Drive down any major road and you’re likely to see plastic bottles and other kipple littering the shoulders. Sometimes it’s just too tempting to declutter the interior of one’s car at the expense of the surrounding landscape.
But what if that trash could be put to good use — as the road itself?
Roads in the Dutch city of Rotterdam could soon be paved with recycled plastic. Called PlasticRoad, the concept is being promoted by KWS Infra, a unit of the Dutch construction conglomerate VolkerWessels, according to Autoblog.
The company claims PlasticRoad could last up to three times longer than traditional road surfaces, and withstand temperatures ranging from minus 40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there are still some unknowns, including how the material behaves when slippery.
Switching to plastic creates environmental benefits both from using recycled materials and, KWS claims, from reducing the use of asphalt. It says asphalt is responsible for about 2 percent of global transportation carbon dioxide emissions.
PlasticRoad’s design is also meant to speed up construction. It would be built in sections off-site, reducing construction time from months to just a few weeks, KWS claims. The sections are also hollow, allowing for pipes and electrical cables to be run beneath the surface, and lighter than traditional roads.
The Rotterdam city council said it was considering a pilot program for the new technology. The city also has a “street lab” where further testing can be done. However, KWS says the first sections of PlasticRoad probably won’t be laid for at least three years.
KWS wants to continue laboratory testing, and is looking for other companies and organizations to partner with it on a pilot project in Rotterdam. That includes finding companies in the plastics industry to supply materials.
PlasticRoad is a novel idea, but like every new technology, promising lab results may not necessarily translate into real-world performance. For one thing, plastic roads will have to be pretty durable, as patching potholes seems kind of difficult. So does replacing the hollow sections with pipes and cables running through them.