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Circular Economy | Dutch Plastic Road


A modular road made from recycled plastic is being trialled in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands a trial of a bold use of recycled plastics in road construction is underway. There, the world’s first plastic cycle path made of recycled bottles, cups and packaging opened in the district of Zwolle, in September.

This is part of a pilot, with the hope that  similar cycle paths, and potentially highways, using this revolutionary technology could open up, countrywide.

Three times as durable as asphalt

The 30m long path for the pilot, made of recycled plastic equivalent to more than 218,000 plastic cups, is expected to be three times as durable as asphalt.

The PlasticRoad concept was conceived by contractor VolkerWessels’ Dutch road subsidiary KWS. It developed the product is association with plastic pipe manufacturer Wavin and oil and gas giant Total.

Sensors within the material monitor the road’s performance – data on its temperature, the number of bikes that pass over it and its ability to cope with the traffic is all captured.

The prefabricated sections of cycle path are light and hollow making them easy to transport and 70% quicker to install. Cables and utility pipes can be easily fitted inside, and the path is designed to drain off rainwater.

A second path is to be installed in the town of Giethoorn , while Rotterdam is most likely to be the first city to take up the technology for further cycle paths.

The concept of PlasticRoad is completely in sync with environmental initiatives like Cradle to Cradle and The Ocean Cleanup

“After an extensive period of design, testing and development, we are delighted that the PlasticRoad is becoming a reality,” says KWS project manager and PlasticRoad inventor Anne Koudstaal.

The team hopes the plastic road will become a  sustainable alternative to traditional paved and asphalt roads.

“With the PlasticRoad, we will bring plastic waste back into the chain, thus reducing the environmental impacts of building and maintaining a road,” says Koudstaal.

“The concept of PlasticRoad is completely in sync with environmental initiatives like Cradle to Cradle and The Ocean Cleanup.

Plastic from the ocean is recycled and made into prefabricated road components that can be installed in one piece – making the installation easy, quick and lightweight.

It also alleviates the continuous issues linked to asphalt and paved roads: erosion, weeds, potholes, surface flooding, surface heating, noise,” she adds.

The PlasticRoad is prefabricated with hollow space for drainage pipes, cabling and flood water attenuation. It is hoped that it will prove to be 70% faster to install than traditional road surfaces and will last three times longer than traditional paved roads.

UK initiative

In the UK, moves are also afoot to incorporate plastics into road surfacing.

Hard-to-recycle plastics such as computer keyboards and monitors are being crushed into Coventry roads as part of a trial to cut plastic pollution and carbon emissions.

The city has resurfaced part of a residential road with material using plastic pellets as a binding agent instead of bitumen, a fossil fuel traditionally used in road resurfacing.

One section has been resurfaced with “rubber crumbs” from old vehicle tyres, with another traditionally resurfaced. Each section will be monitored over the next few years for signs of wear and tear, but Coventry City Council believes the plastic and rubber roads will be harder wearing than traditional asphalt only roads, which have a high carbon footprint.

Council head of highways Neil Cowper says officials got the idea from trials carried out by Cumbria County Council.

“It’s not so much plastic bottles as things like computer keyboards and monitors – the really tough to recycle plastics,” says Cowper.

Although Cowper declines to provide an exact figures for the scheme, he says the difference between the more environmentally friendly roads and bitumen-based road surfaces is “relatively cost neutral”.

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