The Australian building and construction sector consumes around 700,000 tonnes of plastics each year. With less than 12 per cent of the plastic waste being recycled and more than 40 per cent going into landfill, the country is staring at a huge waste problem.

A collaborative project by the Bondor Metecno Group (Bondor) in partnership with Pipemakers Australia Pty Ltd, M Modular Pty Ltd and the University of Melbourne, which aims to boost local recycling of plastic waste, recently received a $2.7 million grant from Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-Ps) to convert plastic waste into lightweight prefabricated building products (LPBPs). Estimated to cost $8.76 million, the project will run until mid-2023.

According to Bondor executive general manager Geoff Marsdon, the building and construction industry is responsible for 20 per cent of Australia's total plastic consumption. By recycling this plastic into lightweight prefabricated building products, the volume of plastic waste going into landfill will be reduced, thereby positively impacting the environment.

Marsdon explains that an automated manufacturing and recycling process will be developed based on Industry 4.0 principles, and advanced chemical and materials handling processes.

“Not only will the developed processes reduce the amount of plastic waste going to landfill, they will also significantly reduce production costs for LPBP while enhancing the quality of the products.

“Consequently, this CRC-P will maximise the economic value of plastic resources in Australia,” he added.

The project team will also include more than 20 Master’s and three PhD students as well as three postdoctoral research fellows, who will be co-supervised by experts from the project partners.