More than one hundred thousand tonnes of road sweepings are dumped into landfill every year in Sydney alone. A new facility opening next month will transform this waste into individual, valuable components that can be reused.
Based at Downer's Rosehill asphalt facility, the multimillion-dollar, state of the art recycling facility is expected to divert at least 25,000 tonnes of material from landfill annually, saving the equivalent of five Olympic swimming pools in airspace and reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 20,000 tonnes per year.
Street sweepings are largely composed of materials such as organic matter, sand, gravel, glass, metals and plastics – all useful materials in their own right, but useless unless they can be separated. The plant will do just that, by washing and sorting sweepings collected from Downer’s Sydney road network contracts and stockpiling the material for reuse.
Jim Appleby, General Manager of Downer’s new Reconomy business, estimates the plant will allow up to 85% of the street sweeping material to be reused.
“You can use the material for a multitude of things once you get it back into its original forms – you’ve got sand and gravel and grit and rock, they can be used in roadbase, and asphalt, and they could even be used in concrete mixes,” Appleby says.
“The organic material can be composted and returned back to the network they were taken from in a composted state. The ferrous and non-ferrous materials go into separate recycling streams. The key is being able to break them down, and make as many uses as possible. That’s how you create a marketplace for the product.
“Take sand – we’re actually trying to upcycle the material in order to make it worth more.”
Appleby says the plant is based on the philosophy of pulling product, not pushing waste.
“The idea comes from following good practice – I think we all understand, more so than ever because of the problems we now face because of China’s National Sword policy, that we are depleting natural resources, and we wish to focus our activity on pulling materials back into the system that can be easily reused,” he explains.
“We look at materials that can be incorporated into products, and then look to pull them out of the waste cycle.”
TonerPave, one of Downer’s recycled material offerings, is a good example of pulling products from waste. Developed in conjunction with Melbourne company Close the Loop, the product is made with recycled toner cartridges and boasts a lower carbon footprint and better performance than comparable asphalt.
“TonerPave has gone really well – certainly among councils particularly it’s had a really good reception,” Appleby says.
The recycling facility is the product of an almost four-year journey.
“It took a long time because it’s new. We’ve gone on to produce a piece of equipment that’s highly versatile – we haven’t taken the easy option, we’ve built and we’ve planned for the future,” Appleby says.
Reconomy’s Business Manager Pat Capaan says the facility is “real recycling”.
“People talk about putting material in a yellow bin and then they forget about it and they think they’ve recycled it. We can tangibly show customers our solution and let them touch it and feel it and see it – it’s an end-to-end solution,” he says.
“You can take someone from council, and you can show them their sweeper tipping into our yard, and then you can show them the sand coming out the back of that process and you can show them the sand going into the asphalt – it’s very tangible.”
Pat Capaan will be speaking about Reconomy’s new recycling plant at IPWEA’s Sustainability in Public Works Conference, May 14-15, Sydney. There’s still time to register!#ClimateChangeSustainability#WasteManagement