We all have a role to play when it comes to recycling. Governments and industry are investing in greater recycling infrastructure, businesses are looking at how their products can be recycled at the end of product life and using recycled content in the products they make, and households contribute by recycling.
Recycling diverts waste from landfill and that’s good for the environment. Recycling also presents a great opportunity. When we recycle, these materials can be used again and again to make new products.
We are all encouraged to be mindful of recycling in our purchasing decisions and to buy recycled. When we buy recycled, we grow new industries, create jobs, support the economy and care for our environment.
When governments use their buying power to purchase products made of recycled content, they are supporting industry and helping meet targets under the National Waste Policy Action Plan.
Watch videos below to see Australian businesses using recycled materials to make new products.
Dunlop flooring turning recycled flooring into high performing carpet underlay used in some of the nation’s most iconic buildings.
Sean Forde, Managing Director: Dunlop Flooring is a major flooring supplier for the Australian market. We sell hard flooring and we also sell a really wide range of carpet underlays.
Joe Fernandes, Operations Director: We manufacture 20 different types of underlays suited to various carpets and different applications, using 98% recycled product.
Sean Forde, Managing Director: Carpet underlay goes under all carpets, whether it's in a person's home, whether it's in a hotel, or whether it's a commercial building. Some of the projects that we're really proud of lately is Parliament House in Canberra, Government House in Brisbane, and the Opera House in Sydney also.
Joe Fernandes, Operations Director: It is made to increase the life of your carpet, give you comfort, give you acoustics, helps you with thermal insulation.
Sean Forde, Managing Director: It doesn't collapse, it doesn't break apart, and it lasts really well.
All of our carpet underlays are produced from polyurethane foam, which is a material that we source from the bedding and furnish industry. During the production of household items, there is obviously off cuts that can be potentially sent to landfill. It's post-industrial, we collect it and then we chop it up into small bits and pieces and recycle it and turn it into a carpet underlay.
At the end of its useful life also, the carpet underlay is collected from retailers where it is sourced from homes and commercial buildings where they're re-laying the flooring, and we take that underlay back and we also recycle that into new underlay in our factory in Sydney.
Joe Fernandes, Operations Director: The underlay complies to Australian standards. It's tested by independent organisations for volatile organic compounds and complies to the strict environmental guidelines that we have.
Sean Forde, Managing Director: The trend that we see at the moment is that more and more people are asking about recycling, and they're wanting to know what happens to their product at the end of its useful life. We've been trying to tell this story for more than 20 years now, and we're starting to see consumers and retailers embrace the story and want to get more involved in the recycling program.
There's a lot of sentiment out there at the moment around plastics and plastic bags in supermarkets and drinking straws. You know, drinking straws and plastic bags obviously contribute to a lot of landfill, but the sheer size and volume of carpet underlay, whilst it's not seen by consumers and whilst it's not an easy problem to solve, I think it's important for everybody to understand the broader impact that plastics and polyurethanes may have on the environment.
Joe Fernandes, Operations Director: If you're working from specified virgin material, it's not so difficult to get a predictable outcome, but if you're working from different types of recycled materials, it's always a challenge, because you're taking something that should have gone into the bin and converting it into something that is a new, finished product, and that keeps us going every day.
Geofabrics turning recycled plastic bottles into geotextiles for use in major construction and infrastructure projects
Shaun Smith, Manufacturing Manager – Albury: Geofabrics manufactures quality civil engineering products for the Australian and international markets. We manufacture those in Australia, and we utilise Australian sourced recycled materials.
Dennis Grech, CEO & Managing Director: We are Australia's only manufacturer of a range of geosynthetic products, which are used in building our nation's key infrastructure.
Georgia Lucas, Marketing Specialist: We are a proud member of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council, and we are dedicated to reducing our impact on the environment.
Dennis Grech, CEO & Managing Director: Our products that incorporate Australian sourced recycled material, bidim® Green and Megaflo Green, are now used in over 8,000 separate projects throughout Australia, building our nation's key civil infrastructure - our roads, our rail networks, drainage, separation, filtration, DIY applications in the home, mining infrastructure, and we also do a lot of work in waste and containment, as well as in coastal protection.
Shaun Smith, Manufacturing Manager – Albury: Our bidim® geotextile is manufactured from recycled PET bottles. Our Megaflo products, or our drainage products, are made from recycled HDPE, which is sourced predominantly from milk bottles, and we meet any standards, be it Australian or international, in line with our customer requirements. Our manufacturing facility is ISO accredited, and our lab that we utilise is NATA endorsed.
Dennis Grech, CEO & Managing Director: Geofabrics use approximately 1,000 tonnes of recycled PET annually, and about the same quantity with regards to recycled HDPE that ordinarily would have ended up in landfill. bidim® Green has now taken just under 20 million plastic bottles out of landfill and out of the waterway and put it back into building sustainable infrastructure.
Shaun Smith, Manufacturing Manager – Albury: Along with our core products, other elements of the products are also recycled. Our wrap is all 100% recycled. We also utilise recycled PVC in our cores, and whenever we are looking at any of our products or any new products, any opportunity to use Australian recycled material is part of the product design.
Georgia Lucas, Marketing Specialist: I'm proud to be working for a company that is doing business better, and we're looking towards innovating in the future. We're not just settling for what we're doing now.
Dennis Grech, CEO & Managing Director: Working with recycled material, not only for me, but also for our employees, our customers, but also for future generations, is to find a solution to what is increasingly becoming a world problem, and increasingly our customers, government, but also consumers are demanding a sustainable product.
