Enviro Monday: Plastic roads – a solution to plastic pollution

Volker Wessels in Holland – 100% recycled

A Dutch company, Volker Wessels, has come up with their own plastic road made entirely from recycled plastic.

The advantages of their product are described as follows:

  • A lightweight design
  • A fraction of the construction time
  • Virtually maintenance free
  • Three times the expected lifespan

These roads, which consist of 100 percent recycled material, are the ideal sustainable alternative to conventional road structures.

PlasticRoad features numerous advantages compared to conventional roads, in terms of construction and maintenance. Plastic is much more sustainable. The concept is in line with initiatives to free the oceans of plastic.

Prefabrication

  • Recycled plastic is made into prefabricated road parts that can be installed in one piece.
  • The prefabricated production and the lightweight design make the construction of the roads much simpler.
  • Roads can be built in weeks instead of months.
  • It is much easier to control the quality of the road (stiffness, water drainage etc.)

More advantages

  • It is stronger and more durable.
  • It is virtually maintenance free.
  • It is unaffected by corrosion and the weather.
  • The road handles high and low temperatures with ease.
  • Less traffic jams and detours due to less maintenance.
  • The design features a hollow space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater

The Plastic Man of India

The technology for these roads was developed by the ‘Plastic Man’ of India, Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan, Professor of Chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai.

In November 2015 it was made mandatory in India for all road developers in the country to use waste plastic, combined with bituminous mixes, for road construction.

This is to help overcome the growing problem of plastic waste disposal in India.

The roads are made from a mix of recycled post-consumer plastic product packaging and bitumen. The plastic is collected, sorted, cleaned, dried and shredded.

The entire process is very simple. The plastic waste material is first shredded to a particular size using a shredding machine. The aggregate mix is heated at 165°C and transferred to the mixing chamber. The bitumen is heated to 160°C for good binding. The shredded plastic waste is then added to the aggregate. It gets coated uniformly over the aggregate within 30 to 60 seconds. The plastic waste coated aggregate is mixed with hot bitumen and the resulting mix is used for road construction. The road laying temperature is between 110°C and 120°C.

Advantages

  • The construction process is extremely eco-friendly as no toxic gases are released.
  • The plastic waste helps increase the strength of the road, reducing road fatigue.
  • The roads are more weather resistant (rain water, high and low temperature).
  • As large amounts of plastic are required for a small stretch of road, plastic waste is substantially reduced.
  • The process is easy and does not need any new machinery.
  • The amount of bitumen used is reduced.

MacRebur in Scotland

There are 40 million kilometres of roads on the planet made from hundreds of millions of barrels of oil.

On a farm outside Lockerbie in Scotland, engineer Toby McCartney was pondering how to find a solution to two global problems:

  • How to improve the poor quality of roads
  • How to solve the global plastic waste problem

Inspired by his daughter and something he had seen in India, McCartney came up with the idea of using waste plastic added to an asphalt mix to create stronger, longer lasting, pothole free roads.

When her teacher asked what lives in the oceans, his daughter’s answer was “plastic” which got him thinking.

In India he had seen people pouring waste plastic into potholes and burning it to fix potholes.

He set about developing his own industrial method of making roads by utilising plastic waste.

Normally roads consist of about 90 percent rocks, limestone and sand combined with up to 10 percent bitumen to bind the mixture. Bitumen is extracted from crude oil.

McCartney’s company MacRebur, turns plastic waste into pellets that replace a significant part of the bitumen thus reducing oil consumption. The pellets are made from household waste as well as commercial and farm plastic waste which is normally destined for landfills or incinerated. He has dubbed his “secret” material MR6.

The MR6 is made entirely from waste materials that get mixed into asphalt to create the durable roads.

McCartney says his roads are cheaper, stronger and they last longer.

Roads built with MR6 are less likely to crack than conventional roads and they lessen tire resistance, which could contribute to better fuel economy.

  AUTHOR
Caxton Central

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