Welcome address

Video transcript

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

Professor Tim Flannery:

Welcome to The ecologiQ Greener infrastructure Conference, we've got a fantastic day ahead of us I'd encourage you all to take your seats as soon as you can.

There's a couple of spare tables here up the front that can be filled up I think, and we'll get started with things.

I'd like to begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of this land on which we meet, and I'd like to pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

My name is Professor Tim Flannery.

I was Australian of the Year in 2007 and between 2011 and 13 I was the nation's first, and indeed only Climate Commissioner.

Since then I've been Chief Counsellor at the Australian Climate Council, so I've got a background in climate particularly.

I'm going to be your host today and I'd like to thank you all for taking the time to join us for this really special event.

It's an incredibly exciting time to be speaking about how we unite the infrastructure industry with experts in circular economy to deliver purposely greener projects.

There's no time like the present, a whole series of things have happened that make this really the moment, I think, to seize this opportunity for the big projects we’re undertaking to make them as green as we possibly can.

Today's event is brought to you by ecologiQ, a Victorian Government initiative that's driving the reuse, recycling and repurposing of waste materials on road and rail infrastructure across Victoria using the Big Build to deliver successful projects and circular outcomes.

Before we begin proceedings there's a few housekeeping matters that I'd like to bring to your attention.

The first is you can get connected at this conference and in half-a-mo I think we'll get the details on the screen there, how you can access the Wi-Fi by following instructions and if you want to follow the event you can do so on LinkedIn.

So I'd encourage you all to get involved with the conversation, share your key takeaways and on-site experience by using the hashtag #ecologiqconference2022, that's one word, no spaces, no caps.

The bathrooms are located immediately outside on our right and there are also bathrooms located in the Eureka Foyer next to door 12.

Now in terms of emergency procedures, if you hear an alarm that sounds a bit like beep, beep, beep, I can't do that very well but it'd probably be louder than that, remain where you are and wait for further instruction that's really an alert alarm.

But if you hear a whooping alarm whoop, whoop, whoop, then leave the building immediately, there'll be wardens to direct you to the nearest safe evacuation point and let you know if and when it's safe to return.

For any fire, medical or security emergencies please notify the centre’s security immediately.

I'd also encourage you to download the attendee app.

This event is a paperless event, well almost a paperless event, I've got a couple of sheets up here, mostly paperless, so if you'd like to view the agenda including speakers, session times and sponsors simply download the event app by Events Air and enter the event code which is ecq22, got all up there on the screen.

Now, we are going to have a live Q&A facility here and we'd love to hear from you throughout the event, so if you do have questions for any of the speakers, or a question you'd like to post to panellists during the live discussion which will occur a bit later, simply scan the Slido QR code provided to you on your table and submit your questions, and if time permits I'll do my very best to make sure that those questions get asked.

Finally before I pass you across to Allen Garner I'd like to say a special thanks to all our sponsors and exhibitors, they'll be on the screen in half a moment.

Text: List of partners, Exhibitors, Sponsors and Supporting Partners.

If you can you can see that there's a lot of them, in fact too many to mention, but without their support we couldn't run an event like this.

You can hear from some of those sponsors and exhibitors on the program, others will be presenting in the Trades Hall Theatre, and the rest are demonstrating services and solutions at their booths.

And I'd really encourage you to take the time to go around and talk to those people at the booths, I did it last night.

I discovered the most astonishing things.

I had no idea that we could make railway sleepers out of plastic or that we could make barrier tape, sustainable barrier tape, and source that here in Victoria but they're just two of the many, many, many innovations that you'll see in those booths.

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce Allen Garner, CEO at Major Roads Projects Victoria to the stage, please give him a very warm welcome.

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

Text: Welcome to the Future.

Visual: View of conveyor belt moving plastic waste, aerial view of excavation.

Text: The ecologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference starts now.

Visual: View of construction sites where recycled material is being used. Aerial view of bridge.

Text: Help us transform the design and construction of all infrastructure projects and think Recycled First.

Visual: View of roadworks and recycled pipes.

Text: Thank you for joining us.

Visual: View of station platform and railway tracks. View of tyres being shredded.

Text: We all have a role to play.

Visual: White background.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. Bigbuild.vic.gov.au. Victoria State Government.

Text. Welcome from ecologiQ. Allen Garner, CEO, Major Roads Projects Victoria.

Allen Garner, CEO, Major Roads Projects Victoria:

Thank you Tim and good morning everyone.

We really have a diverse group today, which was one of the goals of the conference to bring people from across government, across councils, across our construction sector partners, our designers, engineers, researchers, developers, manufacturers and people interested in making a difference and changing the sector permanently.

So I thank you all for attending in advance, it's really wonderful to see such a great group.

As Tim said last night was a really energetic event and we're really pleased with the number of people that turned out and made it successful already without even getting into today.

