As we recognise National Recycling Week this week, Alex Fraser is also celebrating a massive milestone — the production of more than one million tonnes of recycled glass sand since 2007; the equivalent of 5.4 billion glass bottles.
The Victorian Government’s recent introduction of a Recycling Victoria policy and Recycled First program has turned the spotlight on sustainable materials, and, with a network of recycling sites surrounding Melbourne, Alex Fraser plays a pivotal role in the sustainable supply of materials for infrastructure projects – from municipal works to Victoria’s Big Build.
The glass waste recovered by Alex Fraser is often referred to as ‘problem glass’; comprising trillions of pieces too small to be recycled back into glass bottles. Victoria annually accumulates around 150,000 tonnes of this ‘problem glass’ – which for decades, was either sent to landfill or stockpiled which in turn put pressure on the viability of kerbside recycling programs.
Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said it’s taken to the passion and persistence of many people over many years to realise the million-tonne milestone.
“We started this work back in 2007, and our employees have been relentless in their efforts to develop a recycling process that takes a very complex, problem material, treat it as a resource, and reprocesses into a high specification product that is desperately needed to build greener roads and rail for Melbourne.”
Murphy credits VicRoads and Melbourne’s water authorities for being early adopters; behind the first applications of recycled glass sand in roadbase, asphalt, and pipe bedding.
He says the many years of research and development culminated in 2019 with the commissioning of its world-first, billion-bottle-per-year glass recycling plant, equipped with technologies to separate glass particles from paper, plastics, metals and organics and process them down to a high-specification sand, with high production efficiency.
This recycling plant is one of three Alex Fraser facilities, including a million-tonne-per-annum C&D recycling facility, located within Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub, where mountains of glass and demolition rubble is recycled to produce sustainable construction materials like asphalt, aggregates, roadbase and sand on an unprecedented scale.
Alex Fraser’s glass recycling plant at Laverton, and the new glass and brick additive bins at the Clarinda Recycling Facility play a critical role in the recycling and distribution of tonnes of recycled materials being used to build greener roads and rail projects throughout metro Melbourne; reducing the number of trucks needed to transport extracted sands from regional quarries, diverting tonnes of material from landfill and reducing the cost and carbon emissions of construction.
Several level crossing removal projects have incorporated Alex Fraser’s sustainable glass sand into its pipe bedding; the Mordialloc Freeway, Western Roads Upgrade, the Tullamarine Freeway, the M80 and the Monash have all used glass sand in their roadbase and asphalt; and local councils like Yarra, Bayside, Wyndham, Whittlesea, Hume, Maribyrnong, Casey and Knox are choosing sustainable materials to build and maintain their cities.
In the wake of the recycling crisis, Murphy says this is a prime example of Victoria’s circular economy in motion.
“Victorians should feel confident that recycling is alive and well in their state.”
“At home we’re recycling our glass empties; our councils recover it and the state’s major recyclers turn all they can back into containers – we’re recovering masses of leftover problem glass and recycling it back into sand. Our co-located production facilities take that all that sand and produce the quality asphalt and roadbase Victoria needs to build sustainable, quality and long-lasting infrastructure.”
What does 1 million tonnes (or 5.4 billion bottles) of glass look like?
The annual glass consumption of 24,107,143 people. (224 bottles per person p.a)
Laid end to end, 5.4 billion stubbies would (approximately):
- circumference Australia 46 times.
- circumference the globe 29 times
- be three times the distance from Earth to the Moon