ARRB looks to boost use of recycled materials in road and rail

There is ample scope to use more recycled materials, including plastic and organic food waste, in road and rail projects, a new report says.

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) says using more recycled materials in road and rail infrastructure confers many national benefits, including less waste sent to landfills, lower greenhouse gas emissions, job creation and better, more durable roads.

However, despite a long history of using recycled materials in infrastructure, it’s “still not business-as-usual within roads and rail”.

The two-part AARB report attributes the slow take-up of recycled materials in road and rail construction to a lack of awareness and education, the disconnection between market demand and supply, lack of specifications and guidelines and most importantly, the lack of consistent and scientific evidence to report on longer-term performance and sustainability benefits.

Commissioned by the Federal Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, the report examined 10 recycled materials for their potential use within road and rail infrastructure.

They were crushed concrete and brick, crushed glass, reclaimed asphalt pavement or RAP, crumb rubber, ground granulated blast furnace slag, fly ash, bottom ash, recycled organics, recycled ballast, and recycled plastics.

“Many recycled materials are shown to actually improve the performance of roads,” the report says.

“This project provides robust, evidence-based knowledge on how to optimise the uptake of recycled materials in infrastructure projects.”

The report also recommends using plastic and organic food waste more widely for road and rail infrastructure projects. Plastic can be used for applications such as building noise walls, while organic food waste was earmarked for more widespread use in landscaping and erosion control.