Did you know there could be another use for the 185 pounds of plastic that every American discards each year? Plastic may the future material of choice in road construction. Several European companies are currently in the testing phase of building roads made of plastic instead of asphalt.
This type of road construction offers several tangible benefits:
- Improved road quality
- Longer lasting
- Fewer potholes
- Less reliance on fossil fuels
- Easier to work with
- Lower price
Unlike asphalt or concrete, the plastic road construction can be made in a factory and then quickly snapped into place. This new-age process could shave weeks or even months off the construction process. A new plastic road may be able to last three times longer than traditional roads and require fewer repairs.
Plastic Road Construction is Closer than you may Think
KWS, Wavin and Total are currently collaborating on the development of PlasticRoad, an environmentally-friendly road construction alternative that is set to debut at the end of this year. The product is a prefabricated, modular, hollow road structure that aims to be an alternative to asphalt. PlasticRoad may one day be a more cost-effective solution, which lasts longer and reduces noise pollution.
In England, MacRebur has gained the support of two local governments to start using a plastic-based material to build roads. “We take waste plastic that is destined for landfill sites and recycle it,” MacRebur’s Toby McCartney told Digital Trends. “What we’re able to do is to take this plastic that has been thrown away, and use a special formula to clean it off, create pellets using it, and then use those pellets to add to a mixture of rocks and bitumen to make longer-lasting roads.”
What’s wrong with Asphalt?
However, some in the construction industry contend that asphalt is still environmentally-friendly enough. According to the Asphalt Pavement Association of Oregon, asphalt pavements require about 20 percent less energy to produce and construct than other types of pavements.
The asphalt industry reclaims about 100 million tons of its own product every year, and reuses or recycles about 95 million tons.
Less energy may also be consumed by those who travel on asphalt roads. In addition, asphalt pavements can be repaired and reopened to traffic immediately after work is completed.
This can help to minimize traffic congestion, which leads to greater fuel consumption and emissions production. Asphalt is also a preferred material, because it doesn’t easily wear out. If it is damaged, only the top layer needs to be removed and replaced.
Since the damaged material is reclaimed and recycled, asphalt is also an environmentally sustainable construction process.