Construction sector to prioritise recycled

Recycled First aims to bring a unified approach to the application of recycled materials on road infrastructure projects. Waste Management Review homes in on the program.

With Victoria’s big build delivering more than 100 road and rail projects across the state, there are significant opportunities to grow the use recycled and reusable materials in construction projects.

In early March, the Victorian Government announced the Recycled First program. Recycled First will build new requirements into future projects under the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, with the goal of bringing a uniform approach to the use of recycled products.

The program will mean recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards, whether it be recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, reclaimed asphalt pavement or organics, take precedence over new materials.

The program complements the Victorian Government’s Recycling Victoria: A new economy policy, which includes the introduction of a four-bin system, supported by a planned Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), waste-to-energy investment and a dedicated waste authority and new Act.

Recycled First doesn’t set mandatory minimum requirements or targets, it focuses on a project by project basis. In this way, the aim is to allow contractors to liaise with recycled material suppliers and determine if there are adequate supplies of the products needed for their project.

For these projects, bidders will need to demonstrate how they’ll optimise the use of recycled materials. Additionally, contractors must report on the types and volumes of recycled products they used.

Organisations interested in delivering major transport infrastructure projects will need to demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials while maintaining compliance and quality standards.

According to the Victorian Government, work is already underway with current construction partners to get more recycled content used on major projects, in addition to the new Recycled First requirements.

The M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway and South Gippsland Highway upgrades are using more than 20,000 tonnes of recycled materials and 190 million glass bottles are being used on surfaces of the $1.8 billion Western Roads Upgrade.

Recycled demolition material has also been used in recent months to build extra lanes along 24 kilometres of the Tullamarine Freeway, as well as the Monash Freeway and M80 Ring Road.

Around 14,000 tonnes of excavated soil from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville is being applied on pavement layers on roads in Point Cook.

Alexis Davison, Director, Program Services and Engineering, Major Road Projects Victoria, says Major Road Projects Victoria is working closely with the Department of Transport to review the current specifications for recycled and reused content to allow for greater use and remove barriers to their implementation.

“We’re aiming to deliver sustainable and innovative transport infrastructure for Victoria – and Recycled First will explore new and better ways to do that,” Alexis says.

“Specifications already allow the use of some recycled materials, and we’re compiling reference guides for road and rail infrastructure to ensure our project teams and contractors are aware of them.”

Claire Ferres Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria (SV), says the first-of-its-kind policy builds on SV’s ongoing work in research and market development to find new uses and create markets for recovered materials in the construction sector.

She says that SV will expand its work to support the groundwork for new recycled products and materials, through testing, trials and commercialisation.

“Through Major Roads Project Victoria and Recycled First, we now have a direct line for these products to be utilised in major Victorian Government projects, and in parallel, SV will work in partnership with the local government sector to increase the use of recycled content in their procurement,” she says.

Claire adds that SV will continue to build on its partnerships with the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) and the university sector to ensure performance-based standards and specifications are in place.

Claire points to the state government’s 10-year Recycling Victoria plan, which includes a landmark $300 million industry package.

“The introduction of Recycled First by the Victorian Government sends strong, positive signals that align with SV’s successful Research, Development and Demonstration program. This has achieved a significant increase in the use of crushed concrete, crumb rubber and recycled glass sand in construction projects,” she says.

Alex Fraser remains one of Victoria’s leading suppliers of recycled construction materials: recovering, recycling and supplying up to three million tonnes of construction materials made from recovered, construction and demolition and glass waste each year.

The use of these materials is reducing the carbon footprint on new infrastructure projects by up to 65 per cent. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the company’s efforts are reducing construction materials to landfill, truck traffic and extraction of limited natural resources.

With its Melbourne sites in Clarinda, Laverton and Epping, Alex Fraser’s network of facilities circumference the city and are ideally placed to reliably supply major projects.

From the Western Roads Upgrade, the Southern Roads Upgrade, Level Crossing Removal Authority projects, and freeways like the Monash and Mordialloc Freeway and North-East Link, the company is poised to support Recycled First.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy says recycled construction materials are being used in great quantities in all sorts of projects throughout Victoria, and increasingly in other states.

“The vast majority of the construction industry is well aware of the consistent high quality of recycled materials, as well as the many commercial and environmental benefits they offer,” Peter says.

“An initiative like Recycled First sends an important message from government to industry that investing in Victoria’s circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of construction through responsible product choices is a priority.”

Peter says that now more than ever, it’s important that those building our cities are aware of the sustainable options available to them.

He cites the Joint Ministerial Statement on Extractive Resources – which highlights the Victorian Government’s priorities to address constraints in virgin extractive resources, including by facilitating substitution with recycled product.

