On the road to creating a circular economy, reusing plastic waste is a top priority for innovation.

Integrated Recycling has created one solution by turning plastics from Mildura farmers into Duratrack railway sleepers.

Stephen Webster, General Manager of Integrated Recycling, said Duratrack sleepers are being trialled in locations across Australia.

“We have three mainline trials underway; Melbourne Metro at Richmond Station, VLine at Wyndham Vale, and a large project with Queensland Rail near Toowoomba.

“The Queensland Rail sleepers had 4.5 million tonnes of freight over the two trial sites during the trial period. They are now in their assessment phase of the trial.

Mr Webster said there are many advantages to using recycled plastic instead of timber for sleepers.

“For starters, Duratrack sleepers have a life cycle about 3-4 times longer than timber. This means lower costs for maintenance and the timber that would have been used can go towards other projects,” Mr Webster said.

“The formulation for the sleepers includes a mix of hard and soft plastics, as well as some wood fibres.  This means they are resistant to funghi, termites, and water absorption; all of which can cause rot and track misalignment in timber sleepers.

“A key feature of plastic is that it doesn’t deteriorate easily, which is often a problem when talking about plastics in our environment. Our sleepers are UV protected to extend their life cycle.

“For now, the plastics are sourced from agriculture in the Mildura area. For example, plastic wrap coverings from vineyards and cotton farms as well as harder plastics from old tanks and drums.

“As demand increases and our production scales up, we will source other materials from a wider range.

More trials and projects involving Duratrack sleepers are being produced and are planned to begin next year.