The bus tours were well attended yesterday and so it's really gratifying to us to see the sense of interest and people wanting to join us, and join in making a difference and that's really what this conference is about, it's about bringing us all together to see what needs to be done, what we can do, what we are doing and what will drive change for the future.

I thought I'd just remind us a bit of why and how we've got here.

There has been some really great advances already in recycling, it's been going for years I heard last night that Alex Frasers were harnessing the engines out of Spitfires after the world war to harvest the steel, so it goes back a long way the recycling but we've never really got it to a point where it's 100% and it's a fully sustainable outcome.

So just remind us where we were not too long ago.

Visual: Photograph of burning tyres, rubbish tip, plastic in the waterways, plastic on the shoreline.

Text: Rubbish or Resource?

So pre-pandemic not that very long ago we really were facing the crisis, the fires were a reality, our tips are overflowing, plastic floating around the oceans, our disposal practices were very, very primitive, you know, dig a hole and tip the rubbish in it, we've got plenty of space, you know, it's an efficient way to manage it.

And it was an efficient way in a sense for time but that was for a time passed and it's not for a time today.

We need to move on, you know, ad hoc storage of chemicals in sheds, on vacant properties, and actually find a way to change that whole paradigm.

And as a challenge, you know, is it rubbish or is it a resource?

We're very good at digging big holes in the ground and finding tiny, tiny microscopic bits of metals that are precious to turn them into something useful.

If we turn our attention to doing the same thing with our used products and materials there isn't a reason in the world why we can't make all of those valuable materials for the future.

At about that time there was a lot of media stories going around and it piqued our attention to a group of us just sitting down after a meeting one day discussing why is it?

Why don't we use more recycled materials in the road?

And we do some things, we've managed to move from some primitive materials in but what stops us, what's the issue, and and we posed several questions but we really landed on one simple question what's the barrier?

What's been holding us back?

Text: Victoria’s waste challenge.

So as we learned with our research, and heard again last night from from SV, the 16 million tonnes of waste generated in in Victoria which is 20 odd percent of the nation's waste.

It's a huge amount and if you look you see the stats 10 million tonnes of that is being redirected and reused, that seems a fantastic percentage.

Unfortunately the bit that's left keeps growing and we're not actually making a dent and what's left it's the hard materials to manage, plastics, rubber, car tyres, awkward things to treat and deal with that needs some process and some work to resolve it.

The more natural materials the steels, concrete, bricks, and earth we've managed to figure out a way to do that efficiently.

To top it all off there's a million tonnes that we were exporting overseas which is going to stop.

So you know we have a six million tonne per annum problem in Melbourne to manage how we're going to stop doing that because the holes are filling up, the land is scarce, it's not sustainable.

Text: Victoria’s waste challenge.

So what is Victoria's waste challenge, I've lost my slide sorry.

As I said I’ve talked about the capacity we've got 2024, that's what I was looking for 2024 we're full.

We're digging holes rapidly but we can't dig them fast enough to take it so it's a very limited timeline in which to make quite a step-change in how we move through and change the whole nature of our industry.

And it's it seems like a little thing but it's going to be quite a major step because the more we get to the pointier end the difficult materials, the challenging materials, the harder it's going to get to manage those things in volume.

EcologiQ, what's that got to do with it?

Text: ecologiQ’s vision.

Well, again it came with a group of us that were kicking around and thinking we need to be able to make a difference, what will make a difference, and we set ourselves a fairly challenging vision.

We knew as part of the Big Build for quite some time now we've been able to drive themes, whether it's social procurement employment across the board we can make a difference with the size and scale of the project, so why can't we do the same thing if we embark on the recycling challenge?

But we thought it was important to really have a pretty tough goal and pretty long-sided goal, so we've set ourselves a goal, you know, to be recognized as world leading by 2025.

It's a short horizon but if we're going to make a substantial difference, and it needs to be a big difference, and it needs to be driving great outcomes.

The goal of ecologiQ is to harness all of the players, bring the players together, and understand what the barriers are and unlock the barriers whether that be standards, specifications, things that have held us back in the past, it's got to be natural resource, it's got to be the first class material.

Well we've proved now we can make first class materials out of recycled materials, so it's a paradigm shift that we're looking for for our engineers, for our designers, why can't we make these products as equally as good as natural resource products?

And it needs to be a first thought not an afterthought.

The next component was how do we get everyone around the table?

What do we do?

Part of it was an easy step, we've used the government's Recycled First policy, created in a simple policy that asked everyone that's a contractor in in the Big Build to use recycled first.

So tell us what you can do to incorporate recycled materials and how much you can do and we'll start monitoring and checking and seeing how we can expand that growth.

A really simple initial push to shove that whole movement along and to get the capacity going, the balance that came is there's barriers.