Georgia Lucas, Marketing Specialist: Knowing that we have a positive impact on the environment, I'm proud of the fact that Geofabrics takes our responsibility as an Australian manufacturer seriously.
Dennis Grech, CEO & Managing Director: I think it's wonderful that we are in a company, and in an industry, that is finding applications that will look after the environment for generations to come.
Holcim turning industrial waste into low carbon concrete and culverts
George Agriogiannis, CEO Holcim Australia & New Zealand: The mission and vision of Holcim is to build greener, smarter - end up having a circular environment with a net zero pledge.
Cyril Giraud, Head of Sustainability: We produce aggregates, ready mix concrete, and we produce pipes, and we make sure that we've got the right recipe for the right products, bringing these materials together.
Cyril Giraud, Head of Sustainability: Our products have a wide range of uses, from a single house to infrastructure projects.
George Agriogiannis, CEO Holcim Australia & New Zealand: Federally funded projects, state funded projects, so the large infrastructure developers, the Inland Rail Project utilised our Humes products, the box culverts, right through to a residential home builder.
We use various supplementary cementitious materials. We use fly ash from the coal-fired power stations, and we use slag from the steel industry, and those alternate materials are actually waste by-products from other industry, as well as some recycled raw materials in terms of rock and sand, but certainly, even in terms of recycling water, as well. EcoPact effectively reduces the carbon content. The reduction is somewhere between 30% and 60%.
Cyril Giraud, Head of Sustainability: The primary rule though is to make sure that ultimately, the performance of our product is not compromised, so that whether you buy a pipe that is traditionally made or a pipe that you buy today, it will provide the same performance.
George Agriogiannis, CEO Holcim Australia & New Zealand: Back in 2019, we were the first to introduce EPDs, which are Environmental Product Disclosure statements for our various ready-mix concretes, to really track and monitor the CO2 content in our end-use products.
The perception around using recycled products was that it wasn't going to give you the same end properties as using virgin materials. In actual fact, by working with our clients, with our technical teams, we've proven and demonstrated that these products are no different and effectively perform just as well as virgin products, and in some cases, even better.
The reason we got into recycled materials is effectively, if we're not an avenue for reuse of products, they end up in landfill. We've got a lot of really passionate people across our business that feel really strongly about this.
Cyril Giraud, Head of Sustainability: Once the product is placed, it's in place. It's too late to actually reduce impact. So having this upfront positive impact through recycling all through the use, so the design, how do we actually design better to use less material and less virgin material, and then, how do we recycle better, and reusing demolition waste back into the construction area.
George Agriogiannis, CEO Holcim Australia & New Zealand: The next phase of Holcim is really looking at expanding our recycling opportunities, looking at how we can re-utilise as much of our own waste products as we currently have, but not just our products. Looking at other industries, steel, coal, but also deconstructed buildings, so looking at demolition waste, and then looking further beyond, as well.
We're looking a little bit left of centre from what we would traditionally do because we are looking at changing the way that built environment is being constructed, and we're seeing that by making a difference in terms of the end product, we can have a sustainable solution for the full life cycle of a structure, not just through the construction phase.
Integrated Recycling turning recycled plastic and polystyrene into Duratrack railway sleepers
Tim Welsh, CEO, Pro-Pac Packaging: Integrated Recycling is a division of Pro-Pac Packaging. The businesses work together really closely: Pro-Pac Packaging is a flexible packaging manufacturer, Integrated Recycling produces Duratrack railway sleepers.
Stephen Webster, General Manager, Integrated Recycling: Duratrack recycled plastic railway sleepers are an innovative, sustainable product for the rail industry, and will enable the industry to reach their circular economy ambitions.
Duratrack is about 90% recycled content. The mixture of polyethylene polymers and polystyrene. Pipes, drums, tanks, a variety of agricultural films, mostly sourced from around the Mildura area. We also have a very close working relationship with the Mildura Rural City Council, and they stream polystyrene separately at the landfill.
The advantages of using a Duratrack sleeper for the rail industry, is that it's a very durable product. It doesn't degrade in the environment, so it won't be affected by water, pests, or UV degradation. It is low carbon to produce and will perform better than timber sleepers in any general fire environment. It was approved for use in 2018 for a variety of trials by Queensland rail, Metro Trains Melbourne and V/Line.
The Duratrack sleeper has a design life of 50 years. At the end of that life, the material that we make the sleeper from, is fully recyclable into a range of other products.
Tim Welsh, CEO, Pro-Pac Packaging: There's a general misconception that recycled materials are inferior to virgin materials. At Pro-Pac we believe in the value of recycled materials.
Stephen Webster, General Manager, Integrated Recycling: One of the exciting aspects of Duratrack is that by taking up and using Duratrack railway sleepers on scale, we can really help solve Australia's waste plastic problem. For every kilometre of Duratrack sleepers that are installed - that's about 1500 sleepers - between 64 and 99 tonnes of recycled plastic waste is used.
Tim Welsh, CEO, Pro-Pac Packaging: Being predominantly a flexible packaging company, one of the things that we identified early in our journey, was the importance of making sure that there was a second, third, and fourth life, to the products that we produce.
Stephen Webster, General Manager, Integrated Recycling: Part of the future of Integrated Recycling, is to continue to develop innovative sustainable products.
Tim Welsh, CEO, Pro-Pac Packaging: We're really excited about the potential recycled materials has in the Australian and global market. We know it has the opportunity to create jobs. We know it has the ability to create more exports, and to create a sustainable manufacturing environment.
