Building Roads With Pellets Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Councils are testing pellets made from recycled plastic bottles, bags and other waste materials in road construction.(Image: biancamentil)

At long last there may be a use for those pesky plastic bottles and bags that blight our streets and harm the environment. Several UK councils are testing a new process that takes waste plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in the landfill and melting them into an asphalt mixture that reduces waste and reportedly makes for stronger roads.

The innovative process transforms the waste materials into plastic pellets which “are then melted into the asphalt mix to act as a binding agent”, Sky News reports. It’s understood that recycled plastic makes up around 0.5 per cent of the mixture.

Discarded plastic bottles gathered together.(Image: Hans)

Speaking the Sky News, Toby McCartney of MacRebur Plastics Road Company said: “We’re able to take the waste plastics that are destined for landfill, we take those plastics and we add them into an asphalt mix to create a stronger, longer lasting road. It makes the end performance of the road much greater and we replace part of the bitumen in the mix, that’s the fossil fuel.”

He added: “Our analogy is that traditional bitumen is a bit like a Pritt Stick – what we have is a superglue. It binds the stuff together to form a stronger and longer lasting bind, so we have less flaking of anything coming off. There’s less maintenance needed for those roads and we’re saving (councils) money by using up local waste for local roads.”

Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and Enfield councils are currently testing what have been termed “plastic roads”.

Councillor Elaine Murray, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, told Sky News that landfill tax would be reduced due to less waste plastic being disposed of into the ground. She added that although the pellets are slightly more expensive than bitumen at the present time, “bitumen depends on the oil price so that wouldn’t necessarily always be the case. Also, it uses a lot less binder, so there’s a saving there.”

Plastic and other waste materials are ploughed into a landfill site.(Image: Prylarer)

Cllr Murray, who described the process as “quite exciting”, said: “Instead of using bitumen, which is a product of the oil industry, it uses plastics which would normally just go into landfill. So it’s environmentally friendly as well as being a good, hard surface for the road. Hopefully it will be more hard-working in the longer term…”

But Dr Karl Williams, director of the Centre for Waste and Resource Management at the University of Central Lancashire, cautioned that it was still early days. “I think it’s too early to say how environmentally friendly these roads are because they are only going on trial roads at the moment, and in terms of what plastics they are using, where the plastic comes from and the level of contamination,” he told Sky News.

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