So our job is to knock the barriers down, standards, specifications, attitudes, we hear a lot about dinosaurs last night from people, you know, Peter Murphy was saying well I don't want to talk to the dinosaurs anymore, if they don’t want a product I got plenty other people want my new resource and I'm going to sell it and we're going to move on.

I don't have the old conversations why can't it, what's blocking it, what's stopping it, change the paradigm, change the discussion and look at how we can incorporate and how early we can plan to incorporate it really is a vital factor.

Text: Our shared responsibility.

Again the key part of it is bringing us together, we can't do it on our own, we can have an impetus, government can't do it, contractors can't do it, designers, suppliers have been knocking on the door for years saying I've got a new product and first thing is, oh it's plastic, no we haven't got plastic in our specs so go and talk to someone else that's too hard a barrier.

So we need all of the parties to pull together.

The government has also embarked on a massive change piece.

We see DELWP Recycled Victoria, a circular economy policy, reworking of how landfills and waste is going to work for the future, so all of these things are coming together in a perfect storm where we have the Big Build spending $100 million over the next 10 years to build infrastructure, you know, you could not create a circumstance where we're better set to be able to drive a change and bring change to the future.

Text: Recycled materials use in construction over time.

As I said we've been on a bit of a journey, we've found it pretty efficient and pretty easy to start reusing excavated materials.

Concrete initially it was good for hard stands now it's a premium material crushed concrete, you know, in 20 years it’s gone from waste almost to premium product.

Steel we've been doing for a long time that's a premium product.

Glass has been moving slowly up in recent years.

So they're things that are big volume, big tonnes, and do make a dent in the problem, but they don't solve it in their own right.

Text: Emerging opportunities.

So the emerging opportunities, glass has sort of got there on the edge, it's flipping from one to the other.

Plastics and the use of plastics have been a huge growth in the last two to three years in take up across the Big Build and across the projects that we're utilising, whether it's plastic pipes, plastic sleepers, there's trials now going, we're looking to the future, we're doing research and development with Monash Uni at the moment on how you make a mainline sleeper to be up to the specs and standard that that we require.

We're seeing it in binders, in bitumen, in asphalt layers, more and more we're finding ways to incorporate it and it's only because we're focused in thinking about we can do it.

There's also the realisation that the quarry resources are getting further and further away.

Even though they might be an abundance the cost of transporting it, the energy, input the carbon input, they're all harmful outcomes, so we don't really want to be hauling materials all around the countryside if we can avoid it.

And, I just want to focus on a couple of the products that we see as important as we go through.

Text: Utilisation of recycled products.

Just to recap, where we started before the Recycled First policy we think at about 35% of recyclable content within the projects we've looked at this far were being taken up, and again that's probably predominantly concrete and crushed concrete and steel and a bit of glass.

Since we've started the Recycled First policy we've been measuring a set, it's not all of the projects but it's the first set of projects, we've been able to double the usage just by asking people to consider recycled first and people understanding what the specs and standards are, so already we can just double double use.

I can't see why based on all of our data information, well we can't get to 100% of that, quite quickly, which makes quite a substantial dent in the waste problem, it steps us up another three million tonnes a year, but it still doesn't solve the problem, and the problem bits that are left are the harder bits to solve, they're also the volume metric bits, they're also the bits that blow around in the community and get in our oceans and get in our waterways and get in the sea and cause harm, and that's predominantly plastics and rubber.

The future it's pretty much unlimited, we can't – I sit here today and if I stretch my imagination I can't see why we can't solve the problem, why it can't be a perfectly circular economy.

And we're actually arguing about how far up the value chain we can drive recycle products not whether or not we include them into any of our projects or into our daily lives.

It really is a no-brainer when you sit down and look at it, it just needs a mind shift, create a different paradigm, approach it from a different direction and we'll all make a massive difference.

You know, recently the Mordialloc Project was finished and when we started there five years ago there was a fair push in the community, it was through wetlands, through wildlife area no one was overly keen, weren't sure what the traffic noise was going to do.

But if you go there today after it's finished, there is a community down there that just loves the project, they love the recycled components that change the attitude, the plastic noise walls, the effort to try and put their recycled materials back into projects made a difference.

The way the wetlands were treated, the way the walking paths with recycled materials in it were all laid out, the community gets what we're trying to do.

And you get support and getting that support changes the story and changes the narrative and makes our life much easier when we want to introduce a new product, or change the standard, or drive a change.

Text: Crumb rubber.

So crumb rubber very, very small percentages being used and again we're still down in in the low, low range even with what we're doing currently at the moment.

We can see if we looked across broader, what we're using just solely in asphalt at the moment, we can improve the outcome somewhat, lift in the percentages but still to quite a low percentage.