Plastic Forests turning soft plastics into innovative products for a wide range of uses – from on the farm, to carparks and landscaping
David Hodge, Managing Director: Plastic Forests is the largest vertically integrated soft plastic recycling company in Australia.
Michael Wentworth, Operations Manager: I always had a vision that we could make something out of waste.
David Hodge, Managing Director: Plastic Forests was born in the bush, identifying agricultural plastics as a massive waste. We have over 200 products in two streams. We've got one stream, which is sheet products, so that's underground electrical cable cover, garden bed kits, water surrounds, and we also have three-dimensional profile products like our PLUS Posts for farmers, and our wheels stops for car parks.
Michael Wentworth, Operations Manager: A broad range of different sorts of products basically to suit an end market.
David Hodge, Managing Director: One of the key benefits of using our products is that it's come from soft plastics, and they are the most distressed plastics. The reason why soft plastic recycling is so difficult is there's many different polymers, they're generally joined together in multilayered flexible packaging, or it's very light and voluminous.
We really are the first people in the world to be able to do this and we're probably world leading in what we've been able to achieve, taking low-grade contaminated plastics and we're able to dry clean them and turn them into end products without using water.
We utilise a range of different plastics from a range of different sources. We have agricultural plastics that come from farmers, post-industrial plastics that come from industrial companies, and then we also have post-consumer.
One of the plastics we obviously recycle is silage film from farmers, and when we moved into Albury, Harry, who's just down the road, found out about us and started dropping off his plastic and now Harry's buying it back as a farm fence post.
When it comes to testing, if we can, we'd send it off to a NATA-approved laboratory, so that we're able to produce documented evidence that we've made a fit-for-purpose product.
It's great to think of recycling as putting your recyclables into the bin, but recycling really only happens when you go and buy a product made out of recycled content material.
The industry is undergoing a lot of change. It's undergoing a lot of spotlight right now, and that is that people want to participate in the circular economy, and so there's a very bright future for those companies that can make wonderful, engaging products.
Michael Wentworth, Operations Manager: I think there's enormous opportunities that are going to come now that companies are starting to recognise that we can't just take the easy route out and send it overseas. We've got to take responsibility and ownership.
David Hodge, Managing Director: One of the real benefits of working in recycling is you answer the why question: Why am I doing what am I doing? We do this because we love it. To take waste that was going to landfill and to turn it into a wonderful product, fit for purpose, that people love and admire, that gives us an enormous thrill.
Michael Wentworth, Operations Manager: I'm incredibly proud of what we've done here at Plastic Forests.
Repurpose It turning construction, demolition and organic waste into building products for construction, infrastructure and landscaping
Jelena Hercegovac, Group Head of Environment & Sustainability: The mission of Repurpose It is to eliminate waste and pollution through a closed-loop resource recovery system.
Ari Karavias, General Manager – Operations: Australians produce over 74 million tonnes of waste each year. Up to 60% of that is made up of construction, demolition and organic material.
At Repurpose It, we accept over 700,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste, organic waste and timber waste. We wash, we screen and we scrub these materials to recover resources such as sand, aggregates and clay. Our resource recovery activities will divert over 30,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
Repurpose It are certainly the pioneers in washing and processing of contaminated soils in Australia. Our state-of-the-art facility that we selected out of Europe has been set up here in Epping, in Melbourne's north, and is the only licensed EPA facility able to accept contaminated soils.
Jelena Hercegovac, Group Head of Environment & Sustainability: The key advantage of our location at Repurpose It is our close proximity to the main metropolitan Melbourne areas where a lot of the contaminated land material is sourced from. This is a great incentive to ensure that transportation and truck access is minimised. We're minimising our carbon footprint.
Ari Karavias, General Manager – Operations: Our resource recovery rate is 99%, so most of that 700,000 tonnes is converted to green tech materials that we sell to the market. Our construction and demolition materials that we receive are converted into road subgrade materials and capping. Our organics materials are converted to compost, organic fertilizers and soil amendments, and our timber waste is converted to a wide range of bark, coloured mulches for the landscape industry.
At the end of the product life cycle Repurpose It can accept all of the products that they manufacture back into our facility where they can be repurposed again to serve a second life.
Jelena Hercegovac, Group Head of Environment & Sustainability: When we first started looking into recycling materials, one of the key challenges that we encountered was that a lot of the technical specifications were specifically tailored to the use of virgin quarried materials, and therefore they weren't designed for the use of recycled materials. However, since then there's been a big push for waste diversion from landfills and as such, there has been a big improvement where the specifications currently support and incorporate reuse of recycled materials, and if anything, less use of virgin raw material.
Ari Karavias, General Manager – Operations: Our work with the Australian Roads Research Board, together with local council, has enabled us to take the resource that we recover through our washing facility and place it into local communities. We've also worked with universities, to understand further what applications our sands may be used for, such as concrete, asphalt and in underground infrastructure.
Jelena Hercegovac, Group Head of Environment & Sustainability: Our main customers at Repurpose It include local and state governments, small and large businesses, as well as key infrastructure projects, including both road and rail. Our products meet the required specifications and are suitable for their various reuses.
There's definitely a sense of pride working in this space. I think it's a really positive job to be able to have a direct role in changing society's perception with stuff that's regarded as unwanted. We have a great vision for a zero-landfill community. It's an ambitious goal. It's one that we are really striving towards.
Ari Karavias, General Manager – Operations: Understanding the immense value that waste does hold and the ability for us to convert that to valuable resource and upcycle materials that we can sell into the market, that is certainly the solution to the circular economy.
