Darwin council transported old asphalt, plastic and ink cartridges from interstate to resurface two roads this week, while the mountain of shattered glass and plastic at Darwin’s Shoal Bay Waste Facility continues to grow.
Darwin Council announced an environmental win as workers laid the Northern Territory’s first recycled asphalt on East Point Road and Marina Boulevard.
Touted as part of the council’s wider waste strategy, it said the recycled material is expected to save the Territory 12 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
However, the NT’s largest recycling collection point, NT Recycling Solutions, says council missed a critical opportunity to divert thousands of tonnes of glass and plastic from the waste facility, almost at capacity, by bringing in the interstate rubbish.
With no current market for recycled material in the Northern Territory, NT Recycling Solutions said they send more than 4000 tonnes of glass and mountains of plastic to the landfill each year.
General Manager of NT Recycling Solutions, Dean Caton said he had reached out to the council multiple times over the past two years to push for the waste they receive to be diverted into roads.
“We know the material in those roads have not come from Darwin because there is no plastic recycling here,” he said.
“We’ve approached the council on multiple occasions to work out a way to divert the materials we receive into roads, rather than have it go to landfill, but they were non-committal.
“The council has just missed a huge opportunity to reduce its burden on landfill.”
Mr Caton said he also approached Downer Group, the multi-national company tasked with pouring the recycled asphalt.
“Glass is the single biggest volume of material we take to landfill, and we were aware that Downer was using glass in its recycled road product in other states,” he said.
“We saw it as a huge opportunity to recycle waste that was piling up at Shoal Bay. We went interstate to investigate plants that remove lids and crush glass into small particles.
“Downer said they could do it, but specifications here in the NT at that stage were prohibitive.”
Glass crushing machine here could cost at least $1 million, not backed by council
As of June this year, Downer Group had recycled 46.1 million plastic bags and packaging equivalents, toner from 1.3 million used toner cartridges and 11.5 million glass bottle equivalents through its environmentally-friendly asphalt that has been poured on roads across Australia.
But the company cited a lack of suppliers with the capacity to process recycled glass “to the required specification for use as a replacement for sand in asphalt” as its reason for not including glass material here.
Recycling equipment is a costly exercise, not yet backed by the council.
Mr Caton said it would have cost at least $1 million for NT Recycling Solutions to purchase a machine to sort and crush glass.
Darwin Council’s program manager Nik Kleine said the council is currently preparing a waste strategy which includes “consultation with industry and various government departments including both local and state government stakeholders”.
“We are engaging with NTRS and other key stakeholders in the resource recovery industry to understand the touch points and drivers at a local level, to further inform our waste strategy which will be presented to council (in confidential initially) as a draft in November 2020, in line with our 2020/21 Municipal Plan,” he said.
“Reducing the organisation’s impact on the environment in response to climate change,” was cited as the council’s overarching goal.
“Plastics, in the form of pellets, came from Victoria consisting of plastic bags that had been recycled at shopping centres as well as materials from waste toner cartridges,” Mr Kleine said.
“However, 10 per cent of the aggregates from reclaimed asphalt pavement material was used in the mix which came from another local road in Darwin.
“CO2 emission reductions also took into account transportation.”