A Dutch construction company has submitted plans to lay roads made out of recycled plastic, which it has said could significantly reduce the effect on carbon emissions.
The city council in Rotterdam is considering the proposal from VolkerWessels, which includes a road and cycle lane made from post-consumer plastic. The PlasticRoad project would be the first infrastructure project in the world to use plastic as a material for roads, and could lead to a number of useful advantages.
The material requires less maintenance than asphalt; can withstand temperatures between –40°C and 80°C; and is hollow, meaning that underground cables and piping is easier to install. PlasticRoad is so light that it reduces the load on the ground and can be prefabricated in a factory before being taken to the construction site.
It is green too: VolkerWessels said that adopting the innovation could help to reduce the 1.6m tons of carbon dioxide that are emitted around the world every year, although the difference in impact between PlasticRoad and asphalt has not been revealed.
The innovation goes against the trend towards turning post-consumer plastic bottles back into usable packaging – much along the same lines as previous developments such as Coca-Cola and will.i.am’s line of recycled clothing. If a trial is successful, it could potentially open up an industrial-size opportunity for producers of plastic-packaged beverages and foods.
With a reputation for being at the fore of environmental developments, Rotterdam is seeking to trial the project, which could lead to the laying of the first plastic-based road within three years. Dutch engineers have previously floated the idea of a man-made island built using recycled plastic, and have already constructed a cycle lane near Amsterdam that helps to generate power.
“As far as I know we’re the first in the world [to do this],” Rolf Mars, director of VolkerWessels’ KWS Infra division, told London newspaper The Guardian this week. “It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry. We’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions.”
And Rotterdam City Council spokesman Jaap Peters added: “We’re very positive towards developments around PlasticRoad. Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice.”
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