State Asphalts NSW and UNSW are developing technology that will divert up to 10,000 tonnes of paper and plastic waste into construction materials to build roads.
State Asphalts NSW manufacture asphalt and bitumen products that are used to construct state roads.
As asphalt is a composite material (a combination of two or more materials with different properties), it lends itself to being made from recycled components. State Asphalt wanted to explore the use of coffee cups and other waste streams to create asphalt additives but they lacked the in-house research capability.
"Partnering with UNSW was the most cost-effective way to address our product development challenge because the university has so much advanced research capability that we don't normally have access to. Once the fundamental science has been resolved, we get to do what we do best: manufacturing."
James Ng, Project Manager, Sustainability & Grants
UNSW conducted an investigative analysis, using advanced imaging equipment, to determine how the recycled waste materials behave at a fundamental level.
The research was funded through a Cooperative Research Centre Project (CRC-P) grant that included three other supply chain partners - Closed Loop, Primaplas and Asphaltech.
State Asphalts also participated in UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Engineering (AGSE) Industry PhD Program, which embeds students with industry partners to tackle specific problems. The work performed by the student, testing the feasibility of waste product use in the asphalt mixture, gave State Asphalt the clarity and specifications they needed to move forward with their sustainable product development.
The project enabled State Asphalts to develop a new product - PAKPAVE Roads - that has already delivered commercial outcomes. Armed with empirical data and prototype samples, they also have the confidence to test and enter new markets.
As a result of the supply chain collaboration, a pilot commercialisation program will see PAKPAVE Roads used in two construction projects in Western Sydney. The roads will recycle 135,000 paper cups, 85% of which were collected in the Penrith LGA, reduce raw material requirements and result in a 24% decrease in carbon footprint.
In addition to environmental benefits, PAKPAVE Roads offer superior durability and crack resistance, improved wet weather skid resistance, and decreased noise levels due to their surface texture.
Overall, the project has inspired State Asphalt NSW to continuously collaborate on other research opportunities. The success and learnings from the PhD program have also radically shifted their 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.”