Excavated trenches for sewerage pipes and infrastructure require backfill material to protect them from decay and damage. This project demonstrated effective use of 100% recycled materials for trench backfill materials.
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Sewage trench backfill
Glass, rubber and plastics
Product specifications and standards
Melbourne Retail Water Agencies 04-03.2 - Backfill specification
Research, development and demonstration
Two blends of sewage trench backfill made from 100% recycled materials
Ground Science, Greater Western Water and University of Melbourne
Excavated trenches for sewerage pipes and infrastructure situated in residential and commercial zones require backfill material to protect them from decay and damage. This project demonstrated effective use of 100% recycled materials for trench backfill materials consisting of recycled glass (RG), recycled plastic (RP) and tyre derived aggregates (TDA) with varying moisture content of up to 10%.
The research project looked at the most significant cause affecting sewage pipelines: the backfill material type. The project developed 2 blends of 100% recycled material as alternatives to conventional sewer backfill material.
The developed blends offer less sensitivity to soil moisture variations caused by rainfall after hot and dry summer months. They were specifically designed for deep excavated trenches located in non-trafficable areas in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne covered by basalt rocks and associated expansive clays.
The damage to sewer infrastructure by expansive soils can bring environmental consequences especially given the reliance on raw materials in traditional trench backfill mixes. They also result in significant repair and rehabilitation costs to water authorities and councils.
The project was aimed at addressing the following 4 needs:
Laboratory testing was conducted to determine suitable blends of recycled glass, rubber and plastics as alternatives to conventional sewer backfill material with sections of conventional material as a benchmark.
The testing breakthrough of this project included developing project specific testing tools and methodologies to simulate real-life site conditions and this included:
The project learnings included:
Victoria University led the project and worked in partnership with the University of Melbourne. The research team utilised both universities' knowledge of recycled materials in geotechnical structures.
The technical expertise of Ground Science, as the lead industry partner, and Greater Western Water was drawn upon for quality control, field and laboratory testing and assistance in the design, construction and site management of the full-scale trial sites.
Commercialisation of the proposed blends is being pursued. The project team and the industry partners are making attempts to promote the project’s products and obtaining official approvals from relevant authorities. One such approval required is from the water industry’s Technical Approval Group which has representatives from various departments that discuss the various technologies and products.
Another area that will be investigated by the team is producing the blends at an attractive cost. To do this, several recycling and batching industries will be part of the negotiations.
With successful outcomes achieved in the current project, the research team aims to extend the application of blends of 100% recycled materials to backfilling deep excavated trenches located in “trafficable areas”. The “trafficable areas” along sewer infrastructures undergo repeated loadings of the moving vehicles. In addition to static strength testing, a series of pavement tests which are of a dynamic nature is required for proposing the most suitable blend. This project has recently been funded by Sustainability Victoria and has commenced in late 2021.
Large sacks of sewage trench backfill waiting to be used.
A close-up photo of the sewage trench backfill made from 100% recycled materials.
Workers on a construction site filling backfilling a trench.
A worker using an excavator to place the sewage trench backfill.
An excavator scoops material from a large skip bin.
For more about this project, email email@example.com