The Green Pipe turning recycled milk bottles into irrigation and drainage pipes
Des Hogan, Sales Manager: Here at the Green Pipe, we manufacture six metre lengths of stormwater pipe. We use recycled plastic feed stock from your yellow-lidded bin.
Nick Hogan, Manager: Our vision is to do our bit for manufacturing and the environment in regional Australia by creating a usable fit-for-purpose product.
Des Hogan, Sales Manager: The Green Pipe is made of predominantly HDPE which is commonly a milk bottle or a juice bottle in your yellow-lidded bin. So, if you could rinse those bottles that'd be much appreciated.
Nick Hogan, Manager: We manufacture a range of pipe diameters in a standard six metre length for all applications, including irrigation, storm water drainage, civil works, forestry and agriculture.
Des Hogan, Sales Manager: It's lightweight, durable, and it's very easy to install. The benefit of The Green Pipe is it obviously comes in a six metre length, so, you can lay more meterage in a day as opposed to the concrete alternatives. It's cost competitive, performance underground is equivalent to virgin products, it's not bothered by saline or hard ground waters as concrete is, and being recycled product, every tonne that we can recycle into usable products saves one tonne of plastic.
A couple of examples where The Green Pipe's used is these irrigation bay outlets, which are bound for St. George in Queensland, the Echuca-Moama bridge project, and we also take any off cuts and returns. They don't go to the landfill. They come back here for processing.
We're always looking to innovate and improve the product. Our pipe is tested at NATA labs. We are VicRoads approved. We have an ISCA rating from the large infrastructure projects, and we have numerous local government councils that approve the product for use.
Nick Hogan, Manager: To me, being involved in recycling comes back to just being really comfortable with the fact that we're not overusing the resources of the planet, and you just know that what you're doing is part of the solution.
Des Hogan, Sales Manager: One of the challenges we have is that just the perception in the market that the recycled feed stock is somehow inferior to virgin products. Plastic is plastic. It's made to go around, and our product stands alongside the virgin products out there today.
Nick Hogan, Manager: The key part of it is we've got the technology and the know-how to recycle the products. We need markets and to drive sales.
Des Hogan, Sales Manager: I think the future for recycling in Australia with recycled feed stock is exciting because there's a lot of work that is being done, and a lot of work that can be done to solve not only the waste problem, but we can go back to manufacturing in this country.
Winya turning recycled timber into office furniture
Greg Walsh, General Manager: Winya is a majority Aboriginal owned business, that makes office furniture for major corporates and government around Australia. We make the tables, we make the sit stand desks, and we try and make that out of recycled materials whenever we can, because that's a part of our soul.
Glen de Bono, Production Manager:Every new project, we try and do some sort of recyclability, whether we can put reused fabrics or timbers or foams. 9 times out of 10, a lot of the stuff that we actually make in timber will have some sort of recycled timber in it.
Grace Ferguson, Diversity & Sustainability Manager: We have a number of social outreach programs to create employment opportunities for Indigenous people across Australia.
Greg Walsh, General Manager: We've got a strong focus on employing Indigenous trainees, all around Australia in our manufacturing operations, and a very, very strong focus on how we manage sustainability within our business.
Grace Ferguson, Diversity & Sustainability Manager: We do office fit-outs for a number of large corporates and government bodies across Australia.
Greg Walsh, General Manager: The major clients want to have a circular approach to their procurement, so we work with people at Melbourne Uni and Defence, who are looking to give us back the desks we sold to them five years ago, when they're doing an office refit or moving, so those desktops come back in and we reuse that material, and basically every new product we're bringing in has a deliberate strategy about how do we actually incorporate the maximum amount of recycled material into that product, rather than going out and buying virgin material to use.
Glen de Bono, Production Manager: Using repurposed products is always beneficial. You're not throwing things into the bin, you're not throwing it in the waste depots and so forth. If you can recycle it, reuse it, it's always a benefit for everyone.
Grace Ferguson, Diversity & Sustainability Manager: Working really closely with Indigenous people to get their pieces onto furniture and to engage them in our events is probably my favourite part of my job.
Greg Walsh, General Manager: People buy their office furniture from Winya because they actually care about what their procurement dollars are trying to achieve. Furniture is furniture to a large extent, but people can actually purchase from an Aboriginal firm that focuses on sustainability, and know they're achieving something that much better for the company.
When I walk into a CommBank branch and I see one of our benches, and I know it's 100% recycled material, I feel really proud, and as a small Aboriginal owned company, doing that and having the larger groups following us, it feels pretty good.
Nu-Rock turning post-industrial fly ash into building blocks
Daniel Rahme, Head of R&D Product Development: We create a 100% sustainable product out of only waste with no virgin materials.
Maroun Rahme, Founder & Managing Director: Nu-Rock building product is a circular economy in its true form because we literally, at the end of life of our product, can recycle it again.
So we source our materials from all of the coal-fired power stations, steel mills, non-ferrous metal smelters, and aluminium plants, as well as hard rock mines and coal mines. We shred up tyres, we shred plastics, we crush glass, we can introduce them into the product in large amounts.
Daniel Rahme, Head of R&D Product Development: The Nu-Rock process can set up on any utility and accept their waste streams, and we are able to use our Nu-Rock binding system to manufacture a product catered to those materials. It's a different way of thinking, we don't find a material for our process, we find a process for that material.
The Nu-Rock process is best utilized on a utility because it allows us to accept their waste streams directly, eliminating the need for tracking of that waste stream, which is a big CO2 emitter.
