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Recycled glass could become a product, not a problem in NSW

Each year, Hunter Resource Recovery recycles about 30,000 tonnes of recycled material from the yellow bins at more than 148,000 homes across Maitland, Cessnock, Lake Macquarie and Singleton councils.

This includes glass, paper and hard plastics. The recovered glass is cleaned and processed so it can be re-used. However, about 85 percent of the recycled glass is shipped off to Victoria, where most of it is stock-piled. Some is reused in areas like road construction, insulation, filtration or other glass products.

“The glass can be cleaned and refined and ready for use like any other product,” CEO Roger Lewis said.

“But in NSW it is still classified as waste. There is no flexibility, it will always be a waste not a resource. This means we can’t stockpile it for local markets. It also attracts the Waste Levy, because the NSW Government classifies us as a waste facility, not a recycling facility. It’s cheaper for us to transport the material to Victoria.”

IQ Renew takes glass and other recyclables from Sydney’s Northern Beaches and the Central Coast. It also runs a facility in NSW that cleans and re-process glass into sand that can be reused for a range of building and construction purposes.

It’s in the process of finalising an agreement with a NSW Council to provide a large amount of its recycled glass product. However, this alone will not solve the glass recycling problem in NSW, according to its Chief Operations Manager Graham Knowles.

“It’s still classified as a waste, even though its washed, cleaned and turned back into sand,” Graham said.

“When you put water through, it comes out clean. There’s no leachate.

“To get an exemption to use it in NSW can take four to five years. In Victoria, it might take you about 18 months to two years and in Queensland it might take 12 months.”

Graham believes that we could find a market to use almost all our recycled glass, if the NSW Roads and Maritime Service started using washed glass for 10 percent of the compacted layers in its road base.

“It’s not processed like the refined glass sand product, but it is completely sealed under the road. It’s the perfect recycled content for this use, but the opportunity is not being taken.”

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