There aren’t too many uses for discarded plastic items, mainly such as, plastic water bottles. According to a report by EcoWatch in 2014, plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate. The same report says, according to Brita, Americans throw away 35 billion water bottles every year.
Now imagine if it was possible to take those water bottles and recycle them to make roads and highways out of them instead of leaving them to their fate in the oceans and landfills all across the world.
The construction firm of VolkerWessels, KWS Infra in Holland, may be given the go ahead by the Rotterdam city council to begin testing a new pilot program called PlasticRoad. PlasticRoad is, yup, you guessed it, an experimental program to create an entire road surface from recycled plastics.
KWS Infra says a road made entirely from recycle plastic will last about three times as long and require less maintenance than asphalt while also having the added benefit of withstanding greater extremes of temperatures as well – temperatures ranging from between -40 degrees and 80 degrees celcius. Another added benefit would be roads could be laid in a matter of weeks instead of the months and years it currently takes.
Anyone living in eastern Canada knows just how much havoc our extreme temperatures currently inflict upon our roads. Potholes the size of cars, dips that simulate roller coaster rides, ruts that help you imagine what it would be like if your steering wheel locked up all of a sudden, endless gridlock due to the constant need of road repair… these are just some of the reasons why the idea of the PlasticRoad program seems like a dream come true.
According to The Guardian, Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’s roads subdivision, KWS Infra, says, “Plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance. The plastic roads are lighter, reducing the load on the ground, and hollow, making it easier to install cables and utility pipelines below the surface.” Mars also says, “The idea has huge potential for future development, such as heated roads or ultra-quiet surfaces.”
The company also says “The environmental argument was also strong as asphalt is responsible for 1.6M tons of CO2 emissions a year globally – 2 percent of all road transport emissions.”
Unfortunately, the PlasticRoad project is still at the conceptual stage but KWS Infra hopes to be able to lay down the first road made fully from recycled plastic down within three years. Obviously, they have the full support of the Rotterdam city council, and presumably, everyone else in the world (except the asphalt and crooked road construction companies).
I’ll certainly be keenly following along as KWS Infra continues to test out the viability of a plastic road surface in its ‘street lab’ that simulates real-world conditions. An environmentally friendly, longer lasting and more efficient road surface sounds fantastic on paper, yes, but we’ll have to wait and see how PlasticRoad actually handles reality – i.e., how it will work in wet and slippery conditions like rain or snow, how it will be repaired if a section is damaged, that kind of thing.
As it stands now, PlasticRoad sounds like a truly innovative idea and I hope it or some variation of it succeeds.