AU Case Study: City of Hume use of REDcycle plastics in roads – Redcycle

Case Study: Pioneers in the use of soft plastics to enhance road performance

The Hume City Council has been a pioneer in the use of REDcycle plastics in roads.

In the 12 months to June 2021 REDcycle collected 9 tonnes of soft plastic (equivalent to over two million plastic bags) in bins at Coles and Woolworths within the Hume City Council local government area.   During this time, the council purchased 49 tonnes of REDcycle plastic repurposed as a bitumen substitute in the asphalt additive called TonerPlas™ – from roading infrastructure company Downer, for the repair and sealing of council roads. This is over five times the quantity of soft plastic collected in the municipality.

Use of recycled content in council contracts and infrastructure projects goes back much further however – to 2001, when Close the Loop (CtL) set up operations in Thomastown, and five years later relocated to bigger premises in Somerton, in the Hume City Council.  CtL is a circular economy pioneer adopting the brand promise of ‘zero waste to landfill’ from day one.   In 2020, CtL was a finalist in the world’s most prestigious circular economy awards, The Circulars, hosted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

In 2003, CtL co-created the successful voluntary product stewardship scheme Cartridges for Planet Ark with Planet Ark. CtL needed a reuse solution for the toner powder from recycled toner cartridges and bottles. After a lot of research, CtL developed and brought its TonerPave bitumen additive product to market in 2013.  In 2018, REDcycle plastics joined as a collaborative partner to deliver collected soft plastics as another source material for the expanding range of CtL products.  Introduction of this ‘waste’ material stream to the ‘mix’ has been found to improve the performance characteristics of the repurposed material. TonerPlas™ was first trialled in a road in Craigieburn, in the Hume City Council, in May 2018.  Hume City Council has continued to use, and indeed expanded its use of TonerPlas™ in the city’s roads ever since.

Steve Morriss, founder of Close the Loop says “Hume City Council is the perfect headquarters for a circular economy company like ours.  The council actively supports any innovative business models related to circularity, especially from its home-grown businesses”.  Steve went on to say that “… adding TonerPlas™ to any asphalt asset improves the performance, increases its lifespan, and lowers the carbon footprint of that asset.  The repurposed product is 100% recyclable at end of life … what’s not to love about that?”

George Osborne, Manager Economic Development at Hume City Council commented: “Our council is pleased to support the use of TonerPlas™ in municipal roads.  Feedback from residents and city engineers has all been positive.  Council strongly supports this type of innovation that improves the quality and longevity of our roads using our own waste … and in so doing, assists and actively contributes to Council’s Vision to transition to a circular economy.”

Kingston City Council was also an early adopter – it also first used TonerPlas™ in late 2018.  The City of Stonnington followed in the first half of 2019 and since then TonerPlas™ has now been used in 27 Local Government Areas in over 400km of local roads.  In early 2021, it was also approved for use in two major state government arterial roads in Victoria – the M80 and the Monash Freeway.