“Virgin material close to Melbourne is already limited. Switching to recycled not only attracts environmental savings but reduces the strain on metropolitan extractive industries,” he says.

Major works such as the Tullamarine Freeway, the M80, The Dingley Bypass and the Monash Freeway have exemplified the Recycled First concept, as they have included large quantities of recycled materials.

“Current projects like the Mordialloc Freeway, many Level Crossing Removal projects, the Monash Freeway upgrade, and the Western Roads upgrade include masses of recycled content, including millions of glass bottles from kerbside collections,” Peter says.

Additionally, Peter says forward thinking municipalities like Bayside, Monash, Yarra and Maribyrnong are actively seeking out sustainable materials to build greener roads in their cities.

When it comes to the debate on mandatory targets, Peter says Alex Fraser does not advocate for mandating the use of recycled materials across the board. He says project managers should make decisions based on quality, timelines, cost and environmental factors.

“We’ve seen mandated approaches in other jurisdictions result in perverse outcomes. For example, there may not be much benefit in mandating the use of recycled material on a project that is many kilometres from a recycling facility, but only around the corner from a quarry.”

He says it would be encouraging to see a stronger policy position on the protection of critical resource recovery infrastructure.

“We know for recycling to work at all, facilities need to be positioned close to where recyclable material is generated and close to where markets exist for recycled products,” he says.

“Planning policy has to support other policies to ensure continued investment in resource and recovery infrastructure in Victoria is viable.”

Peter points out that even with the introduction of recycling schemes like the CDS and a glass bin, recycling glass fines in construction remains critically important to the effective management of glass waste.

He says that experience with the rollout of the CDS interstate indicates that higher overall glass recovery volumes are achieved but recycling options need to be found for the kerbside glass that is seen to be inferior to the cleaner CDS derived glass.

“More than 40 per cent of recovered glass is unable to be traditionally recycled back into bottles, because the fragments are either too small to be optically sorted, opaque, or covered in paper and plastics. In Victoria this equates to around 140,000 tonnes per annum,” he says.

“Recycling this mass of glass fines into construction sand will be important in reducing landfill and providing the construction industry with a sustainable alternative to already limited supplies of natural sands.”

Peter says Victoria has long led the way in the use of recycled material in infrastructure.

“It would be great to see the same enthusiasm in other states, where greater barriers to the uptake of recycled material exist. It’s especially encouraging to see other states drafting improvements to their specifications” he says.

“The quality and performance of recycled material has been well proven over decades. Clear policy positions from government along with supportive and straight forward specifications will make a significant difference to the use of recycled materials in major projects beyond Victoria.”

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) focuses on supporting the commercialisation of intelligent transport solutions.

As sustainability becomes an increasing priority for the roads sector, it has had an increasing recycling focus over the past few years.

Through its Port Melbourne research lab and partnerships with the roads sector, ARRB has been testing recycled crushed glass, crumb rubber asphalt, reclaimed asphalt pavement and a range of other materials. ARRB CEO Michael Caltabiano says stakeholders are focused on ensuring they can do their best to reinforce circular economy principals.

“For the roads sector that means using recycled product as much as we can,” Michael says.

ARRB is involved in a number of key Victorian projects, including a trial of recycled crushed glass in asphalt on local roads in west Melbourne with Brimbank City Council. Additionally, Tyre Stewardship Australia, ARRB and the Victorian Department of Transport are conducting the first crumb rubber asphalt trial on an arterial road.

Michael says ARRB has also been funded by Queensland and WA state road agencies to look at the polymer characteristics of the plastic waste stream and how it might be incorporated into bituminous projects.

“The flame burns brightly in keeping the recycled products agenda going in the roads sector,” Michael says.

“Government is focused on it and so is ARRB – our task is to design the specifications for the future. We need to understand the science of how these product perform and produce the guidelines and specifications for local governments and state governments to use and put in their tender documents.”

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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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Recycling Victoria: a new economy? Part three

The Victorian Government’s Recycling Victoria strategy is the largest package of recycling reforms in the state’s history. Waste Management Review explores the policy.

This is the final article in a three part series: part three will explore Recycling Victoria’s organics recovery targets, the state government’s Social Procurement Framework and efforts to support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management. To read part two click here

In recent years, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system has faced a number of setbacks, from fires at material recycling facilities and illegal stockpiling, to uneven policy regulations and the collapse of major processor SKM Recycling in 2019. Added to this is uncertainty amid COVID-19 ramifications.

