Sustainability in action
Peter Tamblyn* from Close the Loop Ltd will be speaking at the Virtual Cleantech Conference & Exhibition on 24–26 November 2020. Here he shares his thoughts about circular economy innovation.
Close the Loop is focused on circular economy innovation. One of its developments is the TonerPlas asphalt additive product manufactured from waste printer toner collected via Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and waste soft plastics diverted from landfill via the REDcycle program.
This is not so much a story about a product, but a story of leadership in the circular economy — the fact that circular economy outcomes are dependent on collaboration rather than competition.
The circular economy is 80% social and 20% technical, meaning that achieving circular economy outcomes requires an elevated emotional intelligence at an organisational level.
With a name like Close the Loop, circular economy principles are at the heart of everything we do, and we have been on the journey since inception in 2001. The re-use of post-consumer materials in infrastructure drives environmental, social and economic value to communities. The collaboration required to bring a product like TonerPlas to market is a business game changer and a living example of the circular economy supply chain in action.
TonerPlas: what does it do and why is it important?
TonerPlas improves the characteristics of asphalt, making road surfaces that have a 65% increase in fatigue life as well as a huge improvement in resistance to deformation. Until TonerPlas, fatigue life and deformation have always been at the expense of one another.
But the real importance of the product is in driving a fundamental shift in thinking in a very traditional asphalt industry. As a result of TonerPlas’s success, councils are now demanding their asphalt supplier put plastic in roads, and it is driving a flurry of research activity to develop new standards in asphalt mix designs to cater to a new direction of using recovered resources in road construction over virgin materials that are simply unsustainable into the future. In short, it is driving a quiet revolution.
Whilst TonerPlas is now a mainstream product — with roads containing the additive being laid somewhere in Australia every day — it has been a 10-year journey with immense challenges.
TonerPlas is a highly engineered product, with fine tolerances requiring comprehensive and robust quality-control standards and processes. It has been through two years of exhaustive testing for microplastics and leachate — more than any other asphalt product in the world, culminating in an Order & Exemption from the NSW EPA, the toughest EPA in Australia on applying waste materials to land.
From a circular economy perspective, these road surfaces are infinitely recyclable, meaning they can be recovered, rejuvenated and re-laid an infinite number of times.
This is the future of road infrastructure and of dealing appropriately with problematic packaging materials in our environment.
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