Integrated Packaging Group (IPG) prides itself on being a leader in the field of stretch film and flexible plastics manufacturing. We're always looking for new ways to reinforce our position in the sector, and improve our sustainability credentials. For example IPG has worked hard to ensure our affiliate, Integrated Recycling (IR), is an industry leader in recycling and repurposing used polyethylene-based plastics.
As IR's technology and manufacturing processes have improved, the company has diversified its range of end-products, thereby making a real difference to the amount of plastic waste that would otherwise end up being buried or burned. One of the most exciting opportunities has been the Queensland Rail tender, which was awarded to Integrated Recycling earlier this year.
People are now starting to realise the benefits of not cutting down trees.
The background to the project
Integrated Recycling General Manager Stephen Webster points out that the biggest issue for recycled products is understanding their broader value.
"It's more expensive to make a fully manufactured and engineered recycled plastic product than to cut down a tree," says Stephen, "but people are realising the benefits of not cutting down trees and understanding the durability of IR's Envire range of composite recycled plastic products."
The government sector has been early to see the value in recycled products for local parks in particular, and many of Integrated Recycling's products have been used for landscaping and other outdoor purposes. Over time, this has enabled the creation of further products, such as structural supports (for example as subframes for pedestrian boardwalks), and other industrial applications of the company's recycled materials. Developing railway sleepers made from recycled materials was therefore a natural evolution for the company.
The Queensland Rail project
The first interaction that the IR team had with the world of rail didn't involve Queensland at all, but was focused further south in Victoria. An opportunity arose with the state's Tourist and Heritage Railway sector, and IR has been working on recycled railway sleepers with assistance from Monash University who provided laboratory testing. Production of these sleepers will hopefully begin early in 2017, but in the meantime, another exciting option came up in Queensland.
"Queensland Rail has already stepped over the threshold and understands that composite sleepers – as an alternative to timber, steel, or concrete – are what it wants," said Stephen.
QR's traditional timber sleepers only have an average life span of 14 years, but the design life of composite recycled plastic sleepers will extend this to 50 years.
A tender was put out for the development of these sleepers, and the team at Integrated Recycling put up their hands and won the bid. The process will involve a year of design, which will be followed by another year of testing. Several other companies are developing similar options, but IR is the only Australian company working with recycled plastics on this project.
At the end of this testing phase, there will be an opportunity to pitch for the manufacturing and supply of these sleepers, with an initial run of 700,000 over five years. In time, this could extend to the QR network, which has approximately 2.4 million timber sleepers.
It's a hugely inspiring tender to have been awarded, and Stephen and the team at Integrated Recycling can't wait to get started. To find out more about the work that IPG and its affiliates do, get in touch with us today.