Paving streets and roads with asphalt can – in a not so distant future – become a thing of the past. The alternative? Recycled plastic. Road surfacing may not be the first application that comes to mind for recycled plastic bottles, but Dutch construction firm VolkerWessels has plans to use the material for a pilot scheme in the city of Rotterdam. While the idea is still at the conceptual stage for now, the company says that its plastic roads could be in place within three years.
The new project called PlasticRoad was developed by the Dutch construction firm VolkerWessels and uses only recycled materials for the production of road sections, which can be prefabricated. And if you think the idea could only be adopted in colder countries, the company guarantees that the material withstands higher temperatures of up to 80°C. Furthermore, its construction would also be much faster, taking weeks instead of months to be finished.
There are many benefits to using recycled plastic rather than asphalt for a driving surface: producing the material would have a much smaller environmental footprint; it would last longer; require less maintenance; and be able to withstand greater extremes in temperature. The plastic solution would be quicker to lay too, says VolerWessels, and the road would be hollow, leaving room for power cables and utility pipelines.
The recycled plastic surface can be constructed off-site and then delivered to wherever it’s required – that means less time sitting in roadworks for the general public and less of an impact on the environment as well in terms of the transportation of raw materials. Further down the line the surface could be developed to offer an ultra-quiet drive or even integrated heating (no doubt useful during a snowstorm).
The city of Rotterdam has already shown interest in the project and offered a kind of laboratory for the PlasticRoad be tested. Jaap Peters, from the city council’s engineering bureau, said: “We’re very positive towards the developments around PlasticRoad. Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.”
“It’s still an idea on paper at the moment,” VolkerWessels’ Rolf Mars told The Guardian. “The next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry, we’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions.”
“Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea,” added Mars. “It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”
Translated to Portuguese by PET CIVIL – UFC