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Author: J. Lodge
Source: The ABC
Date: 29th February 2016

A central Queensland company is giving the region’s empty beer and wine bottles a second life, putting them back into the community through local infrastructure projects.

The Rockhampton Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is taking some of the 4,800 tonnes of glass, collected from around the region each year, and crushing it down to create a technicoloured construction sand. “We’re the first MRF operator in central Queensland that’s doing it,” operations manager Ryan Saville said. 

The process from beer bottles to construction sand begins at the Materials Recovery Facility. About 100 tonnes of glass each week is sorted and separated from the other recyclables and crushed down to a size of about 3mm or less. The glass is then heated to remove any impurities.

“Essentially most of that product is beer bottles from the region, so it’s got sugar, yeast and hops on it,” Mr Saville said. “So we put it through a burner system, we heat it up to 150 degrees to try and burn the sugars and the yeast off it.”

It is then sent onto Rockhampton landscaping supply business Hopkins Brothers where it is mixed to create the construction sand.

“What we do with the glass that’s brought to us is put it through a screening and blending process which sees it incorporated with our existing alluvial bedding sand,” managing director Robert Hopkins said.

Mr Hopkins said a positive of the project was the opportunity it allowed to offer more jobs to locals.

“Especially in these trying times at the moment it’s just a good feel for the community,” he said. Once the sand is mixed, it is then stockpiled ready for sale.

One business currently signed up for its purchase is Fitzroy River Water (FRW).

“The crushed glass sand product will be used in locations where it can be placed at depths in trenches to cover new water mains and sewer pipes constructed by FRW,” acting manager Jason Plumb said.

Economic and environmental benefits

Council’s business enterprise committee chairman Neil Fisher said it was an exciting venture between local business and council.

Councillor Fisher said it was going to benefit the region both economically and environmentally. “I can’t think of anything bad about it, it’s all positive. It’s a product that was once rubbish, once discarded, it’s now a product that is the base of developing central Queensland.”

“I can’t think of anything bad about it, it’s all positive” he said. “It’s a product that was once rubbish, once discarded, it’s now a product that is the base of developing central Queensland.

“It’s actually going to have a use that, rather than seeing those bottles go to waste, this could be in around your next water main.” 

The MRF’s Ryan Saville said this was also a cheaper option. “It was costing us about $130 a tonne to put it into landfill as an interim measure,” he said.

He said to process the material it costs the MRF about $70 a tonne and then to mix it with the sand costs about $15 a tonne.

‘Just the beginning’

Mr Saville said the glass could be refined even further to be used for other construction purposes. He said ideas it was looking into included eventually using the material to make bricks or even be used in pool filtration.

“We can do a lot of weird and wonderful things after this process,” he said. “This is just the beginning of it all.”

 Read the article on The ABC