Lake Macquarie's mayor has made a commitment to using recycled materials "wherever possible" after a new facility that can turn plastic bags and print toner into asphalt opened in Teralba on Wednesday.
"We want to make sure that soft plastics and other wastes are being reused on local roads," Mayor Kay Fraser said.
The infrastructure company Downer has replaced its 40-year-old asphalt production plant in Teralba with a $5 million facility that can incorporate waste materials, such as soft plastics, glass, rubber, printer toners and old asphalt, into roadbase.
The company's general manager of road services, Dante Cremasco, said the vast majority of Downer's 30 asphalt plants in Australia, and now all six of its plants in NSW and the ACT, had the capability to use waste materials in "various degrees".
He said the facility at Teralba would be able to create roadbase products made up of "in excess" of 80 per cent recycled materials. Its most cutting-edge facilities can produce roadbase that is 99 per cent recycled.
Most of the waste materials would be sourced from the company's partners Close the Loop and RED Group, he said, while Downer would stockpile and source used asphalt directly from projects in the Lake Macquarie area.
"We've been going through a renewal process for the past five to ten years, replacing a lot of the older plants," Mr Cremasco said. "Each plant is different: we have far bigger plants than this one, as well as smaller plants. As you keep going, you get more advances in technology."
He said the Teralba plant was unique in the diversity of materials it can handle.
"We can run 12 different types of aggregate and three different types of polymers, fibres and that at the same time. It's a very flexible plant," he said.
The facility does, however, have the capability to create "virgin" roadbase with unused material. Mr Cremasco said the uptake and price of recycled products would depend on clients' willingness to use them.
"We aim to give parity in pricing, but pricing is really driven by volume. If we're doing bespoke runs for material with high-recycled content our cost becomes very high, but once we start responding to bigger tenders with high recycled-content materials, and that becomes the norm, I believe it will be significantly lowering the cost of production," he said.
The company has found that using soft plastic in its asphalt mix allows the roadbase to expand and contract with less cracking. Cr Fraser said Lake Macqaurie was "really keen to be on board".
"The more people that use this product, the cheaper it will become. And you can't put a price on the environment," she said.