Geelong research collaboration creates Australia’s first waste carpet solution
Around the world, millions of tonnes of carpet fibres are being dumped and landfilled. However, researchers out of the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) have helped develop an Australian first – a solution that reuses carpet fibre waste to create a concrete product that strengthens concrete in a range of applications.
The project, a collaboration between IFM, G T Recycling and Godfrey Hirst – which are all Geelong-based – is the culmination of seven years of research and development into a sustainable recycling solution for waste carpet during the manufacturing process.
And as Australia’s construction industry faces material and resource shortages, the need for new and innovative products to tackle shortfalls is becoming increasingly important.
G T Recycling Business Advisor Doug McLean said before the collaboration was formed there were no carpet recycling activities being done in Australia.
‘We obtained a state government research and development grant to support this initiative, and approached Deakin’s Institute of Frontier Materials to assist, due to its local connection and reputation for working collaboratively with industry,’ he says.
IFM also received support from the Victorian Government and set out to develop the idea of diverting the waste carpet away from landfill by using the waste for a new recycled carpet product to reinforce concrete.
The result is FibreCrete 100, a carpet fibre-reinforced concrete that can be applied to driveways, footpaths, cycle paths and industrial hardstand areas. Collaborators hope that FibreCrete 100 will appeal to the industrial construction industry and local councils. The product, which was awarded a Highly Commended Award from Carpet Recycling UK, is due for market commercialisation by the end of the year.
‘The result of extensive research and development undertaken, is a concrete reinforcing fibre product, which meets Australian Standards, enhances the strength and cracking characteristics of certain concrete applications, particularly footpaths, and is commercially priced,’ Mr McLean says.
‘Any waste if not recycled, is a potential wasted resource, and a cost imposed on both industry and society in general.
‘A common objective for all stakeholders in this project was to reduce waste generation destined for landfill and create a new life for a previously lost and valuable resource, in order to enhance our environment and contribute to our direction to achieve a circular economy.’
IFM’s Professor Lingxue Kong led the research alongside Dr Mary She. He says this project demonstrates the importance of industry having confidence in using recycled fibres.
‘This project has provided very useful data for the industry to develop a standard that the concrete mixers can implement in their practical use,’ he says.
‘The research is transformational as the carpets are currently dumped and landfilled.’
Prof. Kong says the most important finding is that the strength of concrete with up to 0.5% of carpet fibres added is higher to plain concrete.
Other benefits of the product are its excellent distribution throughout the concrete mix, workability and finishing, reduction in drying shrinkage cracking and flexural performance.
‘To determine the in-situ performance of carpet fibre reinforced concrete, a trial site has been allocated by Godfrey Hirst for constructing two sections of footpaths: one with blended carpet fibre reinforced concrete and conventional steel mesh reinforcement, and one with the same dosage of blended carpet fibre reinforced concrete but without any steel mesh,’ Prof. Kong says.
‘This trial footpath construction will allow the assessment of the long-term performance of the carpet fibre reinforced concrete.
‘In addition, a set-up for conducting laboratory tests of restrained shrinkage has been proposed and prepared. The concrete sample fabrication and monitoring of cracking potential under drying environment will be done soon.’
Mr McLean says G T Recycling plans to undertake additional research and development collaboration with Deakin in the future.
‘As additional plastic is being recycled in the Australian market, new and innovative end uses for this raw material need to be established in order to ensure that there are sustainable domestic markets that can offer a range of new applications for recycled plastic products into the future,’ Mr McLean says.
‘The positive collaboration experience between the parties, combined with the culmination of an innovative new product, has given G T Recycling the confidence that Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials have the skills and capabilities to support its ongoing product development requirements.’