Netherlands hits the road with plastic

Turning green: Rotterdam has plans to replace the asphalt on their roads with recycled plastic. (Toussaint Kluiters/AFP)

Turning green: Rotterdam has plans to replace the asphalt on their roads with recycled plastic. (Toussaint Kluiters/AFP)

The Netherlands could become the first country to pave its streets with plastic bottles after the Rotterdam city council said it was considering piloting a new type of road surface, touted by its creators as a greener alternative to asphalt.

Construction firm VolkerWessels unveiled plans last Friday for a surface made of recycled plastic, which it said needed less maintenance than asphalt and could withstand greater extremes of temperature – between -40°C and 80°C. Roads could be laid in weeks rather than months and last much longer, it claimed.

The company said asphalt is responsible for 1.6-million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year globally – 2% of all road transport emissions.

Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’s roads subdivision KWS Infra, said: “Plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance.”

The plastic roads are lighter, they reduce the load on the ground, and they’re hollow, making it easier to install networks underground.

Sections can be prefabricated in a factory and transported to where they are needed, reducing on-site construction, while the shorter construction time and low maintenance will mean less congestion caused by roadworks. Lighter materials can also be transported more efficiently.

Mars said the PlasticRoad project was still at the conceptual stage, but the company hopes to be able to put down the first fully recycled road in three years.
Rotterdam, a supporter of sustainable technology, has signalled its interest in running a trial.

Jaap Peters, from the city council’s engineering bureau, said: “We’re very positive towards the developments around PlasticRoad. Rotterdam is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.” – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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