Plastic Roads Better Than Asphalt

A dozen countries have now built roads that incorporate plastic. It's great for recycling and the results are equal to or better than bog-standard asphalt.

Following OGN's article last month - Face Masks Make Stronger Roads - a growing number of studies say that roads containing waste plastic have the potential to perform as well or better than traditional roads. They can last longer, are stronger and more durable in respect to loads and rutting, can tolerate wide temperature swings, and are more resistant to water damage, cracking, and potholes. What's not to like?

First appearing in India two decades ago, 'plastic roads' are being tested and built in more and more countries as the world’s plastic pollution problem becomes more acutely felt. India has installed over 60,000 miles of these roads. The technology, meanwhile, is gaining ground in Britain, Europe, and Asia. Several countries - South Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States, among them - have built their first plastic roads only recently.

In a developing nation, “it’s difficult to recycle plastic,” noted Heather Troutman, programme manager of the Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership. “It’s expensive, complicated, technical, and much easier just to burn it. But if you could put value on recycled plastic,” by turning it into fishing nets, fuel, or paving material, “it won’t get buried; it won’t get burned; it won’t make it to the ocean.”

The technology of incorporating waste plastic into paving materials is likely to take a long time to evolve. While widely in use in India, it is still in its nascent stages in other countries. However, given that only 9 percent of the 350 million tons of plastic that humans produce each year is recycled, advocates see the technology as one of many strategies that can help humans quit the habit of blindly sending waste downstream and adopt the practices essential for a circular economy: reduce, reuse, recycle.



Plastic Bricks Stronger Than Concrete

A brilliant young Kenyan woman manufactures bricks from recycled plastic. Nzambi Matee says she was “tired of being on the sidelines” while her government struggled to find a solution to the plastic waste in Nairobi, so she formulated her own plan and founded Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastic waste into durable building materials. More...