Conference calls for recycled materials in big infrastructure

06 December 2019

The inaugural Buy Recycled Conference and Expo has paved the way for government to source recycled content for Victoria’s ‘big build’ – including roads made from glass, pipes fashioned from milk bottles and plastic railway sleepers.

Buy Recycled 2019 was opened by The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and brought together more than 300 industry professionals working in government procurement, sustainability and recycled materials at Melbourne Convention Centre.

The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change (right) opened the conference and visited expo displays showcasing recycled products.

Victoria’s chief engineer Dr Collette Burke urged the sold-out crowd of government buyers, researchers, and materials manufacturers representing more than 150 organisations to 'seize the day' and take advantage of the 'massive momentum' around sustainability.

There is enormous potential for the government to lead the way in the use of recycled content, with the state’s annual infrastructure spending set to average $9.6 billion from 2017–21.

Dr Burke, who provides expert advice to the state government on the design and construction of Victoria’s major infrastructure projects, spoke of a desire to embrace recycled materials in a future to be marked by dwindling natural resources and climate change.

'It’s a very exciting time, we’ve got a massive build, which creates a really, really big opportunity for us to do something – to look at how we build in sustainability, how we look at our materials use, and how we look at standards and what we can build moving forward,' she said.

'We want to look at new materials, we want to look at recycled products, and we want to look at waste reduction.'

Early movers are already embracing recovered materials in Victoria, with four million glass bottles processed per day into 800 tonnes of construction sand.

Buy Recycled Conference and Expo 2019 was focused on building capacity and confidence within government to use more recycled materials in projects, connecting buyers with researchers developing recycled products and the suppliers who produce them at scale to bring them to market.

Leading suppliers of recycled products showcased a range of innovations at the expo, providing a rare opportunity for buyers to see, touch and interact with a range of recycled materials first-hand.

Experts at the conference said building confidence and addressing knowledge gaps around the use of recycled content was key to driving the creation of new markets and stimulating the development of new products.

Dr Burke said big data and new technology could also help build trust in the performance of recycled content, bringing products to market sooner.

'We used to put [the material] down then we’d watch it for 20 years! When we’d actually get proof that something works, then we’d look at changing the standards. Nowadays, we’ve got really great research and testing where you can run a predictive test on how that product will perform.

'To make a really quantum shift, it’s looking at how to use technology to make the shift.'

Products on display included cardboard furniture, asphalt made from glass and pipes made from milk bottles.

Read more about the presenters and their presentations.

Apply for a grant

The Victorian Government has invested more than $135 million into strengthening the waste and resource recovery industry over the last five years.

Sustainability Victoria continues to support the development of sustainable procurement in Victoria through its Research, Development and Demonstration Grants which fund the research and development of new products made from recycled materials such as glass, plastic, organics, electronic waste, concrete, brick and rubber.