects capitalising on the benefits of recycled products; major roads projects – like the Mordialloc Freeway, Monash Freeway and Western Roads upgrade – are utilising thousands of tonnes of recycled materials, including millions of glass bottles from kerbside collections.

“We’re reprocessing priority waste streams into high quality construction materials to supply rail and road projects with a range of high-spec, sustainable products that cut costs, cartage, and carbon emissions, and reduce the strain on natural resources,” said Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy.

Mr Murphy said the Alex Fraser team was focussed on helping their customers finish their projects safely and on time.

He said customers had demonstrated an enthusiastic and proactive approach towards the changes put in place to ensure safe operations during COVID-19, including the switch to electronic payments, reducing the use of dockets and bringing their own PPE and radios to sites.

He said that Alex Fraser customers’ immediate and accepting response to the company’s introduction of COVID-19 safety measures demonstrated great community spirit and goodwill.

“We’re been very encouraged by our customers’ response to our hygiene and social distancing measures,” Mr Murphy said.

“Our employees have done a stellar job at implementing a wide range of new controls to our workplaces, very quickly. Many of these involved changes to the way we interacted with our customers, who have all been understanding and supportive.”

Image: the Alex Fraser team at Laverton’s Sustainable Supply Hub meet for a pre-dawn toolbox meeting to discuss COVID-19 safety.

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Sustainability factors driving infrastructure investments

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) has revealed that environmental, social & governance (ESG) factors are driving infrastructure upgrades in Australia.

Last year, Australia saw large loan facilities being deployed for the first time to drive ESG upgrades and improvements to major infrastructure assets.

The ISCA said in a statement that a recent development within the broader ESG movement is the rapid increase in the scale of Sustainability Linked Loans (SLLs).

SLLs offer explicit price incentives to borrowers or investors for environmental improvements.

“Companies that achieve their sustainability targets benefit from favourable interest rates, while a failure to do so will lead to higher rates. With SLLs, companies therefore have an incentive to align both financing and sustainability objectives,” the ISCA said.

“SLLs are driving significant environmental upgrades of corporate and infrastructure assets around the world.”

ANZ, Westpac and BNP Paribas banks have provided billions of dollars of SLLs to organisations such as Sydney Airport, Investa Commercial Property, Queensland Airport, Adelaide Airport and AGL.

“Communities, consumers and governments increasingly expect investors to allocate capital in a socially and environmentally responsible and ethical way, and be transparent about their investment practices,” the ISCA said.

The council stated that many organisations have developed their own internal policies and procedures to assess ESG risks and opportunities within its industry frameworks.

Research released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in October 2019 showed that  the total amount of sustainability linked debt now exceeds USD1 trillion (AUD$1.5 trillion).

The ISCA stated that infrastructure investment by superannuation funds in Australia have a particularly strong ESG focus due to the long term nature of the assets and investment mandates.

“Investors measuring and reporting ESG performance will also proactively look to improve the performance of their assets,” The ISCA said.

“SLL’s can improve quality, performance and value through their focus on upgrades of existing assets.”

The council stated it expects that ESG screened investments will continue to grow in importance as organisations look to demonstrate their environmental, social, governance and commercial sustainability.

Clean Energy Finance Corp (CEFC) is also providing loans linked to ESG performance, including AUD100 million into MIRA’s Australian infrastructure platform to target lower carbon emissions and improved energy efficiency in assets including airports, electricity, port, rail and water, and AUD150 million to the IFM Australia Infrastructure Fund.

These two investors hold a portfolio of assets including ports, electricity networks, airports and water infrastructure.

CEFC also manages the Australian Recycling Investment Fund.

According to the ISCA, investments under an ‘ESG’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ investment umbrella have moved into the mainstream over the past decade, and particularly in the last three years.

Sustainability linked debt comprises green, social and sustainability bonds which have been around for 10 years, and the more recent green and sustainability linked loans.

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Central Coast reopens waste facilities

Residents on the Central Coast in NSW are able to utilise the Woy Woy and Buttonderry waste management facilities following its closure due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Although access remained open for waste management vehicles, private waste contractors and small business customers, the public were prohibited from entering all three Central Coast Council waste facilities.

A Central Coast Council spokesperson said all three facilities were closed to the public in line with NSW Police advice and the NSW Government’s Public Health Order of March 29.

“In response to the developing situation with COVID-19, the NSW Government later issued a fact sheet clarifying the management of waste and recycling facilities,” the spokesperson said.

“As a result, the restriction on public access to the Woy Woy and Buttonderry waste management facilities was lifted.”

The Kincumber facility remains closed due to ongoing maintenance work.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the community, limit the need for residents to travel, minimise contact and ensure services are still being provided, Council has changed some operations at its waste management facilities.

Council is encouraging all residents to utilise their three bin and bulk collection services and comply with requirements around non-essential travel.

CEO Central Coast Council, Gary Murphy, said Council’s priority is the health of staff and the Central Coast community and continuing to deliver essential services.

“I want to assure the community that all our essential services are not interrupted, and this includes water and sewer; collection and management of waste,” he said.

Essential services across the region continue, including work on its rolling program to inspect and replace critical sewage sewage to improve the performance and reliability of the network.

More than $2 million dollars has been earmarked for the project this financial year that sees existing pipes rehabilitated with structural relining to extend their service life by up to 50 years or replacing end-of-design-life equipment.

“We manage an extensive sewer network with 2,649 kilometres of sewer pipelines across the region as well as eight sewage treatment plants and more than 320 sewage pumping stations,” Council spokesperson said.

“We are using innovative techniques to rehabilitate damaged sewer pipelines during the work.”

Council starts by clearing the pipe and assessing the conditions of sewer lines via CCTV camera, then insert a liner to reinforce the existing pipe structure that seals any leaks, significantly reducing the risk of future damage, particularly from tree roots.

“This technique reduces the need to excavate, minimising disruption to services during works and reduces repair costs,” Council spokesperson said.

“This essential maintenance on local sewer infrastructure will improve asset and network reliability, lower the risk of environmental discharges and help ensure we have adequate and sustainable infrastructure to meet future demand.”

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ARRB details support for Victoria’s Recycled First program

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) is committed to supporting the Victorian Government’s push to boost the amount of recycled materials used in major construction projects.

Recycled First, a recent initiative from the Victorian Government, will prioritise recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards for road and rail projects – with recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics taking precedence over virgin materials.

According to an ARRB statement, the organisation has significant involvement in research and trials of recycled and alternative materials in road construction.

“Changes to tender processes mean projects such as the $16 billion North East Link in Melbourne may include roads made of partly discarded rubber,” the statement reads.

“ARRB’s state-of-the-art research labs in Port Melbourne offer world-class testing facilities for the use and specifications for recycled and alternative road construction materials.”

Examples of ARRB’s work in the recycled materials space include a trial of recycled crushed glass asphalt on local roads with Brimbank City Council in Melbourne’s west.

“ARRB is also involved in an important new trial – alongside Tyre Stewardship Australia and Victoria’s Department of Transport – involving using crumb rubber on East Boundary Road at Bentleigh East,” the statement reads.

According to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan, the state’s Recycled First program brings a uniform approach to the existing ‘ad hoc’ use of recycled products on major transport infrastructure projects.

“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills,” Ms Allan said.

Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”

The Recycled First initiative is overseen by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, and will include strict quality and safety standards.

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