Monday 21st Jun, 2021

Plastic bags used as sustainable concrete aggregate

Engineer Steve Rawson of SR Engineering who helped develop Polyrock with Coles Cobblebank Development Manager Jason Delaney
Engineer Steve Rawson of SR Engineering who helped develop Polyrock with Coles Cobblebank Development Manager Jason Delaney

A new recycling technology, called Polyrok, is being used to turn plastic bags into a sustainable alternative to aggregate minerals used in concrete.

Polyrok is made from soft plastics recovered from the REDcycle program, available at Coles supermarkets. It was developed in partnership between RMIT University and recycling organisations RED Group and Replas.

More than 6.5 million pieces of soft plastic will be used in one of the largest commercial applications of the technology, as part of a supermarket development at Cobblebank in Melbourne’s west

Coles State Construction Manager Victoria Fiona Lloyd said Coles was looking at opportunities to use the new technology in future developments.

“We collect roughly 30 million pieces of plastic every month through our customer REDcycle program, so there’s a huge opportunity to use Polyrok in other Coles developments or other construction projects,” she said.

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“We’re really proud of the work we’ve put in with REDGroup, Replas and RMIT to invest and develop this important sustainable technology designed to reduce our environmental impact.

“This is just the beginning of what is possible – this project alone will help repurpose more than 6.5 million pieces of soft plastic from landfill.”

Replas Joint Managing Director Mark Jacobsen said the partnership had helped to develop a new way to recycle soft plastics.

“Replas has taken one of the most problematic plastics and turned it into a highly valuable, fit for purpose resource,” he said.

“We congratulate Coles for taking the steps towards a circular economy and for practicing sustainable procurement with Polyrok.”

RMIT University Civil and Infrastructure Engineering Senior Lecturer Jonathan Tran said the testing has shown the sustainable aggregate is robust and fit for purpose.

“We are proud to bring our expertise in civil and infrastructure engineering into the development of Polyrok.

Coles first partnered with REDcycle and Replas in 2011. The program now collects an average of 121 tonnes – roughly 30 million pieces of plastic every month – with more than 1.3 billion pieces of soft plastic diverted from landfall since 2011.