Research in Melbourne’s west has helped create new, hybrid products made using materials that are frequently considered rubbish by thousands of Australians: glass and plastic.
In 2015-2016, 173,000 tonnes of glass and 149,000 tonnes of plastic were collected in Victoria alone.
The research into reusing glass and plastic is supported by funding from Sustainability Victoria and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation. Director of Victoria University’s Institute for Sustainability and Innovation, Professor Stephen Gray, said the potential for using recycled glass in recycled plastic products is tremendous.
“Plastics are durable and can withstand a wide variety of environmental conditions. Adding glass fibre reinforcement improves its strength and allows for wider spans in structural sections made for construction just like wood.
We expect up to 30% of these products (including structural components of outdoor decking) to be glass reinforced, with the bonus of improved fire performance. The next step is to ensure these materials can be used safely without compromising construction and engineering standards,” said Professor Gray.
Australians produce massive amounts of plastic waste, so re-using it to create structural materials will reduce the carbon footprint associated with construction.
This research will result in:
- improved product durability (materials that last longer)
- less tree cutting, preserving habitats (need less timber)
- no need for, or exposure to, potentially harmful pesticide and fungicide chemicals
- less glass and plastic going to landfill.
Two of the three industry collaborators are located in the Victorian regional centre of Ballarat: Regina Glass and Replas. The outcomes of this project are expected to result in the growth of these companies, leading to new employment opportunities, and improving community and manufacturing resilience.
This project is one of many supported by Sustainability Victoria who are constantly researching ways to use materials and resources that would otherwise be lost.
Apart from the project with Victoria University, other researchers are using glass to make lightweight concrete for building and construction, incorporating glass and plastic in footpaths road materials.
National Recycling Week is 13-19 November.
Professor Stephen Gray is available for interview.