May 14, 2020
With most Australians working from home over recent weeks, the nation’s waste and recycling bins have seen increased volumes of packaging and food waste. Decluttering is also back in vogue for many and upgrades to home electronics have added to the piles in garages and on porches waiting to be donated, recycled or destined for landfill.
Many have pondered what our new ‘normal’ will look like following coronavirus but with reports of cleaner skies, seas and cities emerging during lockdown there is increasing hope that any economic recovery also respects the need for environmental recovery. We know Australians overwhelmingly think recycling is the right thing to do, but an underappreciated part of that equation is the use of products made either entirely or partially from recycled materials. At Planet Ark, we believe ‘buying it back’ can play an important role in our economic recovery.
Buying recycled products is actually just as important as recycling itself. Why? Because we need demand for recycled products to drive their production and increase the value of recycled material. This creates jobs, reduces dependence on virgin resources and saves carbon emissions.
A leading example of an innovative recycled product is TonerPlas, an asphalt additive comprised of waste toner from the Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program as well as soft plastics from the REDCycle and Plastic Police program.
For every one-kilometre section of two-lane local asphalt road approximately five tonnes of TonerPlas is used, which equates to 530,000 plastic bags and waste toner from 12,300 cartridges. By reducing dependence on virgin materials, the product has saved 720,000 tonnes of CO2 so far while integrating Tonerplas into road surfacing also extends the life of the road compared to normal asphalt.
Many councils across Australia have laid recycled roads with TonerPlas content. Following rigorous testing, the NSW EPA has now also approved the recycled asphalt Reconophalt, a road surface created by Downer Group containing TonerPlas. This paves the way for other states to approve this product and increase the number of roads across Australia made with recycled content.
Additionally, in a bid to counter economic damage post-pandemic, the Federal Government has released a stimulus program to fast track spending on road projects over the next six months. The National Waste Policy Action Plan includes a target to significantly increase the use of recycled content by governments and industry.
Whilst the average workplace or household won’t buy recycled asphalt we can take action to support recycling and increase the demand for recycled products:
We can all in some way lead by example and choose what we want the future to look like. Show your customers and stakeholders where you’re adding real value to sustainability and building a future we can all benefit from.
Claire is Planet Ark's Recycling Campaign Manager. After working in the communications industry and raising a young family, she joined Planet Ark to follow her passion for helping the environment.