Will Roads Be Made of Plastic?

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Floating highways have always been futuristic, candy cane lanes have remained fictional and Lego roads have endured the evolving fads of toys, but could new innovations make any of these a reality? Not quite, but plastic roads are a close second. One Dutch city has announced plans to test out roads paved with recycled plastic surfacing material, according to Fortune magazine. Dutch construction company VolkerWessels has released design plans on this alternative for our cars and could begin construction in as little as 3 years.

Going green

Creating roads made from plastic could have the potential to combat one the most pressing environmental issues in our world today. According to Wired, 33 million tons of plastic waste were created by the U.S. in 2013. Of that staggering amount, only 9 percent was recycled. And according to Fortune, new reports from the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science’s meeting state that an alarming portion of plastic waste is entering oceans each year. Putting that plastic waste to good use would significantly reduce these numbers. What’s more is that the asphalt used in most roads now accounts for 1.6 million tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year, according to Fortune. Eliminating the need for asphalt on roadways would also help to bring down CO2 levels.

Benefits of plastic roads

The environmental gains aren’t the only benefit that would come from creating plastic roads. In a July press release, the VolkerWessels construction company reported on the numerous advantages of plastic roads. First and foremost, construction of these innovative highways would take significantly less time than traditional roads and require far less maintenance. The life span of these roads would increase by three times that of conventional roads thanks to their durability. The lightweight, hollow design would allow for piping and cabling underneath. According to VolkerWessels, plastic highways would create a less noisy road and allow for the option of heated roads. The end goal is to create roads that are made of 100 percent of recycled materials.

“Plastic roads might just be the next big thing.”

Taking a cue from India

According to The Financial Express, the success of plastic roads has already been proven by one Indian city. Jamshedpur has partially paved 50 kilometers of road with recycled plastic. Ten collection centers across the city gather plastic bottles and wrappers that are then shredded and combined with asphalt. While the city still incorporates the traditional asphalt material, its efforts are going in the right direction, putting India ahead of the rest of world when it comes to reducing plastic waste.

The plastic roads in Jamshedpur began as a pilot project and are now proving to have strong benefits. If all cities could take the same initiative, with just a little research and resources the majority of the globe’s roadways could one day be completely comprised of recycled materials. The managing director of Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company which spearheaded the project, Ashish Mathur, noted how utilizing plastic waste in an efficient way could help the environment and improve the roads, according to The Financial Times.

plastic roads“We did research to find out if plastic waste could be recycled in such a way that it could be utilized properly. We started with granulation of the waste and then mixed it with the bitumen used to make roads, which gave brilliant results. Today all the roads that are constructed in Jamshedpur use 20 to 30 percent of plastic waste mixed with bitumen,” he said.

Anything is possible in today’s rapidly evolving world of technology. Remember when driverless cars were something of the future? Plastic roads might just be the next big thing.

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