The SKM collapse was particularly noteworthy, entering mainstream consciousness after 33 Victorian councils were forced to landfill their recycling: calling the state’s infrastructure capacity into question.

Fast forward just one year, and the state is in better shape, with the release of Victoria’s long-awaited circular economy policy Recycling Victoria: A New Economy presenting widespread opportunity for sector growth.

REDUCING METHANE MECHANISMS

 Listing organics as a priority material, Recycling Victoria seeks to cut the volume of organic material sent to landfill by 50 per cent between 2020 and 2030, with an interim target of 20 per cent reduction by 2025.

The strategy also aims to ensure every Victorian household has access to food and garden organic waste recycling services or local composing by 2030.

Furthermore, the Recycling Victoria Infrastructure Fund will encourage investment in organic waste sorting and processing infrastructure, while the Recycling Markets Acceleration package aims to build strong markets for products made from recovered organic waste such as compost.

The Victorian Government will also introduce new rules requiring businesses to sort commonly recyclable materials and organic waste from unrecoverable waste.

Frank Harney, Australian Organics Recycling Association Victoria Chair, says that while the strategy broadly represents positive movement for the organics sector, particularly in regard to state-wide FOGO collection, more work needs to be done to stop organics ending up in landfill. Frank adds that were it up to him, organics in landfill would be banned immediately.

“We don’t have the capacity in composting facilities to handle more material. We’re currently processing 700,000 tonnes and that will at least double. We’re already at processing capacity now, so there needs to be a lot of initiatives directed at decontamination and getting sites licensed,” he says.

Frank highlights decontamination as critical, suggesting that while councils are working at further educating the public, a certain level of contamination will always be present at kerbside.

“The system needs to be designed in a way where it comes in the front gate, gets decontaminated, gets chipped and into the vessels, and then goes out to maturation sites,” he says.

Frank also suggests that more work needs to be done on the classification of waste, so organic material can be more efficiently composted. He adds that while he isn’t sure why a lettuce leaf needs to go through maturation, “that’s the rule.”

The structure of contracts also needs to change, Frank says, suggesting that awarding large scale council contracts to single entities creates a number of logistical market challenges.

PROACTIVE PROCUREMENT

As a large buyer of goods and services, the Victorian Government has committed to creating strong markets for recycled materials. As such, Recycling Victoria states that the state government will seek new opportunities to purchase products containing recycled materials and use recycled materials to build roads, railways and other public infrastructure.

“The Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework requires government buyers to consider opportunities to deliver social and sustainable outcomes in every procurement activity. This includes sustainable material choices and buying products made from recycled content where appropriate,” the strategy reads.

Mark Smith, Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Outgoing Executive Officer, highlights that the Victorian Government is simultaneously the state’s largest employer and its largest procurer of goods and services.

“It’s great to see the government playing an essential role in driving circular economy outcomes through the policy,” he says.

According to Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, the strategy is a sign of support for resource recovery and recycled content infrastructure.

“We know that a strong market for recycled materials supports resource recovery, which diverts more material away from landfill and reduces stockpiling. It also preserves valuable natural resources which are increasingly difficult to access and costly to transport,” he says.

“Many Big Build projects are located close to Melbourne, making recycled material from metropolitan areas the ideal supply choice. The use of locally sourced recycled content substantially reduces heavy vehicle use, which reduces congestion and carbon emissions.”

It should be noted however that Recycling Victoria lists no concrete targets. Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, says this is cause for concern, and reflects a limited level of understanding as to where the real opportunities to procure recovered materials are.

“The upside however is that state agencies such as the Major Roads Projects are getting the message to increase recycled content in their procurement. This shift in behaviour has to be adopted more widely across government,” Rose says.

“To do this, the government has to remove the perceived risk of substituting virgin materials with recovered materials by fast tracking standards, working with industry to address supply chain issues and providing practical guidance in specifying state and local government tenders.”

On the flip side, Rose says the resource recovery industry has to step up to ensure quality materials can be supplied in line with construction and manufacturing standards and timelines.

“Working together is critical here, and government should establish supply chain groups to resolve these barriers to increasing the use of recovered materials,” she says.

TRACKING REGULATION:

To support safe and effective high-risk and hazardous waste management, the state government has committed to implementing stronger regulation, policy and planning. Industry investment in better hazardous waste management, including opportunities to maximise the safe and cost-effective recovery and recycling of these wastes will also be encouraged.

Furthermore, the Victorian Government will consider the potential introduction of new levies for waste being stockpiled for long periods. A Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within the EPA will also be established to work across government with WorkSafe Victoria, emergency services agencies, local government and other regulators.

