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Taking the plastic wrapping off Australia’s construction boom

Cement truck parked at a job site

Over the last few years, Australia’s construction boom has seen the rise of massive infrastructure projects – residential, office buildings, transport and much more. Construction is critical to keeping our economy ticking. In fact, the construction industry generates over $360 billion in revenue – which works out as around 9% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Cement and concrete are vital components to all these projects. But there’s a problem. While cement and concrete are made from natural materials and can be recycled, they’re sometimes packaged and distributed in plastic, which can be a real issue.

Plastic Free July is a movement that highlights the overuse of plastic world-wide, and it challenges people to give up or reduce single-use plastic during July. This challenge inspired us to shine a light on an important, often overlooked topic: Disposable plastics in the construction industry.

This article explores the need for the construction industry to find a new alternative, and how Auscon Australia is going to be part of the solution.

Australia’s plastic problem

Australians create 67 million tonnes of waste every year – with more than a third of this waste coming from the construction and demolition industry. Most of Australian metal gets recycled, but the same can’t be said of plastic.

Until 2017, Australia primarily relied on sending waste overseas – to countries such as China and Indonesia. As many of these countries have closed their doors to our often-contaminated waste, the country has been in a recycling crisis. Only 12% of plastic in Australia is recycled, with the vast majority of it now ending up in landfill.

To combat this, in 2019, Victoria joined other states and territories to ban lightweight plastic bags in supermarkets. While many industries move away from using plastic, construction suppliers, including cement manufacturers, are doing the opposite.

Construction and ‘recycled’ plastic

Traditionally, many Australian cement manufacturers have used paper bags – that have a thin plastic lining – to contain their products. However, there’s now an industry wide shift to weatherproof cement and concrete bags, using polyethylene (PE) plastic to protect them from the elements.

Australia’s weather can be unpredictable. And while these plastic bags may offer extra protection from moisture, they come with a significant cost to the environment.

Polyethylene plastic bags

Polyethylene plastic bags are renowned for being durable. These heavy-duty plastic bags are recyclable in theory; however, they often end up in landfill because of contamination. When they aren’t recycled, they can take up to 80 years to break down.

Petroleum-derived polymer cannot biodegrade – it can only slowly break down when exposed to radiation from the sun (photodegradation). This eventually turns it into microscopic synthetic granules. However, scientists aren’t sure these granules can ever decompose completely – and fear it could build up in marine and terrestrial land and be eaten by animals.

When you consider cement is usually sold by the pallet to building sites, with an average pallet containing 48 x 20 kg bags, plastic adds up very quickly.

Auscon Australia’s sustainable cement packaging solution

At Auscon, we recognise that the plastic used in cement packaging is a serious environmental issue. As specialists in Australian-made dry-mix cement products for commercial and industrial projects of all sizes, our products are founded in research and science.

We champion eco-friendly options and are doing our part to create a solution, not another problem. That’s why we’re investigating packaging alternatives that are fully compostable.

Over the coming months, we’ll be transitioning into biodegradable cement packaging – which breaks down in only 12 weeks in a compostable environment.

Benefits of biodegradable bags include:

  • Reduces environmental impact
  • Supports your commitment to sustainable development
  • Enhances your brand reputation
  • Helps you turn waste into quality compost
  • Ensures you stay a step ahead of stringent waste disposal regulations
  • Protects your materials better than paper bags.

Using eco-friendly materials like this will be especially important if you’re bidding for government contracts, where high environmental standards are critical.

Our team believes that pairing sustainable packaging with changed behaviour within the industry – and the occasional uncomfortable conversation – is the path to doing the right thing.

Our new biodegradable cement bags bring the best of both worlds – humidity protection while reducing the serious environmental impact of plastic.

Auscon Australia is proud to be a leading cement manufacturer and provider pushing greener solutions. Get in touch with us today for quality concrete solutions.