Scientists and students from Murdoch University in Western Australia have developed an environmentally friendly concrete alternative using coal dust from power station floors.
The product – coined “Collie-crete” after the town in which the coal dust was sourced – could save more than one million tonnes of virgin excavated natural materials every year.
Environmental engineer Martin Anda from the Harry Butler Institute’s Centre for Water, Energy and Waste explained the benefits of the prototype product.
“From more than 300,000 tonnes per annum of fly ash disposed of in Collie, this could now be converted to one million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of eco-concrete while WA currently produces about 7Mtpa normal concrete,” Anda told Quarry.
Anda said projects like this were integral to the country’s National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019 – which aims for an 80 per cent resource recovery rate by 2030.
He said it is “very important for WA to achieve its 2030 policy target of 80 per cent” as the state is currently at just 30 to 40 per cent.
Concrete is the second most used substance on Earth, after water, and 29 million cubic metres of it are used in Australia every year – enough to build a footpath around mainland Australia more than 10 times.
For this reason, Anda has urged policymakers to get busy cutting red tape so that building projects can get on with using environmentally friendly materials.
“We need to be bolder and more innovative and get on with the job of transforming our cities into smart cities,” Anda told Murdoch University.
Similar waste recycling systems can be found in Kwinana, just 150km north of Collie, where manufacturing waste such as steam is used for other purposes.
“It’s already a world’s best practice example of industrial symbiosis,” Anda said.
“There are 175 product and by-product exchanges that occur in that area. Basically, what is one company’s waste is another company’s raw material next door.”
On top of saving the world, one of the added joys of creating products like this was, according to Anda, watching his pupis. “My students love it,” he said. “They are eco-warriors!”