Victoria’s commitment to greener infrastructure

Video transcript

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. Ecologiq Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

It’s now my very great pleasure to introduce to the stage Minister Allan, Deputy Premier of the State of Victoria, Minister for Transport Infrastructure and Suburban Rail Loop, and the Minister for the Commonwealth Games Delivery, to share Victoria’s commitment to a greener infrastructure, Minister Allan.

Text: Ministerial Address, Victoria’s commitment to greener infrastructure.

Minister Jacinta Allan:

Well good morning, it’s great to be here this morning.

Thanks Tim for your welcome introduction and seeing us through the program today.

And, can I also start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

And speaking of leaders it’s great to look around the room today and see so many leaders from, and experts from across our infrastructure sector, but also the circular economy sector coming together to join forces, because I think we all really do understand that we have, not just a responsibility, but also an accountability to work together to achieve those outcomes of a circular economy, reducing waste and taking real climate action.

And I want to at the outset start by thanking and acknowledging Allen Garner.

I know you’ve already heard from Allen today in the ecologiq queue team because they have really driven this agenda over the last few years within government.

Today is a very visible culmination of their efforts but it’s not the fit, the end at all, there’s so much more that we need to do and I want to thank all of you also for your attendance and commitment today to working with us.

Now, I know many of you in the room are already involved in working with the government and working with our agencies on helping us to deliver our Transport Infrastructure Program through the Big Build, so I’m not going to spend too much time on the scope of projects and why we are investing in these projects, you all see that as you travel around our city and the state.

But what I wanted to focus on today is what’s important is, as important as why we build these projects is how we build these projects, because certainly that big investment isn’t just transforming our transport network and providing a pipeline of tens of thousands of jobs for Victorians, but we also want to take action to use this investment to drive this investment and bring multiple benefits to the Victorian community, and understand that it can be used in a way to support other policy objectives across government, whether that’s in the area of social procurement, providing work and employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged groups.

And a terrific example of this is the really strong outcomes we’ve been able to achieve to increase indigenous employment across our program, driving economic recovery in this post-COVID pandemic environment, increasing gender diversity in the construction and transport sector, and of course the reason why we are here today looking at how we can use it as a step-change to increase the use of recycled materials in our projects.

And before I go into a bit more of the details about Recycled First and what we’re doing in this space, I did just want to step back one step further and address the broader policy landscape that we’re operating in here in Victoria, because for a number of years now, thanks to the leadership across government.

Particularly I want to pay acknowledgement to my ministerial colleague, the Minister for Climate Action, Lily D’Ambrosio.

We have worked hard over a number of years now to put in place a whole of government approach that places climate action, not just in the environment department or the climate action department but in every department in every portfolio area of government.

And way back in 2017 we were one of the first jurisdictions in the world to legislate a net zero target.

What we’ve also done since then is set in place requirements for sectors like Transport to develop and action pledges that outline the concrete steps that we will take to cut emissions.

And the work you are doing and the work you are doing with us through Recycled First plays a very important role in that broader whole of government work to reduce emissions in this instance in the Transport and Construction sector.

Now, as Allen has already pointed out, the challenges we face globally regarding ways cannot be overstated, and whilst we do have this record investment in transport infrastructure that’s created a platform to introduce an ambitious and firs of its kind approach to using recycled and reused materials.

And many of you have contributed to the progress we’ve seen over the past two years since Recycled First was introduced, but if we are to really overcome the challenges we face then we need to continue to step up.

So I guess one of the questions today is how do we do it?

And I want to outline today to you some of the key areas that I think underpin the opportunity we have here in Victoria in terms of demand that created by an unprecedented investment in projects, in policy settings and the ability to develop and implement a world-leading Recycled First policy supported by drivers to ensure that the policy isn’t just talked about but it’s implemented.

And collaboration, the flow-on economic environmental and social benefits that are providing confidence in our supply chain and also connecting all stakeholders behind this one goal.

To achieve this step-change we will need governments, industry, research bodies, regulators to work together to challenge the status quo, to identify those barriers, and importantly remove them, that are holding us back from continuing to innovate and think big to implement our policy across this program and beyond.

So let’s start with demand.

The Big Build, as I said, is creating an environment where demand for materials has reached levels that encourages suppliers and manufacturers of recycled product confidence to find innovative solutions.

If all the opportunities were taken up Victoria’s Big Build has the potential to utilise almost 11 million tonnes of recycled and reused materials over the next five years.

And even at the current utilisation rates the potential impact is significant.

Almost 7.5 million tonnes of recycled and reused materials could be used over the next five years.

And there is an opportunity to scale up even further by continuing to remove barriers, changing perceptions, and by finding further innovative solutions.

And that is one of the challenges amongst a few, that if we are tackling the waste challenges globally we need to go beyond what is currently possible.

In terms of policy Recycled First is the first policy of its kind to mandate the use of recycled and reused materials, and as I said, it was launched a couple of years ago back in March 2020 and it’s using government procurement as a lever to drive change.

Recycled First complements the work that’s being done by Recycling Victoria in the Department of Land, Planning and Environment, as I said under the leadership and guidance of the Minister for Climate Action, Lily D’Ambrosio.