Rose says the NWRIC is pleased to see resources being committed to support a waste crime prevention inspectorate. She adds that for too long, unlicensed and illegal waste activities have been allowed to occur across the state, harming the environment and putting the community at risk and undeservingly damaging the reputation of good operators.

“Together with the recent changes to the environment protection Act, this resource will provide the EPA with the necessary tools to stop unlicensed and illegal waste management activities,” Rose says.

“The NWRIC considers that all waste and recycling operations must be conducted in accordance with state, national and international environmental, health and safety regulations. Failure to do so is not acceptable.”

The moves come of the back of a 2019 $5.5 million investment to switch to a GPS electronic tracking system, following a series of high-profile illegal stockpile fires. With improved data analytics and reporting, the system is designed to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial and high-risk waste.

According to Mark, the VWMA is supportive of the state government’s intention to level the playing field.

“Illegal operators undermined confidence in the system and undercut legitimate businesses. Illegal sites have chewed up millions of dollars in clean-up costs, and I’m hopeful all these investments will begin to tackle upstream and downstream players that feed this underbelly,” he says.

“Essential to the success of this program will be recognising the role compliant operators can play, and the broader onboarding of industry.”

Mark says the VWMA sees itself as a partner with the EPA on that process.

“The EPA has been really supportive of us in helping build businesses capability and capacity to understand their duties and obligations. It is a big task and we want to work with the government on this,” he says.

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Government wedged into Clarinda issue

Alex Fraser highlights implications surrounding the potential closure of its Clarinda Recycling Facility, after Kingston City Council denied its application for the second time.

Alex Fraser put in the hard yards over the past two decades to clean up Victoria’s problem glass and is the state’s leading recycler in this space.

Through its network of sites at Clarinda, Laverton North and Epping, the company will take in material from the likes of Cleanaway, Polytrade and Visy and continue to find markets for thousands of tonnes of glass waste per annum.

A recent Sustainability Victoria grant enabled the installation of additional equipment at Clarinda. The project will reduce stockpiling and landfilling of problem glass by an additional 38,500 tonnes per annum. But in three years’ time, Clarinda may no longer exist.

Since 2014, Alex Fraser has been fighting to protect the shutdown of one million tonnes of recycling capacity which supplies material to major projects.

In what some are calling a NIMBY decision, in late 2019, that battle came to a head, as Kingston City Council denied an application to extend the life of the recycling operation.

The permit ends in 2023 and allows for an application for an extension. Even though the area has been rezoned as green wedge, an extension is permissible and the company had applied to stay until 2038.

It followed a comprehensive effort to find an alternative site in collaboration with the Victorian Government through Invest Victoria.

A second and final vote was taken in mid-December which was once again denied. Now, Alex Fraser has called on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, says the decision is at odds with Victoria’s Recycling Industry Strategic Plan.

“We’ll continue to work on all of the options available to us. This issue affects environment, resources, roads, transport and treasury at a state level. It really needs a coordinated government approach to resolving it,” Peter explains.

A number of claims have since been thrown around, such as: “there’s still another four years to find a site” and “Alex Fraser still has two other sites”.

For one, the company points out that even if it were able to find a suitable site, completing the planning process means a lengthy and uncertain timeframe. Relocation is also a complex process.

Secondly, Alex Fraser has spent years building a network of recycling sites close to where waste is generated. Significant work from state agencies has gone into Victoria’s Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan to ensure adequate buffer protection of waste activities as a result of the urban sprawl.

Victoria’s “big build” is placing additional strain on metropolitan quarries, an issue Peter says is a huge concern.

“For recycling of this scale to continue to work, we need to maintain a network of facilities that are positioned close to where waste is generated and where the outlets for recycled materials exist.”

According to the Victorian Extractive Resources Strategy, at the time of its publication in 2016, demand for extractive resources was expected to double by 2050 as a result of the big build, and since then infrastructure investment has only increased.

The strategy shows 34 per cent of extractives in 2050 will need to be sourced from quarries not yet built or planned, due to forecast resource exhaustion. To complicate matters further, an analysis undertaken in 2018 of quarry approvals shows only a quarter of quarry applicants were able to secure necessary approvals in the past two years to carry out new production.

To meet the shortfall, one of the Victorian Government’s key policy pledges is to improve waste management across the whole industry. Transportation of extractive resources is costly and not eco-friendly when the distance between a quarry and point of use is examined.

Around 535 quarries produce 50 million tonnes of stone, limestone, gypsum, sand and gravel per year. Put in perspective, the Metro Tunnel alone is expected to require more than 480,000 cubic metres of ready-mix concrete and 160,000 tonnes of other extractive materials.

