Industry News

Recycling and quarrying: From competition to complementarity

When you consider the history of mankind, the concept of recycling is older than you may think. Dayne Steggles, business development manager for recycling at Boral Recycling in New South Wales? Hunter region, says that we have been ?recycling material since time immemorial. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

There is no better recycling example in our industry than some 2000 miles of Roman roads built in England over 2000 years ago. They were progressively dug up and the quarried road material then recycled almost as soon as the Romans left 500 years later.

?Historically, recycling operations started up independently of quarrying but I think that was a just a passing, structural scenario, one that reflects the history over centuries.?

{{image2-a:r-w:250}}Later, in Britain?s pre-industrial times, ?dustmen? collected dust and ash from coal fires as a base material in brick making. The economic rationale then, as now, was to obtain recycled feedstock instead of acquiring virgin material and to compensate for insufficient public waste removal services in densely populated areas.

With the rise of industrialisation, the demand for affordable materials increased rather than declined. Ferrous scrap metals were favoured over virgin ore as they were cheaper to acquire. In the 19th century, railroads purchased and sold scrap metal, and in periods of wartime in the 20th century, governments persuaded civilians of their patriotic duty to donate metals and other by-products.


Alex Fraser Group, now one of Australia?s giants in the recycling industry, owes its lineage to the post-war resource shortage. In the 1950s, principal Archie McKellar identified the dross and residues business as a lucrative enterprise. He established a flourishing army surplus materials and equipment recovery business that converted guns into hydraulic rams, stripped down Rolls Royce Merlin fighter engines to deliver pounds of silver for big end bearings, and bought and resold manganese bronze ship propellers.

These early successes encouraged Alex Fraser to recycle scrap and demolition metals in the 1950s and 1960s before it turned its attention to the demolition business in the 1970s.

At this time, Archie McKellar?s son and successor Jamie McKellar OAM realised that large quantities of concrete rubble could be rescued from landfill and, consisting as it did of aggregates, sand and cement, could be returned to its natural state and be reused in construction applications, with the right processing.

Alex Fraser subsequently expanded into construction and demolition (C&D) recycling in the 1980s, although it would be a decade before government, local councils and contractors began to recognise the value of recycled aggregates in building construction.

{{image3-a:l-w:250}}Alex Fraser formally received VicRoads accreditation for its materials in 1992 and got its first major break on the initial stage of Melbourne?s Western Ring Road Project, for which it supplied 175,000 tonnes of Class 2 cement stabilised road base. Further contracts followed, including the supply of construction materials for Melbourne?s Albert Park Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit.

Over the years, Alex Fraser has collected numerous awards, including the Gold Banksia Environmental Award, Australia?s highest honour for recycling initiatives, and the Prime Minister?s Australian Business Award for Environmental Leadership.

From its beginnings as a dross and residues business in the 1950s, Alex Fraser has evolved into one of Australia?s leading C&D recycling contractors, with bases in Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand. At the moment, its range of recycled aggregates include C&D materials, road bases, drainage aggregates, recycled sand and hot mix asphalt, which are used in building construction, commercial construction, freeway construction, pipelines and subdivisions.

Like Alex Fraser, Boral Recycling can also trace its origins to the metals industry in Newcastle. Blast furnace slag from the old BHP Steelworks was a road construction material in the 1970s and when the steelworks closed in the early 1980s, Boral complemented the loss of the slag with C&D base.

That operation, which began in the commercial/industrial precinct now known as Steel River, relocated to Kooragang in 2006. In the late 1990s, as the Newcastle business moved into C&D recycling, Boral started a similar operation at Wetherill Park, Sydney near its former Prospect Quarry operation.

In Victoria, Boral Recycling has also partnered with civil and demolition contractors Delta Group to recycle C&D aggregates and collaborate on the creation of a new by-product called Envirocrete. The Boral/Delta joint venture takes in Delta Recycling?s Sunshine fixed plant and mobile operations at Boral?s Dandenong, Coldstream and Wollert quarries. Delta also does contract recycling work for Boral Recycling?s fixed plant at Wetherill Park and mobile operations at St Peters and in the ACT.

