Does the thought cross your mind when you dispose of your water bottle that it may end up adrift in the Pacific Ocean, now a part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? A Netherlands based construction company has discovered a way to re purpose your pitched plastic is a way that might actually make you feel good.
The VolkerWessels construction company developed a concept coined “Plastic Road”, which aims to construct roads solely from recycled plastic that has been reclaimed from incineration plants and oceans. Once the concept was revealed in July, it quickly caught the attention of the Rotterdam city council and the city is now offering a test location for the Plastic Road. The Guardian reported that the first road will actually be a bicycle path, and constructed is estimated to be completed within three years.
The plan details explain that the road with be constructed in a factory and then assembled on site in a Lego type fashion. This in turns leaves the potential for grooves for traffic sensors and light poles to be worked in before the panels ever leave the factory. The construction also allows for a hollow space below the surface, making it easier to lay pipelines and cables at a later time.
If the Plastic Road proves to be a success, there’s no reason the design couldn’t branch out in Rotterdam and beyond. But the question has been posed, what makes plastic a potential alternative to asphalt – the choice material of highway engineers for changing the landscape and the history of the U.S. since the late 19th century. We can start with recycling. Designers and engineers at VolkerWessels have hopes that the Plastic Road, born from recycling, will again be recycled when it wears out. According the company, the road is tough – surviving temperatures as low as 40 below Fahrenheit and up to a blistering 176 degrees. Engineers predict the road could last up to 50 years, that’s three times longer than a traditional asphalt road! The plastic road could theoretically reduce traffic jams due to the fact that it would be unaffected by corrosion and thus require less maintenance. The use of asphalt accounts for 2% of all road transport emissions according to The Guardian. The material damages our environment, pouring an estimated 1.6 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The move to plastic just seems to make sense all around.
While VolkerWessels’ plan exists on paper, we have witnessed how plastic can work on roadways. Over 30 miles of roadways in Jamshedpur, India have been partially, if not fully, paved with recycled plastic. It’s reported that bottles and wrappers are hauled to collection centers, shredded, and then mixed with asphalt. At the heart of such a pressing matter, we now see a promising step in the right direction to solve the world’s debilitating plastic problem.