This morning's coffee cup could become tomorrow's road

Monday, 06 March, 2023

This morning's coffee cup could become tomorrow's road

A Penrith suburban road has become what is claimed to be the first in Australia to include recycled coffee cups in its construction. The fibres in the cups help create a more durable product that is claimed to be quieter and safer than regular asphalt.

Known as PAK-PAVE Roads, the sustainable asphalt has been developed by State Asphalts NSW in conjunction with Closed Loop Environmental Solutions, which operates the Simply Cups paper cup recycling program. The Commonwealth’s Cooperative Research Centres Program Grant has facilitated the development of the product, involving the University of New South Wales and sanctioned by the NSW EPA and Transport NSW.

The pilot project will take place along a section of Jamison Road at South Penrith, to be followed by a second at Swallow Drive, Erskine Park. The projects will use over 135,000 recycled paper cups, including coffee cups which make up 85% of the paper cups collected for recycling in the Penrith LGA in 2022.

The roads will use other recycled materials including the equivalent of 1.2 million glass stubbies, together with reclaimed asphalt pavement and steel furnace slag. These materials will comprise more than 50% of PAK-PAVE.

Benefits of the roads include:

  • Using recycled paper cups as a beneficial additive.
  • Improved pavement durability and crack resistance.
  • Improved wet weather skid resistance and reduced noise levels from surface texture.
  • Improved durability of Stone Mastic Asphalt allows thinner surfacing of roads, where thickness and the cost per m2 of pavement can be reduced.
  • Fewer raw materials are required.
  • 24% reduction in carbon footprint.

John Kypreos, Director of State Asphalts NSW, said the team has been working over three years to develop PAK-PAVE Roads, supported by the government at all levels.

“It is exciting to be delivering a practical circular economy solution in partnership with Closed Loop, and we hope that other councils and state governments will start specifying PAK-PAVE Roads, both as a high-quality road surface and a product that uses a high percentage of recycled materials,” Kypreos said.

Tricia Hitchen, Penrith Mayor, said the council is proud to be leading the way in the move towards a more sustainable circular economy.

“With over 1208 km of roads maintained by Penrith City Council and countless kilometres of state roads in our LGA, we have the opportunity to make our roads far more environmentally friendly than first thought through the use of recycled materials,” Hitchens said.

Rob Pascoe, Closed Loop MD, said, “The Simply Cups program has saved more than 30 million paper cups such as coffee cups and takeaway soft drink cups from landfill since beginning in 2017.”

There are currently more than 630 7-Eleven stores that have cup collection units as well as collection locations in numerous shopping centres, office buildings, schools and universities. Locations can be found on the Simply Cups website or on the RecycleMate app.

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