At present, Boral Recycling produces a range of products, from specified and unspecified road base to aggregates of varying sizes to manufactured sand. Boral Recycling NSW?s output has contributed to port and coal-related infrastructure and road base projects in Newcastle.

{{image4-a:r-w:250}}Like Alex Fraser, Delta Group started as a demolition contractor in 1982 and steadily expanded to incorporate civil works, excavation, landscaping, asbestos removal, commercial bin hire and heavy equipment hire before embarking upon its joint venture with Boral in Victoria.

Today, Delta?s Envirocrete products fully comply with VicRoads specifications for roadworks and bridgeworks and as pavement sub-base for subdivisional pavement use, footpath reinstatement, commercial site works, car park construction, slab preparation, driveways, pipe bedding and backfill. Delta is also specialising in the extraction of excavation rocks from infrastructure projects, selling the aggregate back to quarries as virgin material.

Another Sydney-based family operation, Benedict Industries, is also a major player in the recycled aggregates market. Benedict was first established in 1966 as a haulage contractor and, like Boral, has become one of the largest suppliers of quarried material in NSW.

Currently, Benedict maintains interests in sand, gravel, sandstone and quartz products, both in lone and joint ventures, and estimates that across its sites it has reserves in excess of 30 million tonnes. Benedict first opened a landfill at Chipping Norton in 1993, started recycling construction and demolition waste with a basic plant at Moorebank in 1999 and then opened a specialised recycling facility at its Chipping Norton site in March 2008.

This facility processes 200,000 tonnes per annum of C&D materials and commercial and industrial wastes and residues (in effect, a co-mingled demolition waste stream) and is supported by transfer stations in Belrose, Rydalmere and Alexandria. Its recycled brick and concrete aggregates are utilised in the civil construction markets.

Benedict has also partnered with Visy Recycling to set up Glass Granulates Pty Ltd at its Moorebank plant. This business is tasked with collecting 150,000 tonnes per year of recycled glass from kerbside collection that has been rejected by sorting plants that manufacture recycled glass into glass containers.

Where this leftover glass would have been sent to landfill, Benedict, in consultation with the Federal Department of Environment and Climate Change and Sydney Water, has cleaned out contaminants such as plastics, paper and metal prior to crushing and screening to manufacture a high grade sand substitute ? GlassSand, a minus 4.75mm manufactured sand that can be used in pre-mixed concrete, pipe embedment material and in asphalt.


All four companies have developed along different lines to arrive at producing successful end products that are now rivalling virgin materials traditionally produced by quarries.

{{image5-a:l-w:250}}?Today, there is less delineation between quarry products and recycled products,? Dayne Steggles explains. ?Whether it?s major infrastructure projects through to civil buildings and construction, the material is supplied often on a specified basis and we see that reflected in the various projects that are supplied by virgin and recycled material.?

Peter Murphy, managing director at Alex Fraser Group, says that while in the past there was some resistance from construction customers to using recycled aggregates, now the buyer barely bats an eyelid at the quality of the material.

?What we?re noticing is that it?s less relevant to the customer whether it?s recycled or quarried aggregate. What?s more relevant
is whether the customer is confident in the supplier.

?Is the supplier competent in the production methods, quality systems with the laboratories and delivery systems? Does it have the experience? We have been doing our business for 25 years and lots of our customers have been using recycled aggregate for that long, so there is confidence in the quality of our product,? says Murphy.

There is no doubt the esteem of recycled aggregates has improved remarkably, thanks to the requirement by statutory authorities (eg VicRoads, NSW Roads and Maritime Services, Main Roads Queensland, etc) that the end product must meet strict specifications and tight parameters.

{{image6-a:r-w:250}}Mick Williams, the sales and marketing manager at Benedict Industries, says that his company has ?designed well engineered products using blends of aggregates that, when tested through NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) certified labs, meet the relative industry specifications required for the manufacturing, civil construction and landscape markets?.

?VicRoads have been very demanding in terms of the demonstrated quality and consistency,? explains Murphy. ?By setting a high benchmark, VicRoads have given the customer confidence that there is a clear benchmark we have to abide by and that?s good for the industry.?

