Cross River Rail’s concrete uses recycled plastic

Polypropylene, a plastic that ends up in the ocean on an unimaginable scale, is being recycled into fibre reinforcement for concrete for a major rail project in Queensland.

The Cross River Rail, in a first for the network, is using this recycled plastic, known as eMesh, during construction of its new stabling facility at Mayne Yard North.

Polypropylene forms a large part of the estimated eight million tonnes of plastic which is floating on our oceans. It is the second most widely used plastic in the world, yet it has the lowest recycling rate (less than 1%), but Australia’s Fibercon is changing that.

The subject of 13 peer-reviewed published papers, eMesh is made from 100% recycled Australian plastic waste which can even be reused in the future. Based in NSW, Fibercon developed the innovative eMesh, which it says is more sustainable, cost-effective, safer, and less effort to handle and cut, than steel reinforcement which is used on large projects.

Each fibre in the eMesh is around 47 mm long and 1.7 mm wide and these act as small reinforcing bars when mixed throughout concrete. In a standard eMesh-mixed cubic metre of concrete there would be more than 120,000 fibres.

In its focus on sustainability, theCross River Rail project is also using sand made from recycled glass. And more than 80% of the spoil generated on the project so far has been reused or stockpiled for reuse. Brisbane’s Austral Bricks is also using 60,000 cubic metres of the Cross River Rail spoil to make bricks for housing.

Check out the Concrete Institute of Australia’s flagship magazine, Concrete in Australia, when the March 2022 issue comes out for the feature story on Fibercon’s eMesh and sustainable concrete.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.