World’s first bridge using soft plastic unveiled in Mount Barker

Breakthrough South Australian partnership diverts nearly half a tonne of rubbish from landfill to create a world-first bridge made using soft plastic.

South Australia has become home to a bridge made containing nearly 500kg of recycled soft plastics.

It was officially launched on April 18th at Mount Barker in a partnership between Mount Barker District Council, Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (SIS) and developer Burke Urban.

“This is an exciting milestone for our community and marks the first step in connecting our residents from the eastern and western sectors of Newenham,” says Burke Urban Developments Marketing & Sales Director Olivia Burke.

“The community can now easily cross the Western Flat Creek providing safe access to Kings Baptist Grammar School, our linear park, playground and the Kitchen Farm.”

King’s Baptist Grammar students were among the first to use the new Schaefer Crossing bridge launched to the public at Newenham, Mt Barker.

“At Burke Urban, we see every project as an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on communities. The installation of this innovative footbridge reflects our commitment to sustainable development and creating spaces that connect people and reflects our company’s values and vision.”

The groundbreaking pedestrian bridge installed in the award-winning Newenham community, contains 70 per cent soft plastics, or enough to fill 29 standard 240L kerbside recycling bins.

70 per cent of post-consumer soft plastics (eg. plastic film, food wrappers, shopping bags) used in construction. 500kg of soft plastics = 29 x 240L kerbside bins.

“Schaefer Crossing is a cutting-edge demonstration of the objectives of the Circular Procurement Pilot Project, to prioritise buying and using products made from recycled materials,” says Mount Barker District Council Mayor David Leach

Sustainable Infrastructure System Managing Director Nick Wotton and production worker Veronica Menzies in the company’s Wingfield factory with the bridge before installation.

This is the first project utilising innovative world-first post-consumer soft plastics composite panels developed and manufactured by Wingfield composite manufacturer SIS.

“Recycled plastics have been used in the manufacture of structural building materials for decades, but SIS’ technology is the first to incorporate unprocessed mixed post-consumer soft plastics into high-performance structural panels that can accommodate loads of up to 60 tonnes,” says SIS Managing Director Nick Wotton.

“We are proud to have worked with South Australian partners the Mount Barker District Council and Burke Urban to deliver a bridge that not only will benefit the local Newenham community but also the environment.”

Developed over four years in collaboration with The University of Adelaide, SIS’ prefabricated panels have a structural strength on par with concrete. Provide up to 48 per cent reduction in embodied carbon compared to a concrete panel, and can last well beyond 100 years! SIS composite panel is 1/5th the weight of a comparable concrete structure.

“Our panels have been designed, developed and manufactured in South Australia and provide a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials by providing a genuine reduction in embodied carbon while delivering attractive, low-maintenance, long-lasting structures,” says Nick Wotton.

The $73,000 bridge has been funded by the Mount Barker District Council who also provided a significant portion of the post-consumer soft plastic used in its construction, helping to divert nearly half a tonne of rubbish from landfill.

Members of Mount Barker District Council, bridge manufacturer Sustainable Infrastructure Systems, developer Burke Urban, the Schaefer family and the local community celebrate the opening of the world’s first pedestrian bridge made from soft plastic.

“This collaboration between Mount Barker District Council, SIS and Burke Urban exemplifies our shared commitment to environmental stewardship, delivering environmentally sustainable, high-quality assets which perform for the local community,” says Mount Barker District Council Mayor David Leach.

Council also repurposed the existing concrete weir as the footing for the new bridge, avoiding the need to demolish and rebuild the weir structure, saving costs, storing internal carbon and ensuring the creek environment was undisturbed.

To honour four generations of the Schaefer family who have lived and worked in the area since the early 1900s, the bridge has been named Schaefer Crossing.

In 2019, Mount Barker District Council was among nine other councils to sign a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the Local Government Association of South Australia’s Circular Procurement Pilot Project, to prioritise buying products made from recycled materials.

Council recently repurposed 300 tonnes of clean fill to create a community bike track at The Glebe, Littlehampton, and Canberra St, Mount Barker was the first road in the district resurfaced entirely from recycled materials, reducing council’s carbon footprint by 9.5 tonnes of CO2e.

“This footbridge represents our belief in using innovative solutions to create lasting impact and is a symbol of our dedication to building communities that thrive,” says Olivia Burke.

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