Supporting projects to put recycling first with Ecologiq

Works on the Mordialloc Freeway project.

Ecologiq is a Victorian Government initiative to optimise the use of local recycled and reused materials in government infrastructure projects, reduce waste and contribute to a Victorian circular economy. Roads & Infrastructure talks with Ecologiq’s Program director to find out more.

Ecologiq supports the objectives of Recycling Victoria – the Victorian Government’s 10-year plan to overhaul the state’s recycling sector, keep waste out of landfill and drive innovation in sustainability.

The program has come at a crucial time for Victoria – with China’s decision to restrict our export of some low-quality mixed recyclables in 2018 destabilising global recycling markets and disrupting Victorian recycling services.

By 2046, Victoria is expected to generate 40 percent more waste than it did in 2017-18. Ecologiq will help Victoria innovate and grow our domestic recycling capabilities, build local markets and create new uses for recycled materials.

Ecologiq Director Tony Aloisio explains how Ecologiq aims to deliver on four key principles.

“Ecologiq exists to increase recycled and reused content in major transport projects and make that the ‘new norm’ in the way transport infrastructure is delivered and maintained. We’re also helping to facilitate innovation in transport infrastructure construction,” he says.

“We’re looking to support a vibrant and sustainable Victorian market for reused and recycled materials, as well as collaborate with industry and government partners to support innovative new products and infrastructure applications.

“We are also working closely with the Department of Transport to review and change the approach to technical standards and specifications for recycled and reused materials, as well as identifying priority materials for specification changes and type approval.

“Finally, we are building close ties with the construction industry to remove barriers to the use of recycled content, to make sustainable materials the first choice where possible and pave a greener future for Victoria.”

The Ecologiq team can review project plans and designs to identify areas where recycled materials could be used or increased. This is done through alternative design modelling, tool kits and information about material trials and innovations.

Collation and data sharing of the successful use of recycled materials will also be an essential part of Ecologiq’s work. This will help to create a map of supply and demand for recycled materials and in turn facilitate connections between industry and suppliers to capitalise on opportunities for recycled material usage.

“We know many projects are already doing important work with recycled materials and our role is to bring a uniform approach to the use of these materials and help with coordination across Victoria’s Big Build,” Aloisio says.

Implementing Recycled First requirements

In recognition of the trend for sustainability in infrastructure and significant product developments within the industry, the Victorian Government introduced its Recycled First policy in March 2020.

The policy outlines that all bidders on major transport projects will be required to demonstrate how they will optimise the use of recycled or reused Victorian materials.

With an eye on driving the supply, demand and development of recycled products, the policy will provide government with data on recycled materials for a better understanding of the supply chain.

Aloisio says Recycled First will help to achieve sustainable outcomes for infrastructure projects while supporting contractors to explore the use of recycled products.

“We want to use the momentum of infrastructure investment from the Big Build to position Victoria as a world leader in the sustainable use of recycled materials by 2025,” he says.

Specification innovation

Ecologiq has developed recycled material reference guides for road and rail specific applications, as well as ancillary infrastructure. The guides are an ideal starting point for information about different types of recycled materials available in Victoria and the current specifications for their use.

The road materials guide outlines products such as concrete, glass, crumb rubber, RAP and more, and then lists the specified limits of each of these materials in applications, such as with the different types of asphalt mixes.

To encourage innovation outside of specification boundaries, the Ecologiq team can work ahead of time with contractors to guide them through the development of a new recycled material or process.

Workers paving on the Western Roads upgrade.

“We really encourage innovation and want Victorian contractors to think outside of the box on projects,” Aloisio says.

“If an opportunity is identified outside of the approved specification, put together a proposal for us to consider as part of the Recycled First plan. If your bid is successful, we can provide support in the development and implementation process.”

As an example, Ecologiq is currently reviewing literature to support changes to standards and specifications for crumb rubber asphalt, reclaimed asphalt pavement and crushed glass.

Recycling in practice

Several recycled materials are currently in trial in Victoria, with Ecologiq collaborating with government and industry partners to drive innovation.

In Melbourne’s west, workers used more than 590,000 plastic bags and toner from 13,000 print cartridges to resurface a road.

The product known as Reconophalt is being trialled on Duncans Road, Werribee as part of the $1.8 billion Western Roads Upgrade.

Around 155 tonnes of the material was used in the wearing course layer, marking one of the first times the product has been used on a Victorian arterial road. The pavement was placed next to a standard wearing course asphalt to be compared and monitored over the next few years.

While this trial hints at exciting new possibilities, the Western Roads Upgrade has already used mammoth volumes of widely accepted recycled materials, including more than 190 million recycled glass bottles and up to 300,000 tonnes of recycled asphalt.

Across the city, researchers are testing the use of crumbed rubber on a kilometre and a half section of East Boundary Road in East Bentleigh.

In an Australian-first trial into how crumbed rubber performs over time, the busy road was paved using the equivalent of 1,600 old tyres in March this year.

Australia generates the equivalent of 56 million car tyres every year, and it is estimated a third of these tyres end up in landfill or stockpiles.

The Victorian Government, Tyre Stewardship Australia and the Australian Road Research Board are conducting the million-dollar study, aimed at integrating more discarded tyres into the circular economy.   

Initiation of these kinds of opportunities for contractors and suppliers can be supported by Ecologiq.

“There are many emerging products out there and we will proactively work with contractors to try and get them to push boundaries as opportunities emerge and guide them through that process,” Aloisio says.

To find out more about the use of reused and recycled materials in infrastructure, get in touch with the Ecologiq project team at: ecologiq@roadprojects.vic.gov.au.


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