Plastic waste is a growing problem in the Australian building and construction industry with a significant part of the waste ending up in landfill.

To address this problem, the Bondor Metecno Group (Bondor) together with Pipemakers Australia Pty Ltd is working in partnership with M Modular Pty Ltd and the University of Melbourne to increase local recycling of plastic waste and improve the productivity of Australia’s construction industry. Recently, the recycling project received a $2.7 million grant from Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-Ps), which will be used to transform plastic waste into lightweight prefabricated building products.

The project is estimated to cost $8.76 million in total and will run until mid-2023. The $2.7 million grant is funded as part of round 8 of Cooperative Research Centres Projects. The project team will also include more than 20 Master’s students, three PhD students and three postdoctoral research fellows, who will be co-supervised by experts from the project partners.

Bondor executive general manager Geoff Marsdon explained that the project will benefit the environment by reducing the volume of plastic waste lost to landfill.

"The building and construction sector in Australia consumes around 700,000 tonnes of plastics each year, which is 20 per cent of Australia's plastic consumption.

“Less than 12 per cent is recycled and more than 40 per cent is disposed of in landfill. We can address this problem by recycling this plastic waste into lightweight prefabricated building products (LPBP).

“We plan to do this by developing an automated manufacturing and recycling process based on Industry 4.0 principles, and advanced chemical and materials handling processes.

“Not only will the developed processes reduce the amount of plastic waste going to landfill, they will also significantly reduce production costs for LPBP while enhancing the quality of the products. Consequently, this CRC-P will maximise the economic value of plastic resources in Australia.”

Highlights of the plastic waste recycling project

Bondor will assess replacement of core materials and combinations including recycled plastics while Pipemakers will assess the replacement of original plastic materials with recycled plastics (e.g. PE and PVC).

An FE model will be developed for the simulation of buildings and their key components made with LPBPs under various loading conditions. The model will capture several multi-physical phenomena, including structural dynamics, smoke/fire development and thermal-acoustic propagation in a simple building manufactured with the developed LPBPs.

A comprehensive design guideline will be developed for incorporating local minerals and recycled plastic materials into LPBPs.

Advanced manufacturing techniques based on Industry 4.0 automated manufacturing processes will be incorporated and will include inline monitoring using non-destructive testing equipment to minimise defects.