In its ideal form, a circular economy is a system where products and the resources that make them can be reused, repaired, remade and recycled, with absolutely nothing going to landfill. This may seem like a far-fetched idea, but there are companies that are working towards it, already figuring out the nuts and bolts of circular economies on various scales.
Icon Water has been working with ACT NoWaste and Regroup (The Hume Materials Recovery Centre) to develop and trial the use of sand made from recycled glass as a sustainable building material in sewer pipes and to create a circular economy here in Canberra.
Icon Water Managing Director Ray Hezkial says: “As the supplier of Canberra’s water and sewerage services for over 100 years, we understand the value that Canberrans place on the environment and sustainability.
“In providing an essential service to the community, our priority is not only to deliver a safe and reliable service but to implement sustainable practices throughout the work that we do,” Ray said.
Recovered glass sand is made from the re-processing of kerbside glass collected from Canberrans’ yellow bins. The Hume Materials Recovery Facility has invested in new equipment and processors to manufacture products out of recycled glass. This has reduced the need to dispose of glass as waste, keeping the resource in circulation.
Icon Water has been trialling the use of recycled glass sand to embed their sewer pipes as opposed to using extracted river sand. With the trial a success, the Environmental Protection Agency and Icon Water have approved its use as sewer pipe and bedding material.
The product not only replaces the use of a natural resource with a recycled product, but is lower in cost and can be even safer for use due to its lower respirable crystalline silica content.
“We’re really pleased to collaborate with the ACT Government, ReGroup and the Materials Recycling Facility to create a product that is not only fit for purpose but provides a sustainable and cost-effective alternative for use,” Ray said.
Icon Water uses around 200 tonnes of pipe embedment sand a year as part of their sewer mains maintenance program. The product will also be available for developers and contractors, which could see up to 2000 tonnes of recycled glass sand used per year as sewer infrastructure is built to support new developments.
Recycled glass sand use in the local construction industry ensures local wastes are captured and returned as local products, preventing the unnecessary use of new materials, particularly declining sand deposits. Using materials that are locally sourced limits the need to transport quarried products from outside the region, reducing the environmental and financial impacts of construction materials.
The innovation and use of products like recovered glass sand help to promote a sustainable and local economy in Canberra and the surrounding region.
“Icon Water is committed to finding new ways to contribute to a more sustainable future for Canberra, and we’re keen to consider further opportunities for the use of recycled products and our active participation in Canberra’s local circular economy,” said Ray.
Watch the trial process of embedding recovered glass sand in sewer pipes at Icon Water.