Nambucca Shire Council investigating trial using Plastiphalt product in road resurfacing

Imagine all of this being used to create new roads
Imagine all of this being used to create new roads

Since China signalled it will no longer be the world’s rubbish dump and ceased accepting most of our waste imports, Australian governments have been in a bit of a tailspin.

But turbulent times are when true Aussie ingenuity rises to the top.

And our little shire is hoping to sign up to be part of the solution.

Nambucca Shire Council is currently in negotiations with Downer Group to trial a brand new environmentally-conscious road surfacing technology on our streets.

Plastiphalt is made out of waste plastics, replacing a significant portion of traditional asphalt material.

The recycled plastic-asphalt technology has now been used in three countries around the world, including along the Old Princes Highway at Engadine last month.

The very first trial was in Craigieburn, Melbourne, in May this year; the 300-metre stretch of road now contains 200,000 plastic bags, 63,000 glass bottles and toner from 4,500 used printer cartridges.

Jim Appleby of Downer, Hume mayor Geoff Porter and Peter Tamblyn of Close the Loop  atop Craigieburn's new Plastiphalt street. Photo by Justin McManus

Jim Appleby of Downer, Hume mayor Geoff Porter and Peter Tamblyn of Close the Loop atop Craigieburn's new Plastiphalt street. Photo by Justin McManus

Should the Nambucca trial go ahead later this year, we could see triple that amount of rubbish diverted from landfill: “As a minimum we have been advised [the Nambucca project], paved with plastic and glass-modified asphalt, will see approximately 530,000 plastic bag equivalents, 168,000 glass bottle equivalents and 12,500 toner cartridges,” assistant general manager for engineering services Paul Gallagher said.

Mr Gallagher started to investigate options of using recycled products in engineering projects after a recommendation to local governments from NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton which indicated councils should start looking into recycling their own waste products.

Funnily enough, the State Government doesn’t seem to be keen to follow through on its own advice; mayor Rhonda Hoban was surprised earlier this year when she discovered that RMS does not used any recycled material in its projects.

And the piece of road chosen to play guinea pig?

In a twist of irony, the street earmarked to be paved with rubbish will be the most trashed piece of road in all of Nambucca: Mann Street.

Currently, council is in negotiations with the State Government to secure funding for the extra cost of haulage needed to transport the recycled product from Downer’s asphalt plant in Lismore – asphalt for Nambucca road projects is usually sourced from Coffs Harbour.

And Downer is currently modifying their plant in order to produce the new product for the North Coast.

If the trial gets the green light, this would necessarily mean scheduled blacktop works for Mann St would be further delayed.

“We will lay a primer seal over the pavement after the October long weekend (similar to what we have done  on the section below Bent Street) and we would not lay the Plastiphalt until December as the material is ready to be transported from Lismore, and to maximise the hotter weather,” Mr Gallagher said.

The other potential downside is the price of the product, but Mr Gallagher said this is far outweighed by its environmental and long-term economic advantages: “The cost of Plastiphalt is a few dollars per tonne more than normal asphalt but has a longer life of up to 15 per cent, a 10 per cent reduction in thickness, a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue, and superior deformation resistance for withstanding heavy vehicle traffic than the conventional asphalt.”

While the initiative is still in the investigation stage, mayor Rhonda Hoban is buoyed by the prospect of Nambucca taking on the challenge.

“I think it’s worthy of a trial,” she said.