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Solving Melbourne's excess glass problem

Date: 11-Sep-2015

The support for the use of recycled construction materials is constantly increasing. Recently, City West Water, one of three government-owned retail water businesses in Metropolitan Melbourne, approved the use of Alex Fraser Recycled Sand as pipe embedment material for gravity sewer pipelines.

After receiving approval from Yarra Valley Water late last year, City West Water is the latest on a growing list of water authorities to recognise recycled sand as a sustainable alternative to quarried material. With every approval, the door is opened further to broader recognition of the product.

A problem not many people are aware of
Everyone is familiar with the concept of glass recycling, but not many people are aware of the fact that not all glass that is collected from our kerbsides can be recycled back into glass containers. There is about 100,000 tonnes of glass per year in Melbourne alone that cannot be recycled, which either ends up in landfill or on stockpiles with no real use. This has a major impact on our community and environment.

Alex Fraser found a solution to this problem by developing a process that recycles this excess glass into a useful product that can replace traditional quarried sand in certain applications. Natural sand is becoming increasingly difficult to source in metropolitan areas and our recycled glass looks like sand, feels like sand and has the same properties as sand.

Solving Melbourne’s excess glass problem
In 2014 alone, Alex Fraser recovered 80,000 tonnes, or 80 per cent of Melbourne’s unrecyclable glass, and turned it into a product for use in civil construction. The growing recognition of recycled sand, as well as its use in high-profile infrastructure projects bodes well for communities across the country, and it is rewarding to witness the increasing support from infrastructure developers, regulators and statutory authorities. “It is great to see authorities recognising a community need and doing the hard yards to establish the technical justification for its use,” said General Manager Recycling Industries Mark Barraclough.

Expanding the use of the product
Although Alex Fraser has been using recycled sand in various applications for over 10 years, the use of the product accelerated with the commissioning of a glass additive bin at the company’s Laverton facility in early 2014, jointly funded by Sustainability Victoria. This addition to the crushing plant automatically feeds the correct amounts of recycled sand into a range of our products, including VicRoads accredited roadbase. Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan commended Alex Fraser’s innovations and stressed the importance of infrastructure providers showing leadership in the use of recycled products, that: “provide as high – or higher standards – than virgin materials, which is fantastic news for both our economy as well as our environment.”

Research and development, vision and persistence
According to Managing Director Pete Murphy, recycling is not really recycling “until you find an ongoing market for the recovered material, which is exactly what we have done. Alex Fraser has developed a high-quality product that is approved by regulators, and reduces the amount of waste that builds up in our community.”

Getting to this point has not been an easy process. It required much research and development, a clear vision and, above all, persistence in developing end uses for the product. This project has involved many people at Alex Fraser – production and maintenance people to configure the equipment to run efficiently, sales and technical people to prove the product works, customer service and drivers to coordinate efficient collection of the raw material, and the combined efforts of asphalt and recycling people to drive the use of the product at every opportunity. Initially, the product was used in pavements and eventually gained recognition as a substitute for quarried sand for use as pipe bedding and backfill material.

Alex Fraser has always worked closely with regulators and customers. The company’s aim is to work through existing glass stockpiles in Melbourne, efficiently process the material through its plants and keep exploring new uses for the end product. By doing this, the company actively contributes to improving our communities and the environment.

Download our spec sheet to find out how you can benefit from the use of recycled glass

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