Our products can end up in any sort of construction process, whether it be residential homes, high-rise buildings, civil works, road base.
Maroun Rahme, Founder & Managing Director: The main advantage of our product is the fact that its characteristics are far superior to conventional materials. It's using only 3% of the embodied energy of a clay-fired brick or a concrete block. It's 100% sustainable. It's less costly. Our product is also very firmly efficient. Having an R5, R6 thermal rating, the energy consumption of the house is reduced by up to 75% per annum.
Daniel Rahme, Head of R&D Product Development: Our Nu-Rock building products comply with all Australian and international building standards. Our products not only meet the standards, but far exceed them.
Maroun Rahme, Founder & Managing Director: Everybody's started to focus on the environment and that we have to do something about it. All of the top CEOs and all the mining companies and the building companies, they now want a green product, and our product has got an amazing potential ahead of it.
Daniel Rahme, Head of R&D Product Development: What makes me excited to be a part of the Nu-Rock process is that we are creating a product that is world-leading and it is Australian made. We need to embrace a renewable future.
Maroun Rahme, Founder & Managing Director: It is just absolutely ridiculous to be digging a tonne of virgin material in one place, and then literally a kilometre away dumping a tonne of material. The biggest growth industry of the 21st century is going to be waste utilisation, turning what is traditionally called the waste stream into a by-product. That is the only way forward.
Mandura turning paper pulp into 100% recycled copy paper
Scott Allen, CEO & descendant from the Awabakal Worimi Nations: Here at Mandura, we supply 100% percent recycled paper that comes from a First Nation tier 1 business, that is FSC and ISO certified.
Roderick McLeod, Chairman & Jaithmathang Elder: We are creating the opportunities for our younger generations to have a better lifestyle and capabilities for their futures.
Scott Allen, CEO & descendant from the Awabakal Worimi Nations: Mandura recycled paper is an 80 GSM paper, and we've worked hard with all of our suppliers to make sure that it is of high quality and won't get jammed in your printer anytime soon. The paper's manufactured from a hundred percent recyclable high quality material. There are a few additives made to it, chalk and some starch, and that creates the real bright white colour that you see.
There are a range of benefits in using Mandura recycled paper, from social and economic impacts, but the key is around the environment. For every tonne of recycled paper that we use, we actually divert 2.9 tonnes of carbon emissions from the environment. At the end of the life cycle of the paper that we deliver, it’s collected in a little blue bin that you find in your office, taken to a recycling place, and then recycled again into the paper that you're probably using today.
Mandura gives 20% of its profits to the Pauline E. McLeod Foundation. The foundation has focused on three key areas: First Nation mental health, First Nation entrepreneurship, but most importantly, First Nation employment.
Roderick McLeod, Chairman & Jaithmathang Elder: The question always came to me if we had any recycled products. Eventually we did have a range of recycled products and it was a great thing to do because it saves the environment which we all understand is our lifeblood and our air, and to save more trees as we could, recyclable was a good match.
Scott Allen, CEO & descendant from the Awabakal Worimi Nations: Sustainability is one of the most important tenents for Mandura, and supporting not only First Nation communities, but also Australia and building their circular economy, is key to having our future success.
Roderick McLeod, Chairman & Jaithmathang Elder: The product's a great thing. We have context within the product range we have. We're proud to be able to give back and see the growth of our young ones and let them be entrepreneurs.
Scott Allen, CEO & descendant from the Awabakal Worimi Nations: The future of this product is incredible. The more our customers buy, the more investment and technology and thinking goes into the product, and therefore the more that we can recycle, the more that we keep the circular economy running within Australia, the more not only our customers benefit, but everybody in Australia will benefit.
Enviromesh turning recycled plastic into eMesh fibre reinforcement for concrete
Alex Lester, Managing Director: Fibercon manufactures and supplies several different types of fibres for all different challenges and applications.
Tony Collister, Sustainability, Research & Innovation: We make Australia's most sustainable concrete fibre reinforcement eMesh, made from a hundred percent recycled polypropylene that is used to reinforce concrete.
Stuart Neilson, Sales & Strategy: One of the things that we're very proud of, is that we actually engage with a company called McCallum, which has an NDIS facility. At any one time they're employing about 30 NDIS workers in our packing facility in Victoria.
Alex Lester, Managing Director: eMesh was developed in conjunction and collaboration with James Cook University.
Tony Collister, Sustainability, Research & Innovation: For eMesh to actually be used and certified, it has to meet certain specifications and standards. We are now approved under VicRoads, Transport for New South Wales, Department of Transport Queensland, as well as it has an environmental product declaration, and we're very proud that the research won the Springer award.
Alex Lester, Managing Director: eMesh is a sustainable product. By replacing steel reinforcing in your concrete, it reduces CO2 emissions by up to 92%. As compared to steel mesh, manufacturing eMesh also requires up to 98% less water.
Stuart Neilson, Sales & Strategy: It can be used at the end of its life. So the eMesh product is encapsulated within the concrete, and at the end of its life, that concrete is then crushed, and it can then be recycled and be used in the circular economy for something else.
Tony Collister, Sustainability, Research & Innovation: eMesh is being used in many of the states in Australia now, things like some of the major roads projects that are being done in Victoria, like Mordialloc Bypass, in New South Wales, more trains, more services and rail projects, and in Queensland, a nice unique one, the artificial reef units, which are now located off Stradbroke Island.
