Australia: sustainable roads and recycled toner cartridges

Posted on 10 October 2019.

In Melbourne, Downer and Close the Loop have developed an innovative material made from used toner cartridges. Called TonerPave, it helps build more sustainable roads.

TonerPave has a 23% lower carbon footprint than traditional road surfaces.

Every second, 54 toner cartridges are used worldwide – that’s 1.1 billion a year! But manufacturing them has a high cost for the environment. It takes 3.5 liters of oil to create a single 90 ml cartridge. And the plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose.
Another problem is that used cartridges are rarely given a new lease of life. Many of them are incinerated. Some are recovered but without their components being recovered says the organization HOP (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée) in a report published in September 2017
In 2013, the Australian road contractor Downer decided look at the problem more closely. It partnered with Close the Loop – a waste collection and recycling company - to build used toner based roads. Together, they developed MTP - "Modified Toner Polymer". After grinding, it is becomes a mixture of the plastic, wax, minerals and leftover pigment found in the toner cartridges.
Combined with recycled asphalt and recycled engine oil, this Modified Polymer Toner makes a new type of low-carbon asphalt called TonerPave.


Tougher, cheaper roads

According to the TonerPave manufacturers, every metric ton of MTP used replaces 600 kg of bitumen and 400 kg of fine aggregates (soil and sand, etc.). By avoiding the use of virgin materials, TonerPave has a carbon footprint 23% lower than traditional coatings says The Guardian. And as for the roads, according to the manufacturer they are tougher, have fewer cracks and cost less to produce.
And that's just the beginning! In the future, the two companies hope to include new recycled materials in their coatings. A way of recovering resources that are still too often discarded as waste.