Victoria’s beer-bottle road to a circular economy

Published: 26 June 2020

You could be driving or commuting on your old beer bottles – and you might not even know it.

One of Victoria’s largest recycling plants, Alex Fraser, has opened new infrastructure that manages 22% of the state’s glass waste. Each year, the facility will divert from landfill more than:

  • 38,000 tonnes of glass waste, which is an equivalent to almost 200 million glass bottles
  • 64,000 tonnes of bricks.

As part of our $26 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund, we’ve funded more than $335,000 into this new infrastructure.

Alex Fraser uses the glass you recycle at home and turns it into high-quality sand which is being used in Victorian works such as the Level Crossing Removal project.

This process:

  • reduces the strain on natural resources
  • reduces the need to transport natural sand to project sites
  • boosts the use of recycled products in infrastructure works
  • gives new life to our rubbish
  • cuts costs
  • lowers carbon emissions.

Recycling glass at home

For glass to be recycled into new products or infrastructure, it’s important we get recycling right at home.

Glass bottles like beer, wine and medicine can be placed in your recycling bin, but broken glass cannot. Broken glass can lead to contamination of the other recyclable materials.

A new 4-bin system has been designed to fix this broken glass issue, with dedicated glass bins for all council areas by 2027. This is part of the Victorian Government’s 10-year circular economy plan. Some council areas have already started to roll this system out.

Check your local council website to see what you can recycle.

Ensuring all recycled glass finds a new home

Glass that ends up in the recycling bin comes in all shapes and sizes, and with different levels of quality.

Our Research, Development and Demonstration Grants are supporting the recycling sector to find ways to use every piece.

Sometimes, it’s just too good. That’s what Yarra City Council found during their separate glass kerbside collection trial.

Glass collected from 1300 households was initially assigned for road works in Abbotsford. Due to its high quality, it was sent on to become new glass packaging. Instead, glass unsuitable for glass packaging sourced from Alex Fraser was used for the road works projects in Abbotsford. Alex Fraser uses glass that’s dirty or contaminated or is too small to be sorted. This type of glass usually can’t be reused to make new glass products and would be stockpiled or sent to landfill.

During the trial, Yarra City Council diverted 58.5 tonnes of glass from landfill and supported Victoria’s recycled materials market.

Another trial led by the University of Melbourne, North West Program Alliance, Hanson and VicRoads, used glass from Alex Fraser. The trial tested whether different quantities of glass can replace some key elements of concrete, like fine aggregate. Fine aggregate, usually sand, helps bind the concrete mix together.

Located at a test site near Reservoir Station, the project team used the equivalent of 344 glass bottles to create three different trial mixes. These mixes included leftover glass from kerbside collections. The trial site is currently being evaluated, with research results to be shared towards the end of 2020. The project team are now investigating what percentage they can replace quarried materials with recycled glass.

Read about the trial to recycle glass into aggregate.

The use of recycled materials in road and civil construction is on the rise, as industry and government look to innovate. This shift reduces the demand on new material extraction from the natural environment and increases sustainability outcomes for construction across Victoria.

Giving new life to our rubbish

Funding infrastructure upgrades like Alex Fraser or investing in research and development aligns with the Victorian Government’s circular economy policy. This is a 10-year plan that will completely transform Victoria’s waste and recycling sector.

Read about Victoria’s circular economy policy, Recycling Victoria: a new economy.

Thinking circular

SV is looking for projects that contribute to Victoria’s transition to a circular economy. This industry-led project was delivered in 2018 and shows how recycled glass bottles can be used in road base – in this instance in Melbourne’s heavily used and critical airport link, the Tullamarine Freeway.

Related pages