A product made from recycled glass promises to deliver cladding that is fire safe and adopts circular economy concepts, engineers say.

Produced by researchers from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) along with materials technology company Livefield, the material is a composite cladding product that is low cost, structurally sound and fire-resistant.

The cladding uses 83 percent recycled glass along with modest amounts of plastic binders and fire-retardant additives.

Strength and ‘toughness’ added as a result of the binders has helped to overcome a traditional challenge with glass cladding in terms of the material being brittle and prone to fracture.

The technology – which is now being patented by Livefield – has been trialled for large-scale manufacturing capability and has met compliance requirements of non-combustibility under Australian Standard AS 1530.1.

Panels using the team’s technology are installed at RMIT’s Bundoora campus to demonstrate the technology’s feasibility as building claddings.

(RMIT Researchers Dilan Robert and Everson Kandare with samples of claddings made mostly from recycled glass. Image: supplied)

The latest development comes as Australia’s construction sector has opportunities to reduce its environmental footprint by embracing the circular economy.

Indeed, circular economy approaches were identified as a significant area of opportunity in a 40-page guide published by the University of New South Wales that outlined how Australia’s construction sector can deliver net zero buildings by 2040.

The development also comes amid concerns about the prevalence of flammable cladding on buildings.

(Building claddings play an important role in preventing the spread of fire, particularly in high-rise) (image: Adobe stock)

Speaking particularly of glass, RMIT Associate Professor Dillan Robert – the lead researcher for the project – said that there are opportunities to reduce the volume of material going to landfill.

Whilst only 21 percent of the 130 million tonnes that is produced each year is currently recycled, glass is one of the most recyclable materials in the world as it does not lose its quality or purity and can be reused in multiple ways across a range of industries.

As a result, there are further opportunities to increase glass recycling uptake.

In addition, Robert said material testing for fire safety was critical as recent building fires had demonstrated the need for cladding to help prevent the external spread of fire up the building’s facade.

(Building claddings with recycled glass on display at RMIT Bundoora Campus. image: supplied)

The project is a collaboration involving RMIT, Cooperative Research Centres Projects grants, the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transformation of Reclaimed Waste Resources to Engineered Materials and Solutions for a Circular Economy (TREMS), Sustainability Victoria and other industry support.

Robert led the project with support from RMIT colleagues Dr Edwin Baez, Associate Professor Everson Kandare, Professor Sujeeva Setunge and Professor Kevin Zhang.


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