• The new Duratrack sleepers being installed at Richmond station. (Source: Sustainability Victoria)
    The new Duratrack sleepers being installed at Richmond station. (Source: Sustainability Victoria)

Victoria’s Richmond train station is the new front line in the war on waste, with recycled plastic sleepers made by Pro-Pac subsidiary Integrated Recycling installed for an 18-month trial.

The Duratrack sleepers, manufactured by Integrated Recycling at its Mildura plant and lab tested at the Monash University Institute of Railway Technology, are composed of recycled polystyrene and agricultural waste, and more than 200 are set to be installed across the Melbourne CBD.

Duratrack sleepers are billed as lasting for up to fifty years, and require less maintenance than traditional timber sleepers at half the cost; additionally, each kilometre of track saves 64 tonnes of plastic waste from going to landfill. At the end of their lifespan, they will be recycled into new sleepers.

Stephen Webster, general manager of Integrated Recycling, told PKN the project was an extension of what the company has been doing for at least 10 years, manufacturing recycled plastic outdoor furniture, bollards, seating, and similar products.

“We developed the early stages of the railway sleeper project through our structural applications projects such as the subframes for boardwalks and other load-carrying applications,” he said.

Agricultural waste used includes cotton bale wrap and vineyard covers. All material including the polystyrene is sourced locally from the Sunraysia region, says Webster.

“Polystyrene is streamed locally at Mildura landfill and sent to us, and we also work closely with Mildura’s polystyrene box manufacturer and get their off-spec production. We collect it from growers, industry, retail – there’s quite a circular economy for polystyrene in Mildura,” he said.

According to Lily D’Ambrosio, Victorian minister for energy, environment and climate change, the trial is a big step in Victoria’s transition to a circular economy.

“We’re embracing new technology to tackle the problem of plastic pollution in our community.

“This project is a great example of the circular economy we’re creating through innovation and rethinking a product we use every day,” she said.

Melissa Horne, minister for public transport, also praised the project, which has received $630,000 in grants from the Victorian government.

“It’s exciting to see innovative, environmentally friendly technology rolled out at one of Melbourne’s busiest train stations,” she said.

The sleepers are already in use at four Victorian tourist railways, including the famous Puffing Billy.

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