Recycled Materials in Infrastructure and Capital Works Forum

  • Deakin University Waurn Ponds Campus Geelong

Barwon Regional Waste Management Group partnered with Waste Management Association of Australia and ECO-Buy to run the Recycled Materials in Infrastructure and Capital Works Forum in Geelong in March. The event was the first of its kind for the region, and judging by the response, it won't be the last!

We heard from four experts in the field, and their insights and discussion were informative and full of opportunities. Please get in touch with us if you would like access to any of their presentations.         

  • John Hennessey from Municipal Association of Victoria spoke about a business case being developed to make it easier for councils to choose recycled materials for pavement projects.
  • Vicki Shelton from the Greater City of Geelong described first-hand experience in using recycled materials in local government projects and presented a number of very successful case studies.
  • Deane Reid from SITA-Resource Co and the C & D working group of the Waste Management Association of Australia, highlighted the ability for recycled materials to compete on a fit for purpose level against virgin products at a cheaper cost.
  • Chris Jeffreys from the Packaging Stewardship Forum presented numerous demonstration projects using recycled sand (made from bottle glass) as an alternative in road base and pipe bedding. There are also a number of specification documents available to minimise risk to councils.

The new Recycled Mixed Plastics Toolkit for local government developed by ECO-Buy was also promoted to the audience.

Throughout the presentations and discussion, we identified the following as challenges and opportunities for the use of recycled materials when investing in major projects.

Challenges:

  • Some councils are cautious to change materials use to recycled content, and may be lacking buy in from senior level.

Opportunities:

  • Fortunately, there is a strong (financial) business case for using recycled content. (A report by Sustainability Victoria, Municipal Association of Victoria and Net Balance on the business case for Recycled Materials in Pavement Construction will be made available soon.)

  • Councils can use this knowledge to determine what works for their price, needs and availability requirements.

  • Recycled materials supply is a mature market, and a ‘fit for purpose’ product is a suitable replacement for virgin materials. Asphalt regularly has a 20% recycled component.

  • Longer term (5 - 10 years) there is a high likelihood of increased prices for virgin resources (for example, quarried materials, etc.). Starting to implement proactive policies and culture now will help to buffer this as much as possible. Using recycled materials will extend the life of high value materials.

  • With such significant budgets at play, there is real advantages to spending money now on redeveloping policies and tender processes which allow for fit for purpose recycled content products.

  • NATA certified testing of recycled products (in order to prove business case and balance perceived risk) is resulting in the use of great products and maximising value long term. That said, supplier recommendations from other councils is valuable. Perhaps there is a way to share risk between councils when trialling new supplier or product?

  • When goals are linked back to sustainable procurement, and tracking and reporting becomes embedded, much of the value and a strong business case becomes very clear.

  • Life cycle analysis studies have shown that recycled content concrete provides a carbon benefit of up to 65% over equivalent virgin quarried material.