Similarly, Boral Recycling?s technical services have also worked closely with NSW?s Roads and Maritime Services on specifications and regulations for the use of recycled construction materials. ?Certainly, with enhanced reference to the materials and specifications such as RTA 3051, we have also been very active in our peak industry representative groups such as the Waste Management Association of Australia,? Steggles says. ?Consistent with Boral?s commitment to the industry, we?ve been active contributors in forums dedicated to sensible development of the recycled aggregates industry.?

Alex Fraser, along with Delta, has also worked closely with VicRoads on road base specifications and in 2009 both companies participated in a study conducted by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), Swinburne University and the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) into the end uses of recycled construction materials in road base.

Members of the recycled aggregates industry have welcomed the support of all tiers of government over the last two decades.

?Certainly, all three tiers of government have been very important to the industry?s development,? Dayne Steggles remarks. ?Their role in responding to changing market conditions and the economics has been critical, and continues to be so – at the local level in terms of procurement and at the state level, where the NSW Government?s Office of Environment and Heritage is committed to initiatives such as the development of green specs through to very impressive outcomes with the Sustainability Advantage Program.

Under that program, NSW annual waste diversion from landfill has been upwards of half a million tonnes and the nominated industry investment in projects and infrastructure has been in excess of $20 million.

?We?ve seen the Office?s framework for waste and by-product regulation in terms of resource recovery and their exemption model is also positive for the industry?s development. I think the NSW landfill waste levy has been an important economic driver for the industry as well.

At a federal level, I think we see that work reflected in Austroads? development of specifications and in their key documents about construction and demolition and derived recycled aggregates and road bases.?

Peter Murphy shares Steggles? view. ?There is increasing interest from local government on using recycled materials and some councils have been very objective and followed the VicRoads specifications over the last 20 years. Others are increasing their attention on the back of projects like the DSE/Swinburne/ARRB joint study and updates to the specifications.?

{{image7-a:l-w:250}}Murphy adds that in the eastern states, Queensland has only recently embraced the merits of recycled aggregate in road base applications and the merits of actively encouraging the industry.

?The first Victorian specification was released in 1993. The first Queensland specification – MRTS35 Technical Standards for Recycled Materials for Pavements – was not released until late 2011, so the use of recycled aggregate in state-funded infrastructure works is only beginning now. That said, Main Roads Queensland has examined the Victorian experience and it will be interesting to see how that is implemented in the industry from now on.

?It?s one thing to have the specifications but how supportive Main Roads Queensland is and how recycled aggregate is used in the industry will be key. We are already seeing major civil contractors use recycled road base on large projects. Alex Fraser has been operating in Queensland for the last 17 years, so we?ve done a lot of commercial stuff, including airport projects, the M7 North-South Bypass Tunnel and some sections of road but our focus has been in the industrial heartland.

The Queensland construction industry is certainly supportive of recycling material. Brisbane City Council used recycled road base on some projects as early as 1996,? says Murphy.

Demand for recycled aggregate is not just coming from government circles. Victoria, for instance, has traditionally supported and encouraged the recycled aggregates industry?s growth as a way of addressing growing landfills and finite quarry resources, and many construction customers have also embraced recycled aggregate as a means of touting their own environmental credentials.

Mick Williams reaffirms that ?government and industry have a growing desire to close the loop on waste streams by pouring more of these materials back into the markets they originated from? and ?there is a strong influence from state and local governments for construction companies to utilise more recycled materials in their projects?.

The community licence to operate is also central to the rise of recycled aggregates. Queensland faces looming shortages in natural aggregate in the long term, quality rock deposits are sparse now in NSW and Victorian operators encounter red tape in proposals to extend pits or to open new sites. Coupled with urban encroachment in all three states, these issues lead to ?a parallel community expectation?, as Dayne Steggles puts it, on the quarry industry to focus on sustainability.

{{image8-a:r-w:250}}?It?s all about the three Rs ? reduce, reuse, recycle,? Steggles says. ?The community licence to operate from a building point of view and the path to approvals has really grown with the green building specs and we see it in terms of the specifiers and engineering reflecting those changes and producing ongoing demand.

Other factors are the development in the quality of recycled material, which in the industry in Australia, is entering ? in meaningful volumes ? its second decade.

