The engineers and designers of the Netherlands have become well known for the innovative ideas. From the world’s first solar bike path to the self-healing concrete, they always seem to offer a unique fusion of eco-friendliness and ingenuity.
Now there is a Dutch construction company that plans on paving the roads with recycled plastic bottles. VolkerWessels is looking to implement the Plastic Road project in the city of Rotterdam, where they will no longer see the asphalt, but instead recycled plastic.
This is an innovative way to replace the environmentally harmful asphalt and at the same time help reduce the plastic waste that ends up in landfills and our oceans. Just one ton of asphalt can emit 27 kilograms of CO2 into our atmosphere, which totals up to 1.45 million tons of CO2 emissions worldwide every year. Asphalt is the number one cause of urban heat island effect due to how it absorbs and retains heat.
The use of recycled plastics, instead of asphalt, could help to reduce the environmental footprint we tend to leave everywhere. Another benefit would be that the road surface is more durable and the road maintenance costs will be reduced.
VolkerWessels believes that the eco-friendly surface will be able to withstand a substantial range of temperature, around -40c and 80c. These plastic roads would be hollow allowing for pipes and cables to be ran in them with much more ease.
The road construction time would be reduced significantly and the cost as well, as the numerous staff that is needed for on-site construction activities will no longer be so large. A factory would produce the sections of the road and then transport them to the job-site. This will reduce the transportation of raw materials and contribute to the reduction of environmental impacts.
Though the project is just on paper right now, VolkerWessels is optimistic about the future possibilities. Rolf Mars, of VolkerWessels, explained that the plastic roads could lead to other innovations, such as ultra-quiet surfaces and heated roads. Rotterdam, who is famous for their support in sustainable developments initiatives, have shown interest in the PlasticRoad project.
Mar told the Guardian,
“Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea,” and continued with, “It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”
Some concerns may be that plastic is a harmful substance and is it best to use such material for large projects? For now, the project is just on paper, but if and when it is implemented we can see how well it works.