“If we fail to ensure that a sufficient supply of extractive resources is available within close proximity to our growth areas and infrastructure projects, the cost of constructing houses and infrastructure will likely rise,” the strategy says.

“This can lead to more expensive and potentially fewer infrastructure projects for Victorians. Impacts on transport infrastructure will rise, and greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts will increase.”

Alex Fraser highlights that if the Clarinda facility were to close, it would be equivalent to the loss of a major quarry in metropolitan resource availability.

Clarinda is perfectly positioned to supply major projects such as the Mordialloc Freeway, Monash Upgrade, Level Crossing Removal Project and the upcoming outer Suburban Rail Loop.

Peter says that recycling in Melbourne has been successful because of a network of sites, close to the city which provide access to markets.

Globally, a clear barrier to using recycled materials is the availability of supply within reasonable distances. He says that anyone in the industry understands the time and cost implications of trucking material from further afield.

The Victorian Government has committed to a “hot list” of priority quarry approvals that can be fast tracked to support the big build. He says it would be perverse to fast-track the development of a new quarry to counter the shutdown of a recycling facility.

Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) CEO Jillian Riseley recently penned a letter to the City of Kingston calling for the Clarinda Recycling Facility’s extension.

She reiterated that the MWRRG had a statutory role to play in reducing waste to landfill and that its Metropolitan Implementation Plan articulated the need to integrate land use planning with waste and resource recovery.

The metro plan identifies the Clayton South Precinct as one of 13 hubs of metropolitan importance and acknowledges Alex Fraser’s role in supporting construction and demolition waste.

“The Clayton South Precinct Hub including Alex Fraser facilities, along with other state significant hubs, together operate as a network providing critical and complementary recycling and recovery capacity,” Jillian wrote.

“For the network to function effectively it requires capacity and security of operations across the hub.”

She says that should the operation discontinue, the loss of one million tonnes would undermine the entire network and place pressure on already constrained landfill capacity in the southeast.

Kingston City Council claims that the community has voiced objections about the Clarinda Recycling Facility. The MWRRG’s letter confirms the application for permit extension would allow Alex Fraser to support ongoing best practice environmental management.

Peter says that a number of houses are close to landfills and affected by dust, noise and odour.

“We have provided evidence that the source of dust, noise and odour is not the Clarinda Recycling Facility. Our employees do an outstanding job and have demonstrated how to transition away from landfill,” Peter says.

“We have exceptionally good controls, including 24-hour dust monitoring across the site.

“In fact, the site has been awarded by the Clean Air Society of Australia & New Zealand so it is well recognised as being a leader.”

Alex Fraser also put forward a Community Benefits Package, giving the Kingston community ownership of 22 hectares of land, along with a total of $7.5 million for local sports and recreation facilities.

The proposal was not accepted by the council, an issue Alex Fraser remains perplexed about.

As the Victorian Government plans to release its long-awaited circular economy policy, Peter says Victoria long led the way in using recycled materials in infrastructure.

He adds the site is an outstanding example of the circular economy in action and the state government must intervene to retain this recycling capacity.

This article was published in the February edition of Waste Management Review.

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One million tonnes under threat: Alex Fraser

Alex Fraser has called on Kingston City Council to extend its operating permit for its glass and C&D recycling site as one million tonnes of recyclables risks going to landfill.

Alex Fraser’s Clarinda Recycling Facility plays a pivotal role in Victoria’s resource recovery network, with the capacity to recycle around 25 per cent of Melbourne’s glass and construction waste.

Situated in the Melbourne’s south-east near Clayton, the 22-hectare facility recycles up to one million tonnes of waste each year and turns it into VicRoads approved, high quality, sustainable construction materials. It is a key component of the company’s network of sites surrounding Melbourne.

Not many facilities can boast the capacity for such difficult-to-recycle waste streams, let alone the contribution Alex Fraser makes to repurposing value-added materials in infrastructure projects. The site employees 50 full-time people and has been operating since October 2009.

With Victoria’s big build placing pressure on dwindling natural resources and quarries moving further afield, the need to find a sustainable alternative has never been greater. According to PwC, the building and construction sector faces the challenge of maintaining access to supply of extractive resources.

It comes as encroachment of urban and regional development affects existing quarrying areas. Likewise, demand for extractive resources over 2015-50 is set to be almost double to supply the state’s planned new transport infrastructure, a concern alleviated through strategically placed sites like Alex Fraser’s.

Now, Alex Fraser’s site is under threat, with its permit with Kingston City Council set to expire in 2023.

THE REZONING

In 2015, Kingston’s industrial area was rezoned to be green wedge, with conditions preventing waste management operations on the land.

