Going green with geosynthetics

A manufacturer in Albury, New South Wales is recycling plastic bottles into green geotextile materials for use within major infrastructure projects to aid with anything from separation, filtration, drainage and cushioning; meet Geofabrics.

Geofabrics turns Australian waste plastic into a viable and beneficial geotextile for rail construction through its local manufacturing facilities.

For over 40 years Geofabrics has been providing the infrastructure sector with tailored geotextile solutions. It all began in the 1970’s when the ‘to-be’ owners of Geofabrics came across geotextiles being used for road construction in Europe.

In 1978, Geofabrics got its start in Melbourne and expanded quickly across the country. There are now two Geofabrics manufacturing sites in Australia, one in NSW and one in Queensland.

The Albury factory in NSW is home to all of the company’s rail infrastructure construction industry geotextiles. While Geofabrics has a wide range of different products for construction, its newest fabric made with recycled plastic is bidim Green.

Bidim Green is made from Australian recyclable materials and Peter Tzelepis, executive director of sales and business development at Geofabrics says it can be applied across nearly every civil engineering construction project.

The fabric can be used in the track base to provide separation and filtration under below rail construction materials such as ballast.

“The idea for bidim Green came from the issues around circular economy and waste. One of our key sectors for Geofabrics is waste management services and over the last two to three years we have seen this issue develop and we know there is a real need to do something with our waste plastic,” Tzelepis said.

“Our vision was that our product will go into the ground to serve a purpose, it’s not going into a landfill. We simply saw it as a great opportunity to support the circular economy.”

Locally made and sourced materials, such as the recycled plastic, are an important factor in the manufacturing process for all Geofabrics products. The company has a specific technical department and innovation sector that works with Australian companies to provide solutions tailored to local conditions.

“Australian conditions are quite unique, from isolation to UV exposure, even rock sizes in road construction can vary in different parts of the country and there might not always be a quarry nearby to provide materials for every rail project,” Tzelepis said.

“Geofabrics and its products like bidim Green, which is placed underneath the rail formation, are there to reduce the amount of excavation and virgin materials needed on these major infrastructure projects.”

“Another uniquely Australian challenge is the UV exposure. When looking at a UV radiation map of Australia different places have varied exposure to UV which can degrade a geotextile if left exposed for a period of time,” he said.

“To ensure we can provide the right solution we have real time testing on bidim Green at our offices all over Australia to see how it performs with different exposure. We are building the performance of our product to the climatic and environmental changes in different Australian regions.”

The bidim Green range has been rigorously tested at our Geosynthetic Research, Innovation and Design (GRID) laboratory located in Queensland for durability performance. The durability of any geotextile is important so that it can resist damage during the construction phase. During this phase, the geotextile can be punctured by very angular rocks – such as ballast – or heavy machinery pushing into the soft capping layer under the track. The geotextile to be selected must have multi directional strength and bidim Green offers that benefit. The GRID laboratory simulates performance of a geotextile for specific project situations and is available to Geofabrics Australia’s customers.

Geofabrics are currently working through a process with the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia to certify bidim Green, to facilitate wider use on Australia’s infrastructure projects.

With demand from governments to use recycled products in infrastructure projects, such as Victoria’s Recycled First program and NSW’s Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Fund, Tzelepis said bidim Green is another product contractors can consider to make their projects environmentally friendly.

“We know we have to make our materials sustainable, I take my recycling bin out to the kerb every second week, if I know my recycling is going to be picked up and used on projects like my road, that is fantastic.”

NSW government highlights rail manufacturer using recycled materials

The NSW government has once again returned to the regional town of Albury to highlight a local manufacturer supplying innovative sustainable materials to the infrastructure and construction industries.

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade John Barilaro said that industrial innovation was occurring at the Albury plant to develop a new, sustainable geotextile.

“Geofabrics’ groundbreaking product is a great example of regional excellence and shows exactly what our skilled regional workforce can achieve when given the conditions to succeed.”

The company had previously been producing a wide range of geotextiles that are used in rail and construction projects to seal and stabilise soil and control liquids. In 2019, Barilaro highlighted the company to a visiting group of international delegates, however the Deputy Premier has returned to Albury to showcase a new product from Geofabrics. The company has succeeded in developing a  product that is made from locally sourced recycled plastics.

Known as Bidim Green, the new geotextile responds to calls for increased sustainability in major infrastructure projects, said Dennis Grech, CEO and managing director of Geofabrics Australasia.

“Many infrastructure projects are calling for improved sustainability and we’re the only Australian manufacturer in the market here that is using recycled Australian plastics as a component of a geotextile, helping to reduce waste to landfill,” he said.

The product closes the loop in terms of plastics in Australia, by providing a way to re-use plastic bottles and containers locally, said Barilaro.

“This is a company that’s been operating in regional NSW for more than 30 years, with a staff that is proud to go to work each day and create world-leading products that make an absolute difference to the quality and convenience of our everyday lives.”

Geotextile made from Australian recycled plastics now available

Australia’s first geotextile made from locally sourced recycled plastics is now on the market.

Developed by Geofabrics Australasia, the Bidim Green geotextile is made from recycled plastic bottles, sourced from Australian recycling bins.

The geotextile is designed to be used in infrastructure projects, including rail, and is manufactured at Geofabrics Australasia’s site in Albury, NSW.

Dennis Grech, CEO and managing director of Geofabrics Australasia, said that the product is an example of the emerging circular economy.

“Many infrastructure projects are calling for improved sustainability, and we’re the only Australian manufacturer in the market that is using recycled Australian plastics as a component of a geotextile, helping to reduce waste to landfill.

“Bidim Green has been made in Australia, developed and tested in Australia, and I am proud to lead a business that contributes to maintaining and creating local jobs and to reduce the environmental impact of our business and our customer’s projects on the Australian community,” said Grech.

Many infrastructure projects are increasingly looking to source a greater amount of their materials from sustainable sources, and in February 2020, Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Project announced its Recycle First initiative, which unifies the approach to sourcing recycled products across Victoria’s $70 billion Big Build program.

Grech said that Bidim Green directly responds to such initiatives.

“Bidim Green is an addition to our world-leading Bidim geotextile range and contains Australian-sourced recycled plastics. It responds to the increasing call for greater recycled content in the construction and infrastructure industry.”

The recycled content in Bidim Green includes the polymer raw material, as well as the product’s consumables. This includes the plastic wrap and core, which are also made from locally sourced recycled plastics.

Geotextiles are used in the rail sector to separate the capping layer from the ballast layer, to provide separation and filtration in rail formation.