Giving plastic a new life

Engineer Steve Rawson of SR Engineering who helped develop Polyrok with Coles Cobblebank development manager Jason Delaney. (Supplied)

Benjamin Millar

Cobblebank’s brand new shopping centre has played its part in saving more than 6.5 million pieces of plastic from landfill before even opening.

A groundbreaking new construction material known as Polyrok has been incorporated into the new Coles supermarket development due to open later this year.

Polyrok is made from plastic bags and soft plastic packaging that is recovered from the REDcycle program, offering a more sustainable alternative to aggregate minerals used in concrete.

The technology was researched and developed in partnership with RMIT University and recycling organisations RED Group and Replas.

Coles state construction manager Victoria Fiona Lloyd said the supermarket giant has been looking at opportunities to use the new technology in future developments given only 10 per cent of the 3.5 million tonnes of soft plastic thrown out by Australians each year is recycled, according to Clean Up Australia.

“We collect roughly 30 million pieces of plastic every month through our customer REDcycle program, so there’s a huge opportunity to use Polyrok in other Coles developments or other construction projects,” she said.

“This is just the beginning of what is possible – this project alone will help repurpose more than 6.5 million pieces of soft plastic from landfill.”

Replas joint managing director Mark Jacobsen said the partnership has helped take one of the most problematic plastics and turned it into a fit for purpose resource.

“We congratulate Coles for taking the steps towards a circular economy and for practicing sustainable procurement with Polyrok,” he said.

RMIT University civil and infrastructure engineering senior lecturer Dr Jonathan Tran said the university has been proud to use its expertise in civil and infrastructure engineering in developing the material.

“The testing has shown this sustainable aggregate is robust and fit for purpose.”

The Coles REDcycle program has now diverted more than 1.3 billion pieces of soft plastic from landfill since 2011.