Since then, Alex Fraser has been actively working with the Victorian Government and its agencies to identify alternative locations.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Group Managing Director, says that there is no way Alex Fraser will be able to find a suitable alternative location by 2023.

One of the key reasons is a need for Alex Fraser to be located within proximity to sources of construction and demolition waste, as well as kerbside collected glass.

“Using recycled material in infrastructure is only possible with facilities like Clarinda that are close to our cities – where waste is generated, and where major projects are underway,” Peter explains.

Alex Fraser supplies recycled construction materials to projects including the Level Crossing Removal Projects, Monash Freeway Upgrade, Thompsons Road Upgrade, and the Hallam Road Upgrade. It is also ideally located to supply the planned Suburban Rail Loop, South Eastern Roads Upgrade and Mordialloc Freeway.

Other prominent considerations are the scale of the 22-hectare site, quality road network and its extensive landscaping and screening with appropriate fencing and native foliage.

Alex Fraser’s application to Kingston City Council, lodged in September this year, seeks a 15-year extension of its operating permit.

“Unfortunately, there are no viable alternative sites, and so we’re asking Kingston City Council for more time,” Peter says.

“We need more time so we can continue to recycle until we can relocate, to avoid adding to Victoria’s recycling and resources crises.”

Peter notes that Victorians want certainty about what’s happening with their waste. A decision is expected from council this year and if Alex Fraser is denied an extension, it may have to scale back its recycling.

“If this key recycling facility is shut down in 2023, it would significantly impact on Victoria’s recycling capability, and cut the supply of construction materials urgently needed for Victoria’s big build.”

“Victoria is already in a recycling crisis – this would only make matters worse,” Mr Murphy said.

Kerbside glass is at the heart of Victoria’s recycling crisis – the state government recently supported an improvement to the Clarinda facility recycling capability. This will enable the annual recycling and distribution of 200 million bottles worth of recycled sand. The site’s closure could mean this goes to landfill instead.

PLANNING COMPLEXITIES

As Waste Management Review reported in its 2018 article, Protecting our infrastructure, urban encroachment has pushed sites such as Alex Fraser’s away from the urban sprawl.

“It’s taken years for Alex Fraser to build a network of recycling sites of suitable scale, in locations serviced by major roads, that are close enough to raw and finished product markets,” Peter said at the time.

“The unfortunate reality is that a lot of effort from hard-working people across government departments, and a suite of very good specifications, plans and policies that would support better outcomes are completely undermined by some planning decisions.”

Peter says that relocating facilities is a complex exercise and simply rezoning new land does not alleviate the problems caused when zonings on ideal existing sites are changed.

The challenge for operators has been finding suitable sites large enough to achieve economies of scale close enough to where waste is generated.

Peter says that if Alex Fraser were to shut own, a major metropolitan quarry would have to be established to extract the same volume of resources.

ISSUE IN THE SPOTLIGHT

As highlighted in Victoria’s Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management in June 5 hearings, glass mountains have filled sheds all over Melbourne. Alex Fraser’s response to the glass-waste conundrum has been to step up production with new infrastructure at Clarinda and a state-of-the-art plant in Laverton North. Together, these projects have increased the company’s capacity to recycle up to one billion bottles a year, including the most problematic glass waste streams.

“If you came through Bayside this morning, we have got a crew out there laying asphalt that has got glass, plastics, recycled asphalt in it…being used all day, every day, in massive quantities,” Peter told the hearing in June.

“It is also jobs like LXRA, various Monash upgrades, the Western Ring Road – all the way back to the Grand Prix track actually – that have got some kind of recycled content in them. So I think in Victoria the story is pretty good. Victoria’s big build is underway.”

He reiterated that the scale of these recycling efforts and the reuse in major projects and the scale was often misunderstood by lots of people, including at Clarinda.

“If you close that facility [Clarinda], you need to find a community somewhere that wants a big quarry established… and you need to tell them that they need a quarry because you shut down a resource recovery facility.”

“The Department of Economic Development, Jobs and Transport Resources did a very good study, three years ago, on the increasing cost to these projects due to carting quarry materials further out of town, and the cost is already well ahead of the base case.”

A letter from the Department of Treasury and Finance shows efforts were made to find an alternative site by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (formerly DEDJTR) and Sustainability Victoria.

The department’s scoping found site options that meet current planning requirements are extremely limited, with none available in proximity to the cities where waste in generated and end markets exist.   

In this vein, Alex Fraser’s Clarinda site has also previously been recognised as part of a hub of state significance in the Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan for Victoria.

In a May 2019 letter to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry Into Recycling and Waste Management by the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, of which Alex Fraser is a member, CEO Rose Read points out that Clarinda is well known for operational excellence.

