Plastic roads are faster to build, more durable and more eco-friendly than asphalt.
A new bike path has been installed in the Dutch city of Zwolle. What makes it unique compared to other roads is that it is a plastic road made from recycled consumer plastic waste.
The road is made from used plastic that would otherwise have been incinerated or dumped into a landfill.
The construction of this first path is the result of a collaboration of three companies behind the innovative project known as PlasticRoad. The collaborating companies include engineering company KWS, Wavin, a subsidiary of the plastic piping company Mexicham, and energy company Total.
Every component of the plastic road is designed for the application to be fully circular, with the primary goal to use recycled plastics as much as possible. The pilot plastic road that was built in Zwolle uses 70% recycled plastic. However, the goal for future roads is to use 100% recycled plastics.
These plastics can come from anything, especially plastic that generally has very little value, such as old plastic bottles, beer cups, cosmetic packaging and plastic furniture.
The benefits the plastic road offers outweighs those of traditional roads.
“It’s hard to predict how many of the world’s roads will be built with plastic,” said Gert-Jan Maasdam, a director of technology at Wavin, reported Fast Company. “But the underlying economics and benefits of PlasticRoads outweigh traditional roads.”
For starters, the road’s design includes prefabricated and lightweight modular pieces. This makes moving these pieces and installing them both quick and easy. The team behind the project say that a full road that would typically take months to build using traditional materials and methods, could be installed in a matter of days with their plastic road.
Furthermore, due to the plastic, the road is weather resistance, making it more durable and able to last as much as two to three times longer than asphalt. Another advantage is the environmentally-friendly aspect. Recycled plastic has a far lower carbon footprint than asphalt or concrete.
Additionally, the design is hollow. This offers many benefits including the ability to easily running pipes under the road, storing rainwater, as well as prevent flooding. Also, once the road is worn to the point that it needs to be replaced, it can be recycled again.
The first plastic road that serves as bike path, is slightly less than 100 feet. The team integrated sensors into the road to monitor its performance, measuring its durability, temperature and how many cyclist use it. A second road is to be installed in November in a nearby city to further the testing of the roads.
The team of companies behind PlasticRoad will improve upon the design, using the data they collect. Their hope is begin installing plastic roads for parking lots, sidewalks and, eventually, streets.