On the face of things, plastic bags really seem to have no other benefit than carrying your shopping.
They’re bad for landfill, animals and the environment.
But a new project in Melbourne’s north has successfully been able to take the dreaded plastic bag and turn it into something that can be used again and again — a road.
The 300-metre stretch of road, on Rayfield Avenue in Craigieburn, uses an additive that’s made up of 530,000 plastic bags, more than 12,000 recycled printer cartridges and 168,000 glass bottles.
“We think it’s a great initiative,” said Geoff Porter, the mayor of Hume City Council, which takes in Craigieburn.
“If this does work out as we hope it will … we will be promoting this all around the city.”
Tests also reveal the new road can handle extreme temperatures better and when it comes to costs, is about the same price as traditional road laying.
It’s the first time the additive has been used and the results have stunned the recycling company behind it, Close the Loop.
“The great thing about it is not only is it competitive, but it is a more flexible road surface, it’s more durable, it’s longer lasting and it’s a great use of product that would otherwise go to landfill,” said Craig Devlin, the company’s chairman.
Cash injection needed to tackle recycling crisis
The bags are being collected from Australia’s supermarket giants by another major recycling group.
The road additive was developed by Close the Loop using $40,000 from a $2.5 million state government fund designed to boost research and development into recycling.
It’s a step in the right direction, and one that could take the pressure off councils in the midst of the Chinese recycling crisis, according to Rob Spence, from the Municipal Association of Victoria.
But Mr Spence is warning the full effects may not be felt for some years.
“Across the next five years or so, we’re going to see major restructure in this industry,” he said.
“It’s going to require a significant capital injection to make this stuff happen.
“The environment’s got to be right. It’s all about what the landfill levies and landfill prices are, it’s an appetite in the private sector for entering this space.”
Meanwhile the interim agreement between councils and recycling companies for kerbside collection, which was struck in the wake of the Chinese crisis, expires on July 1, 2018.
Mr Spence said that councils were only weeks away from striking a new agreement for a similar price — about $1 a week or $52 a year per household.
“A number of them have already signed and there are some who are putting a lot of pressure on the recyclers to get better pricing,” he said.
“What we want is a smooth process … and that the recycling system continues to operate.”