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Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a piece of Downer’s sustainable Reconophalt product while visiting the company’s Rosehill facility.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a piece of Downer’s sustainable Reconophalt product while visiting the company’s Rosehill facility.

PM visits Downer asphalt plant to tout recycling

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has toured Downer’s sustainable asphalt production plant and detritus processing facility in Western Sydney as the government leads efforts to invigorate Australia’s domestic recycling scene.

Confronted with a worsening waste problem, the Federal Government has outlined plans to establish an end date for the export of waste material and to mobilise the national recycling industry.

To highlight existing cutting edge solutions, the Prime Minister visited Downer’s Rosehill facilities on 13 August. He used the opportunity to announce a $20 million package for collaborative and research-based initiatives to identify new technologies and opportunities for the sector.

Downer operates an asphalt plant to produce its innovative Reconophalt product at Rosehill, as well as the detritus processing facility. Both are major components of Downer’s Reconomy business, which recycles and repurposes waste destined for landfill.

Reconomy general manager Jim Appleby told Quarry that Reconophalt was a high performing asphalt containing high quantities of recycled glass, soft plastics and toner from printer cartridges. It is the first asphalt of its kind that contains high recycled content, and was first laid in May 2018.

Jim Appleby
Jim Appleby
“It’s made in traditional asphalt plants that have been adapted and have some very clever IP as to how we manage the process and the ingredients”
Jim Appleby, Reconomy business general manager, Downer

Reconophalt can vary depending on the client’s requirements but in some projects each kilometre of two-lane road contained the equivalent of 530,000 plastic bags, 168,000 glass bottles and 12,500 toner cartridges. A sample Morrison held up during his visit consisted of 83 per cent recycled materials, and also included recycled oil and detritus-sourced materials.

“It’s a high performing asphalt that actually performs better than its virgin equivalent,” Appleby said. “It’s made in traditional asphalt plants that have been adapted and have some very clever IP as to how we manage the process and the ingredients.

“Traditionally we were heavily focused on virgin materials but we now use and are continuing to buy asphalt plants that are designed to take recycled materials over virgin materials.”

Appleby said the glass was sourced from the domestic recycling system, while the soft plastic – which is considered a contaminant in many council recycling programs – is collected through the RedCycle program, which has collection bins in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. Waste toner comes from the national Planet Ark recycling initiative.

Detritus processing facility

Morrison was also shown the Rosehill detritus processing facility, which is capable of processing, separating and cleaning upwards of 25,000 tonnes annually from everyday waste streams such as street sweepings and stormwater pits. The majority is then converted into meaningful streams of use such as organic matter, sand, gravel, metals and plastic.

“The sand we recover through the detritus system also gets used in the asphalt,” Appleby said. “The material that goes into the detritus plant would have traditionally been classed as contaminated and all gone to landfill, so we divert about 92 per cent of that material and put it back into valuable re-use.”

The detritus plant, which opened last year, was financially supported via the New South Wales Environment Protection Agency’s “Waste Less, Recycle More” initiative, funded from the waste levy.

Appleby said it was important government bodies supported the recycling sector through investment. Government, he added, is by far the largest roadworks and asphalt client in the country, and can also heavily influence demand for particular markets.

“We were lucky enough to receive the support which certainly aided the business case for the investment,” Appleby said. “We were the first adopters, and I believe government enabling industry is absolutely critical, whether that be grants, low interest loans or markets to take these materials.”

PM’s commitment to sector

Prime Minister Morrison, who visited the Rosehill facility with the Federal Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology Karen Andrews, said Downer was to be commended for the considerable time and money spent on the operation. With the country facing an escalating waste problem, it was vital the government got behind such projects.

“The research piece that has to be done across a whole range of these recyclable materials is one that government can step into,” Morrison said. “But it's one we have to do in partnership with business, it's one we have to do in partnership with the scientific community to ensure that these new applications are reliable and can be proven.

“It's not up always to the companies to go out there and provide those guarantees. We can assist by ensuring the guarantees are there about the integrity of this material by ensuring we're doing the research and the science work as well to prove this up.”

He added: “The other part of the piece is, we are the biggest client for roadbase and asphalt, together with the state governments, of anyone in the country. And as we discussed [recently] with premiers and chief ministers – what we do about procurement, what we do about the specifications that go into the things that we buy as governments can have a massive impact on the pull-through and providing the certainty that is necessary for the commercial sector to be making the investment.”

 

image gallery

The PM inspects the various recyclable materials that can be separated and repurposed into materials for asphalt.
The PM inspects the various recyclable materials that can be separated and repurposed into materials for asphalt.
Scott Morrison joins Downer employees in front of the state of the art detritus processing facility.
Scott Morrison joins Downer employees in front of the state of the art detritus processing facility.

 

More reading:
Suburban roads paved with sustainable asphalt
Public projects may kickstart domestic recycling solution
Repurpose It: Carving its niche in recyclables
Producer launches dual recycling plants
Grants for innovative road surface projects
Plastic, glass paves the way for ‘greener’ roads
Innovative racing surfaces under the spotlight
Construction materials giant moves into the recycling industry
 











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