Cairns residents may be closer to driving on roads made of glass bottles (recovered through kerbside collections) thanks to recent successful asphalt trials at Cairns Regional Council (CRC) facilities.
Cairns Regional Council in partnership with local company Pioneer North Queensland have just completed trials using 18 tonnes recovered crushed glass to create more than 120 tonnes of asphalt for new roads installed across Council facilities in Portsmith.
Though large quantities of glass bottles and jars placed in yellow top kerbside recycling bins in Cairns are recyclable, a portion of this material is unsuitable for use in glass re-manufacturing due to the particles being too small or contaminated with ceramic, stoneware, pyrex and plastic. This material is known as glass fines. As part of the mechanical sorting process of waste sent to the CRC Materials Recovery Facility, glass fines are diverted through a crushing unit, which is able to crush the fine particles into varying sizes, to produce a sand like output.
Government and commercial construction of roads require large volumes of sand, this material mostly sourced from quarries in the Barron River Delta, Cairns Tablelands and from South East Queensland dune sites. As an alternative to this material being excavated out of the environment, Cairns Regional Council has demonstrated that large volumes of this glass sand (in this instance 90,000 bottles worth) could be used as a substitute. Staff of Pioneer North Queensland noted that during the trial pour (and after final quality inspection had been made) that ‘there was no noticeable difference in terms of its placement and performance versus normal sand/asphalt'. Staff involved in the trial also commenting “There is no doubt that recovering glass for this use helps protect our local Cairns environment, in having less dependency on virgin material, but also shows that material traditionally sent to landfill can instead be used as a resource”.
A lesser known fact, that though Australia is far from the most populated nation on earth that we are still one of the largest contributors to municipal (household) solid waste globally each year and with something of a crisis currently facing our recycling industry we all need to reboot our thinking towards waste. This is a time when government and industry can re-think waste, implement more sustainable recycling methods right here in Far North Queensland, projects that repurpose glass sand and other waste products for roads & non-structural concrete requirements are clearly a great place to start.
Thankfully government and industry have many more waste recovery projects in the pipeline, let’s continue to play our part in the rethinking of waste as a resource, achieving a more circular local economy while taking greater responsibility in reducing our waste, in order to send one less truck to landfill today.