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article imagePaving highways using recycled plastics in a circular economy

By Karen Graham     Nov 13, 2019 in Technology
In 2017, the world's largest plastic producers, Dow Chemical, began building roads using recycled plastic waste. In March, the UK plastic road company MacRebur opened an entire factory that does nothing but turn plastics into an asphalt mix for roads.
Using recycled plastics in asphalt is taking hold around the world. In addition to reducing plastic pollution, plastic roads have a number of advantages over traditional asphalt, according to several companies using a unique technologies to create the plastic-asphalt mix.
We're going to look at three different companies that have developed technologies to reuse plastic waste added to an asphalt mix in paving roads, car parks, and driveways. First, we will look at Dow Chemical, the world's largest producer of plastic products.
Another company in Lockerbie, Scotland called MacRebur has come up with an innovative use for the huge volume of waste plastic that can't be recycled – and it could save motorists billions.
Poyholes increase vehicle maintenance costs.
Poyholes increase vehicle maintenance costs.
Infrastructure Report Card
In 2015, KWS, a subsidiary of the Dutch construction company VolkerWessels launched the PlasticRoad concept. It didn't take long at all to find some willing partners in the project, and the company was off and running.
Dow Chemical embraces a circular economy
When Dow began the plastic roads project in 2017, they partnered with the Indonesian government to keep the country's plastic waste from entering the ocean. At that time, Indonesia was the world's second-largest marine plastic waste polluter.
Indonesia had set a goal of reducing plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025, and Dow Chemical offered the country technical advice on how to turn the country's plastic into roads.
It wasn't long before Dow ended up helping two cities in India, Bangalore, and Pune, develop roads from more than 100 tons of recycled plastic. After that, Dow carried out similar efforts in Thailand, the world's sixth-biggest contributor to ocean waste.
Dow and DEEP C successfully complete the first asphalt road using recycled plastics in Vietnam on Oc...
Dow and DEEP C successfully complete the first asphalt road using recycled plastics in Vietnam on October 1, 2019.
Dow Chemical Company
Dow has finally brought its plastic road technology to the United States. In February this year, the company constructed two private roads at its facility in Freeport, Texas using 1,700 pounds of recycled plastic, or the equivalent weight of 120,000 plastic grocery bags, according to Business Insider.
Sorry, but Dow wouldn't disclose the ratio of asphalt to plastic in its formula. And that's OK because it seems to be working very well. Just this past week, a stretch of road connecting the municipalities of Irapuato and Cuerámaro, in Mexico was completed using 1.7 tons of reclaimed plastics, or the equivalent of 425,000 plastic packaging units, according to Dow Plastics Technology Mexico, reports Mexico News Daily.
MacRebur - The plastic Road Company
MacRebur had an interesting start. CEO, Toby McCartney, was working in Southern India with a charity helping people who work on landfill sites as ‘pickers’. Their job is to gather potentially reusable items and sell them on to be turned from rubbish into something useful again.
Some of the waste plastics retrieved by the pickers were put into potholes, diesel poured all over them, and the rubbish set alight until the plastics melted into the craters to form a makeshift plastic pothole filler. Figuring there was a better way to fix potholes besides setting them on fire - McCartney and two friends, Nick and Gordon, figured out a way to create the perfect plastic road.
Laying our first #plasticroad at Jeffrey s Bay South Africa on October 23  2019.
Laying our first #plasticroad at Jeffrey's Bay South Africa on October 23, 2019.
MacRebur actually makes three products - all of them a mix of granulated waste plastics that are used as an additive in asphalt. All of the products meet various worldwide road standards and have been rigorously tested against standard asphalt, bitumen and Polymer Modified Bitumen.
"We are wanting to solve two world problems. On one side we call it the waste plastic epidemic, and on the other side the poor quality of roads that we have to drive on today," McCartney told CNN in July. Plastic waste is "pelletized" into small granules and replaces 20 percent of the sticky, oil-based bitumen that seals traditional roads.
As of this year, MacEebur Plastic Roads Company has provided plastic pellets for roads in the United Kingdom and the Gulf, as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The KWS sustainable road
In 2015, KWS, a subsidiary of the Dutch construction company VolkerWessels launched the PlasticRoad concept. The company estimated that recycled plastic roads could last at least 50 years or around three times longer than conventional roads.
The PlasticRoad is a road based on recycled plastic. It is prefabricated and features a hollow space that can be used for various purposes. This includes water storage, the transit of cables and pipes, heating roads, generating energy etc. The PlasticRoad elements allow for circular reuse.
Think of building a road with Legos, and that is about how cool this concept really is. How new is this concept? The company says the concept has never been seen before in this form and with this choice of materials. This leads them to conclude that the concept is truly unique. In September 2018 the first pilot in the world was installed in Zwolle.
The innovation is considerably more sustainable. The goal is to make the PlasticRoad out of 100 percent recycled plastic and to make it fully reusable. It is perfectly in line with the Cradle to Cradle philosophy and the principles of the circular economy. The company also estimated that plastic roads could survive extremely hot or cold temperatures ranging from 176 degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
More about recycled plastic, Technology, Dow chemical, circular economy, asphalt roads
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