According to Peter, the company has not received any complaints regarding amenity impact on the surrounding area and was recognised for its high operating and environmental standards.

Its Alex Fraser’s significant market pull that has led to an outreach of support from numerous stakeholders.

In order to mitigate the issue into the future, Rose calls for the establishment of ‘green zones’ identified and protected for waste and recycling businesses that protect these assets for the life of the infrastructure.

Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria, says SV recognised the site as an important site for resource recovery in Melbourne.

“Processing one million tonnes of recycling per annum, the site serves a dual purpose, both as a hub for construction and demolition waste in the south-east and through supply of aggregate and sand into new construction activities,” Matt says.

“We are acutely aware of the shortage of quarried materials to supply the state’s significant infrastructure program and having a site of this scale located in close proximity to these major projects is essential in ensuring ongoing supply of recycled construction products and materials.”

Wayne Russell, Visy Recycling Executive General Manager says that Alex Fraser had been an important partner to Visy for more than 14 years.

“Visy’s future glass recovery and recycling efforts would be severely hampered in the absence of the service the Alex Fraser network provides,” he says.

Mark Smith, VWMA Executive Officer, wrote of his concern of the unacceptable impact the closure of Clarinda would have on the Victorian waste and recycling network.

“Closure (even temporary) would have significant impact on Victoria’s recycling capability resulting in the accumulation and stockpiling of waste material,” he wrote.

At the beginning of September, Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley confirmed the council received an application at the beginning of September which seeks to extend operations at the Alex Fraser site in Kingston’s green wedge.

“In 2015, Kingston Council welcomed protections for Kingston’s green wedge that were introduced by the Victorian Planning Minister that would ensure existing waste operations would cease at the end of their current permits and that no new operations would be allowed,” Ms Oxley said.

“Council wrote to the Planning Minister in April 2015 calling on the government to help Alex Fraser find an alternative site to ensure its long-term success while ensuring the end of waste-related activities in the green wedge. Invest Victoria has been working with Alex Fraser to identify suitable alternative sites.

“Council strongly supports the recycling sector and has a range of successful recycling business operating outside the green wedge within its industrial zoned areas.”

A Victorian Government spokesperson said the permit decision is currently a matter for Kingston City Council.

“We recognise the important contribution Alex Fraser makes to the recycling sector but also the concerns of local residents,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ll continue to work with both the council and Alex Fraser on resolving this matter.”

This article appeared in the October 2019 issue of Waste Management Review. 

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Alex Fraser glass recycling site under threat

Alex Fraser has called on Kingston City Council to extend the operating permit for its glass and C&D recycling site, as one million tonnes of recyclables risk going to landfill.

Alex Fraser recycles problem glass waste from kerbside collections, and construction waste, diverting them from landfill to make construction materials urgently needed for Victoria’s ‘Big Build’ infrastructure projects.

In 2015, Kingston’s industrial area was rezoned to be green wedge, with conditions preventing waste management operations on the land.

Since then, Alex Fraser has been actively working with the Victorian Government and its agencies to identify potential alternative locations.

Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Group Managing Director, said that there is no way Alex Fraser will be able to find a suitable alternative location by 2023.

“Unfortunately, there are no viable alternative sites, and so we’re asking Kingston City Council for more time,” Mr Murphy said.

“We need more time so we can continue to recycle until we can relocate, to avoid adding to Victoria’s recycling and resources crises.”

One of the key reasons is a need for Alex Fraser to be located within a reasonable/commercial viable proximity to sources of construction and demolition waste.

“Using recycled material in infrastructure is only possible with facilities like Clarinda that are close to our cities – where waste is generated, and where major projects are underway,” Mr Murphy said.

Alex Fraser supplies recycled construction materials to projects including the Level Crossing Removal Projects, Monash Freeway Upgrade, Thompsons Road Upgrade, and the Hallam Road Upgrade. It is also ideally located to supply the planned Suburban Rail Loop, South Eastern Roads Upgrade and Mordialloc Freeway.

Other prominent considerations are the scale of the 22-hectare site, quality road network and its well screened nature with appropriate fencing and native foliage.

Alex Fraser’s application to Kingston City Council, lodged in September this year, seeks a 15-year extension of its operating permit.

“Unfortunately, there are no viable alternative sites, and so we’re asking Kingston City Council for more time,” Mr Murphy said.

“We need more time so we can continue to recycle until we can relocate, to avoid adding to Victoria’s recycling and resources crises.”

Mr Murphy said that Victorians want certainty about what’s happening with their waste. A decision is expected from council this year and if Alex Fraser is denied an extension, it may have to scale back its recycling.

