The road to recovery
May 31, 2019
Last month, Waste Management Review spoke to Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy to further understand how the company is leading the way to create a viable and sustainable waste and resource recovery industry.
Alex Fraser has developed a world-first process to recycle more than 150,000 tonnes of glass fines being stockpiled or landfilled in Melbourne every year.
Do you know what you’re driving on?
This is the question Alex Fraser poses to consumers as part of Green Roads, a campaign that demonstrates the benefits of building greener roads with recycled materials.
Reducing waste to landfill, infrastructure costs, glass waste, truck traffic and natural resources extraction, the company illustrates that a smarter way of construction exists.
While Green Roads is a relatively new brand, Alex Fraser has been supplying green construction material to infrastructure companies for decades.
The company is continuing to partner with developers and governments to reduce their carbon footprint and overall costs. Its work with councils, assets owners, contractors and regulators has over time seen an increased uptake of recyclables across more than 250 major infrastructure projects across Melbourne and Brisbane.
One of its main areas of expertise is developing recycled glass sand that can be used in VicRoads approved roadbase and asphalt.
More than 150,000 tonnes of glass fines generated in Melbourne each year are unable to be recycled using traditional methods as its particles are too small to colour sort. Alex Fraser has been recycling this material for close to a decade now. However, a more problematic glass waste stream, known as CSP has also been accumulating. CSP contains other materials like ceramics, stone porcelain, as well as metals, plastics and paper.
Peter Murphy, Alex Fraser Managing Director, says these burgeoning stockpiles compelled Alex Fraser to forge a more sustainable way forward.
“Over the last six-years we’ve travelled the world researching plant designs, scoping the technology and testing the components needed to design an innovative glass recycling plant, capable of producing a high quality construction sand from even the most difficult glass waste streams,” he says
Last year, the company built its first fixed glass recycling plant capable of separating contaminants like metal, paper and plastics from recyclable glass fines.
The custom-designed facility features a range of technologies to separate impurities from the glass, as well as self-cleaning screens. Conveyors link the glass recycling facility to the company’s main recycling plant, enabling the glass sand to be blended into other products according to carefully calibrated mix designs. This link substantially reduces diesel consumption.
The new facility is Victoria’s first licensed glass recycling plant under the state’s new EPA regulations. Now in full production it is capable of recycling up to 150,000 tonnes a year, equating to four million bottles per day.
The recycled sand is currently blended into roadbase, or used on its own in pipe bedding, filter/drainage and a range of other uses in infrastructure works.
A recent example of glass sand application was Victoria’s Kororoit Creek Road Level Crossing Removal Project, a thoroughfare to the state’s west. A grade separation at Kororoit Creek Road was undertaken by the Level Crossing Removal Project. Alex Fraser’s recycled sand was used as bedding material for the combined services conduit housing the communications and power cables.
The sustainable sand is consistently tested to ensure it remains within specifications. While the material is being put to good use, Peter expects that recycled glass sand will be used in more concrete and higher value applications in the near future.
“The most exciting change this recycling plant enables is the production of a high quality, valuable construction material from hundreds of thousands of tonnes of otherwise worthless waste, which until now would have ended up in landfill,” he says.
Across its five recycling sites in Victoria and Queensland, Alex Fraser recycles concrete, brick, asphalt, rock, glass, industrial sands and ballast; annually diverting up to 4.5 million tonnes from landfill, making it one of Australia’s largest providers of sustainable construction materials.
Peter says the company’s scale sets it apart, in addition to offering a reliable, high-quality product that meets government specifications.
“We love to innovate but we pride ourselves on reliability. We have proven we can ably supply high volumes of consistent, quality materials to major projects. Our network of sites across Victoria and Queensland means we can service the market anywhere around those metropolitan areas. Some local governments have been using our products for 20 to 30 years,” he says.
Alex Fraser accepts recyclable construction waste materials from demolitions, as well as glass fines from major recyclers and local government agencies. They apply strict rules on materials they accept, taking only concrete, brick, asphalt and rock at the gate. The company adheres to stringent quality and safety standards; not accepting any cement sheeting or asbestos. Mixed loads are inspected carefully to ensure no unsafe materials are allowed.
Peter says that while there is potential for more glass recycling plants in the company’s future, in the short term the plant will produce enough glass sand to supply to its asphalt plants in Laverton and Dandenong and recycling plants in Epping, Clarinda and Dandenong.
The launch of the glass recycling plant aligns with the commissioning of Alex Fraser’s new High Recycled Technology asphalt plant Laverton; uniquely designed to blend high quantities of recycled glass, asphalt and plastics into sustainable asphalt mixes.
“Our asphalt business has an excellent reputation for quality on state and local government projects. Our new plants substantially increases our capacity to service our long standing customers with greener products. Instead of trucking sand to our asphalt plants from outlying areas, we use quality, recycled sand produced within the metropolitan area, saving thousands of truck movements and tonnes of carbon,” he says.
Looking to the future, Peter is confident the company’s long history of growth will continue on an upward trajectory, along with the end markets’ appetite for sustainable alternatives.
“With 140 years, 50 million tonnes and hundreds of green roads behind us the future looks bright. As long as our communities are recycling, and keeping pressure on the people building our infrastructure to do it sustainably, we have an important role to play in building greener roads that ensure a thriving circular economy,” he says.