Queensland regional councils have been among the early adopters of technology that uses recycled polypropylene plastic for reinforcing concrete instead of the traditional steel.
Developed in conjunction with researchers from James Cook University, Brisbane-based Fibercon’s Emesh product has already seen more than 50 tonnes of plastic waste diverted into construction applications – resulting in reduced CO2 emissions and water usage.
Fibercon says Emesh has been used by councils predominantly in footpaths, but also has applications from pavement concrete to channel drains, embankment erosion control, precast sewer and stormwater pits.
Fibercon chief executive officer Mark Combe said Australia used about 25 million cubic metres of concrete per year and a conservative estimate placed about five per cent of that use in footpaths and light pavements – equating to 1.25 million cubic metres.
“If we replaced all the steel mesh in these pavements with Emesh, we would reduce our CO2 by 125,000 tons annually, and re-use 5000 tonnes of waste plastic,” Mr Combe said. “It’s an exciting goal for us.”
Apart from the environmental advantages, Mr Rowe said using the plastic fibres was faster than placing steel mesh reinforcement and cheaper in overall cost while eliminating the risk of corrosion.
He said local government areas that had used the product to date included Townsville, Yeppoon/Livingstone Shire, Mackay, Bundaberg, Gold Coast, Goondiwindi, Hinchinbrook, Douglas, Emerald (Central Highlands), Whitsunday, Mareeba (Tablelands Shire), Banana (Biloela), Grafton and Ballarat.
It had also has been used by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads in causeways, drains, traffic island infills and precast pits, he said, as well as being used by VicRoads, VicRail and NSW Roads and Maritime Services for various applications.
For more technical details on the development of Emesh, check out this story we ran in 2016: