Converting coffee cups and other waste into value-added asphalt additives

State Asphalts NSW and UNSW partner to develop new technologies in the sustainability material market, using domestically sourced recycled paper and plastic waste.


State Asphalts NSW (State Asphalts) is a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) that specialises in the manufacturing and sale of asphalt and bitumen products, supplying principally to state and local roads. 

As recycled materials are an ideal fit for new product developments (owing to asphalt's intrinsic composite nature), State Asphalt NSW has taken the opportunity to innovate in the recycling material market. 

The first step was to address their biggest challenge: as a manufacturing-focused SME, they lack the in-house research capacity and capability to commercialise novel waste streams into recycled materials.

State Asphalts approached UNSW for an initial discussion before cementing the research partnership thanks to UNSW’s shared interest, deep asphalt regulatory know-how, and strong research application experience. The project also included three other asphalt, waste management, and polymer-related commercial partners, bringing together the entire supply chain.

“Professor Nasser Khalili’s leadership and wealth of experience helped steer the collaboration to success. Associate Professor Ailar Hajimohammadi has also been a key asset in helping us develop our research objectives and in the direct writing of our grant application,” James Ng, Project Manager, Sustainability and Grants.


Made up of 10 milestones, UNSW is undertaking fundamental research that will help State Asphalts guide and develop new specifications, products, and boundaries.

As State Asphalts needs to work out how the recycled materials behave at a fundamental level, the project involves undertaking an investigative analysis to do the advanced imaging using UNSW’s state-of-the-art equipment.

State Asphalts is also participating in UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Engineering (AGSE) Industry PhD Program, where students work directly with industry on-site to solve real industry problems. The program has proven successful in that the student’s research contribution has provided State Asphalt NSW with more clarity regarding where to focus their investment.

The project will see UNSW deliver quarterly reports, as well as end-of-year and end-of-project reports.

“My enquiry was directed to the Knowledge Exchange team who then facilitated the whole process. They knew which academics to partner with and how to get things done, including working through red tape. The overall turnaround time for building our project partnership was almost overnight too, which I was completely not expecting.”


State Asphalts' biggest value from the project has been the commercial product development contribution, with the research already delivering tangible commercial outcomes. The project has led to the availability of prototype samples, including PAK-PAVE Roads and empirical data, giving State Asphalts NSW the confidence to enter and test new markets.

As a result of research findings and collaboration within the supply chain, a pilot commercialisation program has been initiated. PAK-PAVE Roads will be utilized in two road construction projects in Western Sydney. These projects will make use of 135,000 recycled paper cups, 85% of which were collected from coffee cups in the Penrith LGA in 2022. In addition to its sustainability advantages, the use of PAK-PAVE Roads results in a 24% decrease in carbon footprint and a reduction in raw material requirements. The roads also offer superior durability and crack resistance, improved wet weather skid resistance, and decreased noise levels due to their surface texture. 

Overall, the research project has inspired State Asphalt NSW to continuously collaborate on other research opportunities.  The success and learnings from the PhD embedment program have also radically shifted State Asphalts HR strategy.

“We have PhD students working with us on-site at the moment and providing us with world-class research that we really couldn’t afford to do without the partnership.”