Stuart Neilson, Sales & Strategy: I feel that we, in the future, will be making a difference. We'll be making a difference to the economy, the planet, and we'll be making a difference to concrete because we can do it safer, we can do it easier and we can do it more competitively.
Tony Collister, Sustainability, Research & Innovation: The focus now of industry and governments and the community on using more recycled materials is actually very encouraging and exciting, and I think we will lead us for a bright future.
Alex Lester, Managing Director: eMesh is a fantastic Australian innovation. It's the only product of its kind. We could go anywhere in the world with this product.
APR turning kerbside plastics and waste timber into boardwalks and signs for our parks and reserves
Ryan Lokan, CEO: After years of manufacturing, rainwater tanks, and working with plastics, we saw that both there was an opportunity, a market space, but a chance for us to actually make a bigger difference.
We could see all of the waste material just continuously being deposited and thrown away and knew that we could do more and should do better.
The last 18 years, APR manufacturing group has been operating a recycling and manufacturing facility here at our sustainability centre.
We manufacture wood plastic composite. It's an alternative to timber. It's made of curbside plastic and waste timber.
The plastic itself is a curbside high-density polyethylene. Milk bottles, and shampoo, conditioner bottles, that we throw in the bin, that's what we use here. The timber, as you can see behind me is sawdust from a timber mill.
Our customer base is both local, national and international. Councils are a big consumer of our material, and again, both South Australia and nationally. Our product ends up literally at our local parks and gardens, but most likely we will come into contact with it in our national parks and our reserves as boardwalks, bollards, and signage.
One of our larger projects was with Queensland Rail, and we did 800 tonne of material. That's a lot of milk bottles.
Both plastic and timber have their advantages and their disadvantages. With what we've done, being a composite material, the plastic gives the longevity, and the timber gives the rigidity.
We're an ISO accredited company. We regularly test and make sure that it's made to any standard that we need to meet.
One of the key components about being a recycling company is knowing that we're not contributing more to the waste industry.
So at end-of-life, whether it be an off cut, or it's no longer needed, our products can come back and will be fully recycled again and reused.
Without us and companies like us using waste, it's just going to go landfill. What alternative is there? Where else is the plastic going to go?
We always talk about problems. There is a solution to it. One 16 kilometre sound wall will consume 5,000 tonne of high-density polyethylene. There's our circular economy.
Waste plastic is not rubbish. It's not waste. It's a commodity. We use it. It makes new products. We don't want to recycle it for the fun of it. We want to recycle because it makes a good product.
We see opportunities for recycled material growing daily. We're seeing roads being done. The drink bottles we're using now are made out of recyclables. It's happening daily. The growth opportunities, the things that people are developing out there, it's exciting to watch. The opportunities are endless.
Office and indoor fitouts
Reef HQ Aquarium using plastic from ghost nets, recycled glass, magnesium board and fly ash refurbishment
Reef HQ Aquarium (PDF 630 KB)
Reef HQ Aquarium (DOCX 337 KB)
UCI turning PET bottles into workstation screens and acoustic panels
Tim Dyer, Managing Director: UCI is a national organisation. We supply commercial office furniture to the Australian market, and we endeavor to look for recycled materials to incorporate into our product manufacture.
Adrian Bragagnolo, Product Designer: As a designer, it's almost a commitment for me. I'm designing something that didn't exist before. So, I've got to think where's this product going to end up in the next 10 years?
Stuart Norman, Operations Manager: I think it's a great achievement to have a product that is benefiting the circular economy rather than contributing to landfill, and other negative factors. It's a cool feeling.
One of the key recycled materials that we're using is a Woven Image EchoPanel, which is a recycled PET panel with acoustic properties. It comes in a heap of different colours and finishes.
Tim Dyer, Managing Director: Mura fabric is made from 60% recycled PET. PET is typically used in Coke bottles, water bottles, that type of plastic bottle. We source that from a company called Woven Image, they're based in Australia.
Stuart Norman, Operations Manager: One of the key things that's changed with our workstation screens in recent times is the reduction of overall materials used. Instead of having lots of different parts, we've reduced the number of materials. Less material means that there's less waste to remove at the end of a product's life.
Adrian Bragagnolo, Product Designer: At the end of our product's lifecycle, our product could be broken down just using basic tools. With a drill, screwdriver, it can be broken down into multiple parts, which then can be recycled within their category.
Tim Dyer, Managing Director: At the end of the product lifecycle, UCI has a product stewardship policy, which is a take-back scheme that we quote at the end of the product's life, that we'll take it back and recycle, reuse, or remanufacture it.
My hopes for the future is, product stewardship is just normal for every manufacturer. Recycling, taking back product at the end of the life, and repurposing, it just becomes normality, as opposed to being just something that's special and only a few people do.
Stuart Norman, Operations Manager: As far as a percentage of the product that we supply being able to be recycled, on average, depending on the product, it's about 95%.
Tim Dyer, Managing Director All off-cuts of steel and aluminum, cardboard, any cardboard packaging material is also recycled. I think recycled content is definitely a draw card for customers.
We've gone from recycling nothing, to recycling about 80% of our waste streams.
Be great to think that in the future, all of our products use recycled materials, from the screw that's used, to the worktop that's on the desk.
Road and rail infrastructure
PACT Reuse turning recycled plastic into freeway noise walls
Wayne Williams, Exec Gen Mgr, Materials Handling & Pooling: Pact is the largest plastic recycler in Australia. Our mission is to use recycled materials to the highest level we can in an infrastructure space.