?I remember when recycling products first entered the market and they were considered the poor cousin of road base aggregates,? Steggles recalls. ?Now, of course, the quality of recycled materials and the required specifications and the provision of specific C&D equipment for processing have all contributed to the growing demand and appeal of using the material when it performs.?

Steggles adds that the quarrying and recycled aggregates industries can also benefit from showing the general public the benefits of green-friendly construction projects. ?While the volumes coming out of recycled aggregates operations reflect how influential it is in terms of our built environment, the public awareness of that influence is not as widespread.

In my experience, we?ve have had some major projects leveraging off recycling that have been well received by the wider community, like the $470 million Charlestown Square shopping centre development in Newcastle in 2010. Boral Recycling was responsible for managing the initial demolition material and reusing that material for road base and gabion baskets. During the construction phase, Boral showcased the green components of that development to the wider community.?

Where the quarrying and the recycled aggregates industries once developed independently, all three proponents of recycling agree that while there is still a degree of competition between the two, there is also much that is complementary. They predict that as a maturing market, the quarrying industry?s ties with recycled aggregate producers will be closer and commercial relationships will grow.

Mick Williams states that while recycled and quarried aggregates compete in some quarters, ?it is clear that both products have their specific place in the market.

{{image9-a:l-w:250}}The industry has recognised this and there is a growing trend to utilise more recycled aggregates in areas of projects where they are best suited?. He cites, as an example, Benedict Industries? own collaboration with Rocla Quarry Products in the production of manufactured sand.

Peter Murphy states that for the customer, the specifications between virgin and recycled materials will be so close as to make them indistinguishable. ?It?s important to manage your resources well, which means that if you have a high quality rock, you should use it and get the best value out of it, and if you have material that can be recycled, it should be recycled where it makes sense.

?I think that means the recycled industry is now a pretty normal part of what the civil construction industry does and that will become more and more the case. In time, it will be less relevant whether the aggregate is recycled or virgin rock.

The thing that will remain true is that the material comes from a reliable supplier and that it has the laboratory accreditation and road authority?s scrutiny and data audits of quality. The source of the material will be less relevant.?

Like his peers, Dayne Steggles agrees that the relationship between quarrying and recycled aggregates will, ?depending on where you sit in the picture?, be complementary and competitive. ?In my mind, they are the one and the same, in terms of the construction materials used and the need to obtain product that does the job in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.

{{image10-a:r-w:250}}?I remember when I first moved into the recycling industry, having come from a sand resource background,? Steggles recalls. ?There was a profound evolution I went through – from moving millions of tonnes under my feet to only having what comes in the gate to selling back out the gate. So I think for many people, it?s been an evolution. Certainly, my impression is that many of us have now been through that journey and have a greater understanding of what a ?resource? means in the 21st century.

?Just as the modern quarry has to deal with varying resource characteristics, the challenge is no different for the recycled aggregate producer.

There is certainly commonality in terms of the methodology and the approach to developing a specified end product from varying source materials. But there are specific considerations to recycling that mean that no two days are the same in the recycling game. And that?s part of the excitement, satisfaction and reward that one experiences in being part of what is now a very robust industry,? Steggles proclaims.

?There is a lot of pride in the industry, in the art of producing well performing and proven end products under specification from various source materials.?


The Australian recycled aggregates industry is confident that its influence will grow in the years ahead. Peter Murphy argues that while the Australian industry is still relatively small compared with North America or Europe and indeed will never ?dominate the quarrying industry?, its end product is at least the equal of anything that is produced in North America, Europe or the Middle East.

?Certainly, in Melbourne, we have a good network of sites – not just from Alex Fraser but from the Boral/Delta group as well – where the product is made to a very high quality,? he contends. ?It?s a high quality material which a very reputable supplier can demonstrate through regular testing and compliance. Just looking at pictures from some sites that we saw overseas, the quality of the product they make is not as good as what you would see here.?

Dayne Steggles is confident about the industry?s influence. He predicts that aside from C&D materials, there are many other resources that continue to be ?untapped?, ranging from excavated natural rock to slag to glass to foundry sand. The list of ?resource recovery options? is increasing.

?Recycled aggregates will continue to be of growing importance to the quarry industry, and as the reuse of quarrying material, they will reflect the increasing demand of construction materials,? he concludes.

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