“If this key recycling facility is shut down in 2023, it would significantly impact on Victoria’s recycling capability, and cut the supply of construction materials that are helping to build Victoria.”

Without an extension of the site from council, the site will shut down. An application must be lodged in 2020 and in the absence of any further action, the site would cease operations.

“Victoria is already in a recycling crisis – this would only make matters worse,” Mr Murphy said.

Kerbside glass is at the heart of Victoria’s recycling crisis – the state government recently supported the improvement of the Clarinda facility recycling capability. This will enable the recycling of 200 million broken glass bottles. The site’s closure would mean they go to landfill instead.

“If we’re shut down, it would also mean Victoria loses access to one million tonnes a year of recycled resources needed to complete major infrastructure projects in Melbourne’s south east. A major metropolitan quarry would have to be established to extract the same volume of resources,” Mr Murphy said.

Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley confirmed the council received an application this week (Tuesday 3 September 2019) which seeks to extend operations at the Alex Fraser site in Kingston’s green wedge.

“In 2015, Kingston Council welcomed protections for Kingston’s green wedge that were introduced by the Victorian Planning Minister that would ensure existing waste operations would cease at the end of their current permits and that no new operations would be allowed,” Ms Oxley said.

“Council wrote to the Planning Minister in April 2015 calling on the Government to help Alex Fraser find an alternative site to ensure its long-term success while ensuring the end of waste-related activities in the green wedge. Invest Victoria has been working with Alex Fraser to identify suitable alternative sites.

“Council strongly supports the recycling sector and has a range of successful recycling business operating outside the green wedge within its industrial zoned areas.”

A Victorian Government spokesperson said the permit decision is currently a matter for Kingston City Council.

“We recognise the important contribution Alex Fraser makes to the recycling sector but also the concerns of local residents,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ll continue to work with both the council and Alex Fraser on resolving this matter.”

You can read the full story next month in our October edition.

Related stories:

Alex Fraser awarded resource recovery infrastructure grant

Alex Fraser’s Clarinda Recycling facility is among 13 recipients of the Victorian Government’s $4.67 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Grants program.

The fund, administered through Sustainability Victoria, aims to increase Victoria’s capacity to recycle locally generated waste materials into high value commodities.

Alex Fraser will use their $336,500 grant to build a new glass additive bin within their Clarinda facility recycling plant, which will allow reprocessed glass waste to be blended into a range of high quality recycled construction materials.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said the grant would help divert thousands of tonnes of glass from landfill, while increasing the supply of material needed to build green roads.

“Glass is a high-density waste stream, so it is imperative its recycling facilities are well located, close to the point of generation and close to end-markets,” Mr Murphy said.

“This minimises truck traffic, reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.”

Mr Murphy said the project would reduce the landfilling and stockpiling of problematic glass by 38,500 tonnes each year.

“By reprocessing this priority waste into high quality sand, we’re able to supply rail and road projects with a range of high-spec, sustainable materials that cut costs, cartage, and carbon emissions, and reduce the strain on natural resources,” Mr Murphy said.

“We’re pleased to be working with the Victorian Government to overcome one of the state’s biggest recycling challenges.”

Related stories: 

City of Yarra uses recycled glass and plastic in road resurfacing

Around 100 tonnes of recycled glass and plastic have been used in a road resurfacing project in Melbourne’s City of Yarra.

A road resurfacing trial took place in the suburb of Richmond, with Stanley and Margaret Street repaved with an asphalt product containing recycled glass, asphalt and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic.

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The project repurposed around 7300 two litres plastic bottles and 55,000 glass bottles, which is equivalent to the annual kerbside recycling collection for every household on Stanley Street.

The City of Yarra engaged recycling company Alex Fraser for the project and has called on the company to repair and repave more streets in the coming weeks, which will use an additional 1000 tonnes of sustainable asphalt.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said this was a prime example of how a circular economy can be achieved – with government, industry and community working together to recycle problem waste streams, and invest in recycled materials to build new, sustainable infrastructure.

“The City of Yarra’s progressive approach to the use of sustainable material is an excellent illustration of how local councils can proactively reuse the waste generated in their communities to build and maintain their cities while reducing the carbon footprint of their projects by up to 65 per cent,” Mr Murphy said.

City of Yarra Mayor Daniel Nguyen said the City of Yarra had worked with Alex Fraser to incorporate sustainable materials like glass and recycled concrete into its road works.

“As a council with a strong focus on sustainability we are excited about using recycled plastics in our latest roadworks for the wide range of environmental benefits it delivers,” said Cr Nguyen.

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