Mar Poyo-Guerrer, Category Manager, RMP & Government Engagement: Recycled material is not of inferior quality. It's not a lesser material. It is reprocessed and it is fit for purpose, and this can be a permanent solution for an environmental problem.
Recycled noise walls are not a new product. They've been around for a while. The innovation here is the incorporation of 75% recycled PCR - post-consumer material. Half of it is coming from high density polyethylene, what we call milk bottle grade, and the other half is soft plastic. This is stretch wraps, films, and other elements that are widely present across industries that we can't avoid using them, so we are repurposing them and turning into the raw material that we use to manufacture the noise walls.
Wayne Williams: When we're developing these panels, we're competing with steel or concrete as an alternative. We've got to develop a plastic product that will perform with the same characteristics. You're getting performance characteristic in terms of strength that's the same, noise attenuation that's the same. It doesn't need to be painted. It needs no maintenance at all. So it's actually a better outcome. And compared to concrete, it's actually a lower financial cost. You think about a concrete noise wall - a panel’s a tonne. This is using 25 kilos of virgin material and 50 kilos of recycled material. So we're not only really doing a good job from using recycled material. We're stopping the use of a tonne of concrete.
Mar Poyo-Guerrer: We have the right business structure, the capability, the knowledge and the drive to move forward in this space.
Wayne Williams: From a jobs point of view, for every job that's traded in this factory, there's a multiplier effect downstream because only Australians can make things out of Australian recycled material. So if you create a recycled product, you're creating sustainable Australian jobs.
Mar Poyo-Guerrer: We should be prioritising recycled material, basically because now we can do it. Now we have the right capability. We are having the right conversations that were not happening a couple of years ago. We have support from government. We have support from a public that is well-informed, want to recycle more, want to recycle better, and appreciate knowing what the products used are going to end up as. And it doesn't have to be in landfill. We have a solution for that now.
Wayne Williams: As we've developed this product and really got the innovation technology behind it, we've just found we can make as good if not better products out of recycled material than we could out of virgin material, and better than some of our competitor’s products.
Close the Loop turning toner cartridges and soft plastics into Tonerplas asphalt additive
Steve Morris, Founder: 20 Years ago, Close The Loop started off a brand promise of zero waste to landfill. We were supplying cartridges in a different business and I knew that all of those cartridges at the end of their life were going to landfill. And that was a real challenge for me because those polymers and metals can be used over and over again.
Peter Tamblyn, Head of Sales & Marketing: We've been using virgin polymers in roads for 35 plus years. So why wouldn't you use recycled polymers to do the same or similar job?
Steve Morris, Founder: Close The Loop is a product stewardship company. We've developed a product called TonerPlas, using the toner from waste cartridges, mixed soft plastics and we homogenize those into an additive that improves the performance of asphalt.
Peter Tamblyn, Head of Sales & Marketing: When asphalt manufacturers use it, it doesn't change any of their processes. It lays the same as a normal asphalt road. It looks the same as a normal asphalt road. Some really good outcomes in terms of the asphalt quality.
Steve Morris, Founder: TonerPlas improves the performance of an asphalt road in a number of ways, primarily deformation resistance. It's a stronger road, a stiffer surface. So it's resistant to heavy loads, resistant to water, resistant to oil, and then we've got improved fatigue life, which makes the road last longer.
Peter Tamblyn, Head of Sales & Marketing: The New South Wales EPA has put TonerPlas through its paces in a really big way. We had to go through a really rigorous process, a whole bunch of tests done all around the world, but the outcome was fantastic because it actually proved that TonerPlas is just such a great product. There's no environmental issues. It's a hundred percent recyclable at the end of it's life.
In every kilometre of road we use around about 530,000 plastic bag equivalents.
Steve Morris, Founder: TonerPlas improves the longevity of that asset. If you factor in the extra three years that you get from a road when it's been modified with TonerPlas, then the whole of life cost means it's actually cheaper than its equivalent.
Peter Tamblyn, Head of Sales & Marketing: We've had a lot of support from councils all around Australia. We've laid well in excess of 1500 kilometres of road in every state.
Steve Morris, Founder: The opportunities for companies who can turn resources from end-of-life products into value again is huge.
Alex Fraser Group turning recycled concrete, tiles, asphalt, bricks and glass into recycled asphalt and aggregate materials
Brendan Liveris, Sustainability Manager: Alex Fraser take in concrete, tiles, brick, asphalt and glass, and recycle them and turn them into construction materials that are used in the market in Melbourne and Brisbane every day.
Peter Murphy, Managing Director: We know we can supply more recycled product, and we know now, ahead of time, that we can recycle that product again and again.
Brendan Liveris, Sustainability Manager: In our highly recycled content asphalt products, we see some great technical properties. For example, higher durability, which means when you lay them on the road, we get a longer life from the product.
With our recycled concrete road based products, you get greater compaction and because of the lighter weight of the product, we can carry more of it in the trucks, which means that there's a lower CO2 impact from the transport of the product.
Peter Murphy, Managing Director: To develop our products, we firstly worked very closely with the customers. What do they need to build the infrastructure they're building? And then with the regulators, in terms of, what are the specifications that would support that?
We did an enormous amount of research to make sure that we could produce a consistent product for every project.
Brendan Liveris, Sustainability Manager: What happens to the products at the end of the life? Well, that's the good thing about it. We haven't got to the end of the life because the products are indefinitely recyclable. We take them, we process them, we sell them back into the market. At the end of that, we can take them, process them again and use them again to sell back into the market.
