July 15th, 2015 by Lara Lopes via Interesting Engineering
Paving streets and roads with asphalt can – in a not so distant future – become a thing of the past. The alternative? Recycled plastic. And the Netherlands could be the first country to use this new type of road surface.
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.
Among the many benefits of PlasticRoad are requiring less maintenance and having greater durability of up to three times that of asphalt. It’s construction would also be much faster, taking weeks instead of months to be finished.
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.”
Another benefit is that the mentioned roads are hollow, which creates room for power cables and utility pipelines below the surface. Although the idea is still a concept, VolkerWessels expects to finish the first fully paved public road with recycled plastic within three years.