From kerbside to tram stop: Recycled plastics will soon feature in Melbourne’s tram platforms

Recycled plastics from kerbside waste will be used to create innovative modular tram stops, making Melbourne’s tram network more sustainable, accessible for people with disabilities and less disruptive to maintain and develop.

This project was recently awarded $300,000 by the Recycling Victoria Research and Development Fund – Materials and is delivered by Sustainability Victoria on behalf of the Victorian Government, as part of Recycling Victoria. The project is a partnership between Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology, Yarra Trams, Integrated Recycling and Advanced Circular Polymer.

The Development of Next Generation Tram Stop Platforms Using Recycled Materials project will develop ways to turn recycled plastics into modular components that are ‘fit-for-purpose’ for the construction of future tram stop platforms across Melbourne.

Melbourne’s tram network is the largest in the world consisting of 24 routes, stretching 250 kilometres with more than 1,750 tram stops. Future-proofing tram stop platforms with this innovative modular design, which incorporates hollow drainage features, will not only promote environmental sustainability, but improve constructability with minimal disruption to traffic, less impact by severe flash flooding events and ensure greater accessibility for those living with a disability.

Director of the Monash Institute of Railway Technology, Professor Ravi Ravitharan said the project will identify how reinforced recycled plastics can be used effectively to construct a modular platform that can be rolled out on a large scale.

“Our team of researchers will look at a number of suitable options of recycled materials that can be manufactured into a prototype which will then be trial assembled and load tested at the Institute of Railway Technology laboratories,” said Professor Ravitharan.

“The development will consider recycled rubber for damping components as well as reinforcement options to achieve the intended design concept.”

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Monash University researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Arts, Monash University Accident Research Centre and Monash Art, Design and Architecture with Monash Institute of Railway Technology.

“This partnership with the Monash University Institute of Railway Technology is just one example of how Yarra Trams is working to make our operations more environmentally friendly. From all our trams being powered by one of Victoria’s largest solar farms, to recycled materials being utilised in infrastructure projects across the network, to the ongoing installation of solar panels and energy efficient lighting in our depots, we’re playing our part to create a greener and more sustainable Melbourne,” said Yarra Trams’ Chief Executive Julien Dehornoy.

Integrated Recycling, creators of the Duratrack railway sleeper, will manufacture and trial modular elements of tram stop platforms for testing and prototyping purposes.

“We’re delighted to collaborate in the development of future tram stops that will recognise the value in repurposing waste plastics in infrastructure applications. By incorporating waste plastics into the concept design we hope to achieve maximum benefits,” said General Manager Stephen Webster.

Advanced Circular Polymer, an industry leader in innovative plastics recycling technology, will supply the recycled plastic mix recovered from kerbside waste collections that will be used for the production of the base material in the tram stop platforms.

“This collaboration will explore new research and development to add value to recycled plastics through new product innovations. Developing new value-added recycled products with advanced manufacturing is essential for the recycling sector to create demand and secure the supply chain for recycled plastics,” said Managing Director Harry Wang.

The project outcome will be to deliver a circular economy framework involving a complete supply chain of recycled materials. The partnership between the Monash Institute of Railway Technology and local industry partners from supply to end use will deliver innovative commercial and environmental impacts.

This will not only offer alternative solutions for tram stop platforms, but also create an awareness of the application of these materials into other industries such as railway platforms, bridges, domestic decking and level crossing panels.

To learn more about this project and Monash Institute of Railway Technology, please visit: irt.monash.edu

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