I mean if you look at overall where we sit on the crumb rubber scale where we're chipping away at a small edge.

It's a product, it's a material, if you go out into the displays you'll see there's teams, there's people working on that problem, they're breaking the tyres down into usable products, and the question to everyone in here is what products can we use, can we utilise.

It's not just bearing it or losing it, it’s sustainable we can collect it, use it again, and use it again, and use it again to drive a difference.

Crumb rubber that's the first challenge.

Text: Plastics.

Plastics are quite similar in a sense, although the way to solve that is probably different to crumb rubber.

As I flick through the usage, how we're going, you can see as we add different materials, bring our sleepers into play, bring the wider rail network into play, we start growing the numbers, particularly the sleepers, imagine it's a solid plastic unit, it absorbs an enormous amount of plastic.

We start talking noise walls and other materials that we've recently created we add on and we're, you know, charging everyone this room to look at what are the uses, what can we convert from a timber or a steel or another product to a recycled plastic.

But again it's the tip of the plastic iceberg still.

The problem is large and these are the volume metric materials that are in our tips, the materials that are damaging society, damage to community, damaging our waterways, and it needs some different strategies.

And part of the strategy, which is, you know, a strong government focus, what if we can halve the plastic, so can we ban Plastics not not create the plastic in the first place help solve the problem.

It lifts the game a little bit, but it still doesn't get us there.

We're all creative people, we all have an ability to make a change and we really do want to join together and encourage the conversation we're starting today, to keep going forward and driving a new future for those sorts of materials.

Text: Demand Model

Part of the story we tripped over when we created ecologiQ is information.

What do we know?

Well there's sort of big volume metric information about the size of the waste pile, what was going into landfill and distributed around, but not much data when you look at it by project, how much recycled products can go into a project and where do we need the supply sources to be.

As a bigger recycler said you need space so we need to create space and centralised space around Melbourne to have collection of waste, crushing facilities, storage for bulk products because particularly in the construction sector we can't rely on a dribble coming in randomly of some material that'll be good to use but you can't rely on it, it's got to be reliable source, it's got to be a reliable supply chain, and we don't want to be hauling materials all around the Melbourne, so centralising materials where we know the demand is going to be.

Helping inform future suppliers and developers, if we, under our current specs and standards across this range of products, we can use this much tonnes of plastic in these products, we can use this much recycled crushed concrete, we can use this much material in asphalt, so it's a demand model that feeds both ends how much we can put into the Big Build based on assessing all our products on today's standards and to the supply chain here's the opportunity, if you want to invest, if you want to get ahead of the game, we're providing the data and the information to enable you to make those decisions.

And then we have government policies and Sustainability Victoria helping fund new start-ups, new developers to try and encourage new players into that market space.

Text: Noise walls made from 75% recycled plastic on the Mordialloc Freeway.

And then lastly I'd just like to reflect on the little journey with the noise walls.

There had been one go in the past I think, or a couple of goes in the past with plastic noise walls, but it was pretty much wiped out.

They deformed in shape and they weren't very robust, and they didn't perform very well.

But we thought we would run the gauntlet again.

We were approached by Pact Group who said they could do it.

We awarded a D&C contract on Mordialloc, which is a fixed price lump sum contact and pretty hard terms as you all know, but we challenged the team at that point to say we'd like to go, and we'd like to incorporate recycled plastic noise walls.

From woe to go we developed the product, we worked with DOT, we developed a standard, we wrote a specification, how we could incorporate it, developed the shape, got the moulds built, built the product and installed it all in the lifecycle of that project, which is the hardest way to implement any new product to change, it's not how you want to do change.

But it can be done, it can be done in very harsh contracting environment and you know with the community, your strong community objection, it was also rolling the dice a bit, but with all the parties working together with the right intent and the right outcome we believe it's been a fantastic result and it's certainly been well received across the community.

So change is quite achievable it needs intent.

Text: Rubbish or Resource:

So I guess I’d just like to bring you back to my first point, is that rubbish or is it a resource?

Text: Resource.

We need to think about how we can shift our minds and shift our position and lean in a little bit to helping solve what's a challenging problem for everyone in the room.

Thank you.

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

Professor Tim Flannery:

Well thank you so much Allen for that fascinating, and I would say sobering perspective.

You know, it's incredibly heartening to see how far we've come in the last decade, but to see how much further we've got to go particularly with crumb rubber, tyres and plastics that really is sobering.

And, it’d be easy to lose hope if it wasn't for people like ecologiQ, those behind ecologiQ, driving this change, so I look forward to looking back a decade from now and I think seeing major changes.

So thank you so much for that wonderful presentation.

Could I just remind people if anyone is looking for a seat or want somewhere that's a bit more comfortable there are plenty of seats down the front here so for those brave souls who would like to come close to the podium I reckon just jump in there and get yourself a really nice

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