Back in the late 2020s the Childs Road Project was the first project to implement the Recycled First Policy, it achieved 30,000 tonnes of recycled material commitments.

Since then Recycled First has doubled the use of recycled and reused materials from its pre-policy days on comparable projects, and I think Allen might have given you a figure earlier that has increase adaption from 35% to almost 70%.

And the power of this policy is not in the words that are written on paper but in the shift in perceptions.

Once something is mandated it also mandates that change in perception for it’s too complex, there are too many barriers, it’s too costly, to instead what do we need to do to get there?

And the success of the policy to date has been in the commitment of the industry to work with us, and in ecologiq’s ability to drive the change.

It’s in the creation of reference guides, educating industry connecting suppliers and with the demand and removing barriers in terms of changing standards and specifications.

And then finally in collaboration, and we’ve heard this word already today, and I’m pretty confident you’ll hear it a number of more times throughout the course of the conference, when you combine demand, policy and the subsequent change in perception there are flow-on impacts.

With ecologiq’s help we are now directly connecting suppliers with demand, and in the Trades Hall right now, I’m sure you’ve already had a chance to have a look at it, we are doing this by providing local suppliers and manufacturers with the chance to promote their products and services and make those vital connections with contractors.

We’ve also built a supplier map that maps suppliers across metropolitan Melbourne and right across regional Victoria as well, and means when you look at that map, regardless of where your next project is being built, a local supplier isn’t too far away and could just provide the solution you need for your project.

And just a few months ago, just a couple of months ago actually, I had the great pleasure of attending the 50th Anniversary Dinner, a celebration of Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology.

It was also an event that coincided with the start of new and exciting research that’s being undertaken to develop a recycled plastic railway sleeper for mainline tracks, and a supplier is with us here today, Integrated Recycling, is helping to create the prototype for this trial.

I’m pleased to say today that to support this collaboration I’m happy to announce that Sustainability Victoria and ecologiq have provided $500,000 in funding under the Allocated Grants Market Acceleration Program to the Monash Institute of Rail Technology to undertake product research and also the development of the next generation advance composite plastic railway sleeper using kerbside collected plastic waste.

This project is going to be delivered with innovative research using the world-class research facilities available at Monash University.

To give you a sense of the scale of the potential of this project, there are more than 11 million sleepers across Australia, and tens of thousands of these are replaced each and every year, so the potential to replace traditional timber or concrete sleepers with recycled plastics is clearly quite enormous.

I also saw the incredible impact the Recycled First program can have on providing job opportunities when I visited the wonderful staff at McCallum Industries in Ballarat recently.

It’s a disability support organisation and a social enterprise that employs approximately 90 people with a disability.

The workers at McCallum were packing a 100% recycled plastic product called eMesh which is used to replace steel mesh in concrete for shared use paths across dozens of projects across Australia and on many of our projects here in Victoria.

Recycle products like eMesh keep hundreds of tonnes of plastics out of landfill, and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of projects.

But as you can see from this example this is a product and a program that is also creating jobs and supporting those jobs across a range of different parts of Victoria as well.

And this is some of the fantastic outcomes we can achieve from the Recycled First program.

Another great example is on the Mordialloc Freeway which was recently completed, we installed the world’s first noise walls made from 75% recycled plastic.

The amount of recycled content going into these noise wall panels is the equivalent of 30 million water bottles, or the plastic waste collected from 25,000 Victorian homes in one year.

And again, to give you another example of the double benefit you get from a program like this, these noise walls were locally produced in Carrum Downs just down the road a little bit from the Mordialloc Freeway by Pact Group, again helping to support and create local jobs.

So before I finish up this morning I did really want to thank all of you for coming and helping to work with us to shape the future.

If we are to accelerate change, not just make the change but to accelerate that change, we all do need to play our part, and the Andrew’s Labor Government will continue to drive the policy, address the barriers, and support the adaptation of innovative products.

For our contractors and designers we need you to continue to push beyond the mandated levels, continue to push the boundaries, and in turn probably push us along the way as well.

We also need out researchers and suppliers to continue to come together to create and test, and we need industry bodies to support education and adoption.

And also too, I know there’s local government representatives here today, we look forward to working with you as well to help turn the waste in local communities into widespread uses beyond the Big Build.

As I said before, we’ve heard the word collaboration a number of times together, so in finishing thank you for your collaboration, for your partnership, the success of this program and the success in driving down emissions and reducing waste relies on partnerships and programs like this, so thank you for your time today, but also thank you for the ongoing commitment to work with us on this really important and exciting policy area of Recycled First.

Thank you.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. Ecologiq Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Audio: Music playing.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Well thank you Minister Allan for your time this morning, it’s been really valuable for us to hear from the State Government.

I must say spending time last night in the various booths in the Trade Hall you can see how far ahead Victoria is of many of its competitors, and that’s in no small part due to government policy and action as Minister Allan has outlined for us this morning.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. Ecologiq Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Sign up for updates

Stay updated about ecologiQ with the key announcements and milestones