A Dutch company wants to build the world’s first roads made from recycled plastic, giving garbage recovered from the oceans a new life.
The aim of this project, called PlasticRoad, is to develop a new approach to road construction, by making them from salvaged plastic waste. The idea, which is the brainchild of VolkerWessels, a Dutch-based construction company, is to produce blocks of recycled plastic that can be prefabricated in a factory to create sections of road that can then be assembled on-site, similar to Lego pieces. This initiative has two objectives: to recycle the enormous amounts of plastic polluting the oceans, while reducing the economic and environmental costs associated with building roads, currently based on hydrocarbon derivatives.
Among the many advantages these new types of roads would offer, Rolf Mars, one of the project directors, explained that plastic would be easier in terms of construction, day-to-day use and maintenance. “If part of the road were damaged, it would take far less time to replace it, which would also minimize traffic disruptions,” he suggested. According to Mars, construction time would shrink from several months to a few weeks. They would also be more resistant and durable: roads made from recycled plastic could withstand temperatures between -40 degrees and 80 degrees, and their lifespan would be triple that of a conventional road (close to 50 years).
The PlasticRoad concept was unveiled in July 2015, and 2017 will mark the next step in its development: building new prototypes and running tests in various weather conditions. The city of Rotterdam, which was named Europe’s best city in terms of urban development in 2014, was the first to signal its interest in this initiative. The municipality is planning to build its first plastic road, which will be used as a bike path.