As populations across Australia grow and governments target record public infrastructure investment, opinions swirl as to how the construction industry can lessen its impact on the country’s worsening waste crisis.

The construction industry generated 16.8 per cent of Australia’s 75.8 million tonnes of waste in 2018-19 and is on an upward trajectory as major projects are leveraged to stimulate the economy in response to COVID-19.

The Victorian Government is tackling the issue head on with its Recycling Victoria strategy, which includes dedicated measures to transform waste generation within the infrastructure industry through Ecologiq and the Recycled First Policy.

Infrastructure Advisory Group Associate Director Leanne Griffin has worked closely with the Ecologiq team to help bring its initiatives to life.

She says the program is leveraging Victoria’s Big Build to help optimise the use of recycled and reused materials in transport infrastructure projects, reduce waste and contribute to a Victorian circular economy.

“Ecologiq exists to help identify opportunities to increase the use of reused and recycled materials across Victorian transport infrastructure projects,” Leanne says.

“Ecologiq comes at a crucial time for Victoria’s waste sector, following China’s 2018 decision to restrict the import of local low-quality mixed recyclables and the state’s projected generation of 40 per cent more waste by 2046.

“Achieving the program’s goals requires a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, we are working with government departments and transport operators to help usher in new technical standards and specifications which support the use of new and improved sustainable materials.

“We’re also working with contractors and suppliers to strengthen the supply change for sustainable infrastructure products, which will help accelerate the development of new markets.

“Finally and very importantly, we’re encouraging innovation on projects to make the intentional use of sustainable materials the new normal and pave a greener future for Victoria.”

A major contributor to that focus on innovation is the Recycled First Policy, which requires bidders on Victorian transport projects to demonstrate how they will optimise the use of recycled and reused Victorian materials.

Leanne says the policy, which embeds mandatory requirements to use and report on materials, has been key in affecting change across the industry.

“By making the use of recycled and reused materials a standard procurement practice, we are ensuring the use of sustainable materials is built into the future of major transport infrastructure development across Victoria.

“For other departments or jurisdictions considering how to positively create change – build it into your contracts and procurement mechanisms at the front end. The purchasing power of government cannot be underestimated in helping to create strong markets and sustainable development outcomes.

“We really hope Ecologiq and Recycled First can lay a foundation that helps inspire other governments around Australia to pave the way to a greener future.”

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