Relationships that drive recycling innovation

Downer’s state-of-the-art mobile asphalt plant – locating the plant at the end of Queenstown Airport’s runway over the course of the project minimised the need for large trucks on local roads and reduced the company’s fleet emissions

Globally, businesses are equipping themselves with ways to process and recycle commercial and community waste, in the war on plastics and pollution.

New Zealand’s contribution to the sustainability development goals is driving the public and private sectors towards more innovative procurement practices, and ensuring that recycling and sustainability initiatives remain at the forefront of business strategy. Innovation is the key ingredient to creating ways not just to control waste, but also to repurpose and recycle it.

When businesses with a shared sense of sustainable responsibility partner together, the recycling outcomes see a significant shift for the local communities.

What lies beneath

Within the construction and infrastructure industry, Downer is leading the way in innovative recycling practices with projects like the recently completed Queenstown Airport apron resurfacing.

A new asphalt layer now covers the airport’s apron, but what lies beneath is the ingenuity of Kiwi-led recycling technologies. The relationship between key stakeholders Queenstown Airport Corporation, Downer, and sustainability partners Close the Loop, Fuji Xerox and DB Breweries, has led to a surfacing solution that converts trash into environmentally responsible, low-carbon asphalt which includes:

  • TonerPave™ – a low-carbon asphalt substitute, developed in partnership with Close the Loop, which uses a mixture of residual waste toner from print toner cartridges and is mixed into the asphalt binder
  • Glass sand – a recycled product made from crushed glass, helping to protect natural aggregates like sand
  • EME2 – a high-modulus structural asphalt, created to build stronger, thinner, longer-lasting surfaces; it employs a very hard bitumen grade which gives superior performance in heavy-duty structure projects.

Adding toner and EME2 into the mix works to stiffen the asphalt surface as it gets hotter, meaning the apron is less vulnerable to rutting and water ingress.

“By partnering with Kiwi organisations such as Queenstown Airport, Downer can pioneer this form of sustainable asphalt which provides a robust, durable surface in all weathers,” says George Leidig, Downer general manager of surfacing operations.

Sustainability across the project

Not stopping at recycled materials, sustainability was incorporated into all aspects of the project. Downer’s state-of-the-art mobile asphalt plant was located at the end of Queenstown Airport’s runway over the course of the project. Having the mobile asphalt onsite reduced road haulage significantly, which minimised the need for large trucks on local roads, as well as reducing emissions across the fleet.

DB Breweries’ beer bottle crushing machine within the airport’s lounge area converted glass bottles to sand in front of the public

The project included an activation space in the airport lounge area with a trade stand showcasing the project, a recycling station for waste toner cartridges, and the DB Breweries beer bottle crushing machine which converts glass bottles to sand in front of the public.

“When companies come together in this way with a united vision for delivering recycling solutions, the results can be groundbreaking and the benefits long-lived,” says Mr Leidig. “We are constantly exploring ways to minimise waste by repurposing recycled materials into new products. Our approach to sustainability is critical to the long-term value we create for the communities we serve.”

Through creating new and innovative solutions for a more sustainable future, Downer is helping to create a legacy for the generations of New Zealanders to come.

This story was first published in the April/May’19 edition of NZ Construction News and is reproduced here with the permission of Aston Publishing