Recycling project will see Lake Macquarie's waste glass turned into 'glass sand' for use in civil construction

REUSE: Glass sand being spread through a drainage channel at FIshing Point on Wednesday. Picture: Lake Macquarie City Council.
REUSE: Glass sand being spread through a drainage channel at FIshing Point on Wednesday. Picture: Lake Macquarie City Council.

Lake Macquarie Council is hoping to transform part of their recycling process by trialing a scheme which turns recycled glass into “glass sand” suitable for civil construction projects. 

Announced on Wednesday at a Fishing Point drainage construction site, the project is part of council’s push to find local solutions to the growing national waste problem.

The project could allow all 5000 annual tonnes of Lake Macquarie’s glass to be reused every year and extended to 12,000 tonnes collected across the region if other councils join suit. 

The “glass sand” is being manufactured at a custom-built plant on the Central Coast.

Collections from residential bins which are sorted at sorted and processed at a materials recovery facility at Gateshead will remain the same.

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But rather than send sorted glass interstate, as has been the process in the past for sale to international markets, it will be transferred to the Central Coast plant. 

“There is a growing need across Australia to find an end use for recycled glass,” Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said.

“With companies finding it cheaper to import new glass than buy recycled, we need to start coming up with innovative, cost-effective alternatives.

“This collaborative project could help solve a national crisis in our own backyard.”

Lake Macquarie City Council’s manager planning and sustainability, Alice Howe, said the Hunter-first project could be a regional solution to the recycling problems facing the nation. 

Much of Australia’s recycled glass material has been stockpiled in recent months, after international sale markets to China fell through

“If we don’t address the end-use issues for recycled glass soon, the stockpiles of this material sent interstate and awaiting reuse will simply continue to grow,” Dr Howe said.

“Our strategy is twofold: we are demonstrating the suitability of recycled glass sand for our own civil works program, and have amended our engineering guidelines to specify how this material can be used in development across the city.

“We aim to gradually increase the amount of recycled glass that is processed into glass sand and used in our own operations. 

“If the rest of the region follows our lead, this initiative could close the loop on thousands of tonnes of glass each year.”

Cr Fraser and representatives from other Hunter councils visited the construction site at Fishing Point to see the glass sand in use.

Crews poured the sand into drainage pits in preparation for drainage pipes to be laid on top.

Council says independent research into glass sand found it is equivalent to virgin sand in terms of engineering applications and environmental factors. It has similar abrasive properties, provided the glass sand is crushed into particles no larger than 3mm in size, such as that used by Council.