Peter Murphy, Managing Director: In terms of using recycled content in infrastructure, Australia compares pretty well globally. And so, we've been able to compare what people do overseas with what we're doing here. We secure equipment from overseas. The exciting part is some of what we design and build right here in Australia.
We can do remaining life analysis on a pavement that was built with recycled content in Melbourne or Brisbane 30 years ago. So we've demonstrated we can take a material and turn it into a very consistent end product, and do it on a massive scale.
Brendan Liveris, Sustainability Manager: The future of recycling is extremely bright. We're starting to explore on many different fronts what other strains of waste could be turned into viable products, and then, what in our existing suite of products could be used for other purposes?
Peter Murphy, Managing Director: I think the exciting thing is that people are starting to look to do something other than what they've always done. So there's genuine interest in the circular economy. If we're disposing of a material, there's a genuine interest in where it's going to and how it can be reused.
Fulton Hogan turning end of life tyres into crumbed rubber recycled asphalt products
Laszlo Petho, Pavements Engineering: We see a lot of future opportunities with recycled products, especially with sustainability becoming more and more important. And we at Fulton Hogan, we are ready to supply different kinds of recycled products, including crumb rubber.
Robbie McManus, Product Designer: And when you think of the plastics that end up in the oceans, if we can take 10% of that or 2% of that and put it back into asphalt materials, why would we not?
Laszlo Petho, Pavements Engineering: At Fulton Hogan we have recycled asphalt pavement, wrap in asphalt mixes, we can also add glass or plastic or crumb rubber, or a combination of these. Crumb rubber asphalt is made of rubber crumb derived from end-of-life tyres. We source our materials from our local rubber crumb manufacturers. Our products end up on the Queensland road network, and they will be used by the public for many years to come.
Robbie McManus, Product Designer: Shredded tyres for us, there's a big push in Queensland. Stuff that generally goes to landfill, now we can actually put it into our products and put it in the roads. I guess when you say that we're putting Queensland tyres back into Queensland roads, it's going to be good for the whole market.
When we started working with recycled products, it was quite difficult. It's hard to get a small plastic to melt with bitumen, but we managed to get past that barrier. And then we managed to use it in mixes.
Laszlo Petho, Pavements Engineering: When we are developing our products, we are using widely accepted Australian standards. And the key benefits are that the performance is not compromised, but on the same note, we can add recycled products.
Robbie McManus, Product Designer: A lot of our customers now are looking for, I guess, what opportunities there are to recycle.
Laszlo Petho, Pavements Engineering: My hope for the future is really that we can supply more of these sustainable asphalt mixes. We have evidence that through our recycling, we can lower the carbon footprint. Asphalt is the most recycled material on the globe. Asphalt with recycled content can be recycled again at the end of the life cycle.
Robbie McManus, Product Designer: The opportunities are huge. Absolutely huge. We're always developing the next best thing. We want to make sure that like Fulton Hogan is, we're here to build communities for a long time.
Downer turning recycled asphalt, plastics, glass and Tonerplas into Reconophalt – recycled road surfacing
Darryl Byrne, Qld General Manager: Here at Downer we incorporate a wide range of recycled materials. We turn it into our Reconophalt trademark asphalt product and then we send it back out to the market.
Steve Ainscow, SA General Manager: Some of the Reconophalt products we manufacturer, they can be light duty products for footpaths, recreational areas, heavy duty products for highways, even airports.
James Lemon, Recycling & Innovations Manager: I've been with Downer for over 20 years, and I get excited every day to come to work. The advantage of being with an organisation like Downer is that we're a driven organisation to create change.
Steve Ainscow, SA General Manager: Our products made from both new materials and recycled materials.
Darryl Byrne, Qld General Manager: It's got your natural aggregates, recycled asphalt, TonerPlas and recycled plastic. And it's also got a portion of recycled glass, which is a replacement for natural sands.
Steve Ainscow, SA General Manager: The benefits for using this Reconophalt product is you're getting something extra. We change the proportions of different additives in the mix to give you different properties. So you can increase the load bearing strength of the road. You can increase the fuel resistance of the road. You can change the flexibility of a road just by adjusting the different proportions of a recycled product.
Darryl Byrne, Qld General Manager: We've spent a lot of time and effort in R&D developing some of these recycled products. We were the first in the industry to take the product through the full environmental compliance testing so there's been a lot of time and effort investing and researching these products.
Steve Ainscow, SA General Manager: We have a lot of contracts with local government and state road authorities. We work very closely with all the councils in South Australia.
James Lemon, Recycling & Innovations Manager We were proud to have, a few years back, worked with the City of Adelaide to develop a hundred percent recycled asphalt mix for Chatham street. That was the first hundred percent recycled asphalt mix done in Australia.
Darryl Byrne, Qld General Manager We use a lot of locally based recycled materials. I would say 99% is extracted or derived within the 50 kilometre radius of this plant. It was only 10, 11 years ago in Queensland we weren't allowed to use any recycled asphalt content in our new pavements, but we've seen a significant change over the past decade with state and local governments through our client in Morton Bay Regional Council, we're using products that have up to 50% recycled content in them.
Steve Ainscow, SA General Manager: People think about using recycled products as maybe being inferior. That's not the case in this industry, recycled roads can be often better and superior to standard roads.
Darryl Byrne, Qld General Manager The good news story about our products that we're developing and putting into the network now they'll just be recycled over and over again. There's no end-of-life. We just recycle it, bring it back, send it back out and we just continue the journey over and over again.
Steve Ainscow, SA General Manager: I'd love to see every road in Australia made from 100% recycled materials, and that's not too far away. If the desires there, we can get there.