There are some suggestions on how to recycle plastic in a meaningful way in roads. The most talked-about application is the substitute for conventional bitumen. But, how does this affect the road’s durability and the environment?
Plastic’s unjustified bad reputation
Plastic is not the problem, we humans are. The plastic that gets into the environment doesn’t do it by itself, we dispose it there irresponsibly. That is why we have to find ways to use it reasonably instead of polluting the environment or leaving it unused in landfills.
Plastic as a bitumen substitute
The excellent binding agent plastic reduces bitumen consumption per kilometer of road by around fifteen percent. At the same time, the roads with plastic components are more resistant and durable. The prototype was built on Vasudevan’s campus (India) back in 2002 and still holds up, and Indian roads have been built with plastic in widespread use for several years.
How does that affect the environment?
When it comes to particulate matter, most people only think of soot from the exhaust. But that also includes wear and tear on the tires and road material. The plastic in the streets thus theoretically creates another source of microplastics. How strong this influence is, however, is still unclear. It is also common to recycle old pavement. Whether plastic influences recyclability has to be researched in more detail.
It is fundamentally important to find alternative ways of using plastic waste
Whether the use in roads could be part of the solution remains to be seen in the next few years, because the technology hasn’t been around that long and long-term monitoring is missing. But I’m pretty sure it will find more widespread use in the future.