Researchers in Australia have discovered a method to recycle soft plastic as an aggregate in concrete. The resulting material was used last year to build a footpath and car park in Frankston, Australia, and researchers say it can offer a way to reduce the carbon footprint of construction in the country.



RMIT engineers teamed up with Victorian-based recycling and engineering companies RED Group, Replas and SR Engineering to create concrete from soft plastic.

oncreting Coles Horsham’s car park and a footpath in Frankston.

It’s a way to recycle soft plastic, particularly after the federal government recently passed legislation that banned the export of waste overseas.

Red Group is behind the REDCycle recycling bins for soft plastics, which you can often find outside of supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Each day, Australians return two million pieces of soft plastic into those bins but the problem is that plastic bags, cling wraps and wrappers are challenging to recycle.

“Glass can be easily recycled and turned into things such as sand replacement, but plastic is much harder,” Dr Jonathan Tran, senior lecturer at RMIT’s Civil and Infrastructure Engineering department said in a statement.

Tran led the sustainable concrete project and told Business Insider Australia that while hard plastic – like milk bottles – can go into a household recycling bin, soft plastics can’t. He explained that soft plastics aren’t suited for sorting machines at recycling plants as they can get lodged in conveyor belts and potentially halt the recycling process. Instead, soft plastics end up in general waste.