Traditional asphalt paving relies on the use of bituminous pitch mixed with sand and gravel to make roads, parking lots, driveways and similar types of surfaces meant for motor vehicles. Under ideal conditions the lifespan of an asphalt road is 25 years, but such desirable circumstances are rare. Instead, most roads need to be repaved every 10 to 15 years.
Unfortunately the paving and repaving of roads comes with a high environmental toll. Asphalt paving produces 96 million tons of carbon dioxide annually or two per cent of all road transport emissions. However, cities like our very own Vancouver are looking for ways to build roads without the heavy impact on our planet. One possible solution? Using recycled plastic to make asphalt mix.
A variety of methods
Recycled plastic can be combined with new or recycled asphalt in a number of possible ways. A pilot paving project begun in Vancouver in 2012 involved creating a wax from harder plastics such as those found in tubs, bins and jugs and combining them with more traditional asphalt ingredients. In India, 5,000 kilometres of highway have been paved using a similar method, with one of the biggest differences being that the plastic used was a combination of both hard and soft plastics. However, both of these methods are adaptations of the paving process that leaves many of the basic principles unchanged. But in the last year or so the possibility of roads made from 100 per cent recycled plastic is being explored in the Netherlands. In Rotterdam, a local construction company has been given approval to build a bike path using interlocking, pre-fabricated plastic pieces made entirely from plastic salvaged from the ocean and incineration plants. The company hopes this technology will be used to construct Dutch highways in the near future.
Benefits of plastic roads
Using plastic in the construction of roads—whether in full or in part—has a number of environmental advantages. Reducing carbon emissions is one plus, but it’s also advantageous to reduce the amount of plastic that pollutes our oceans and occupies our landfills. Giving our plastic products a second life is one of the soundest ways of dealing with North America’s huge plastic problem. The U.S. alone generates 33 million tons of plastic waste every year, only nine per cent of which is recycled. In addition to the ecological benefits of building our highways and byways with recycled plastic, these roads are also stronger, more durable and easier to maintain than their conventional asphalt counterparts.
Our commitment to the planet
At Custom Blacktop Co., we’re excited about the possibility of using plastic in our asphalt paving projects of the future. We’re always looking for better and more environmentally sound ways to create the structures you need. For 40 years we’ve served the greater Vancouver area by providing complete paving services for businesses and homeowners alike.
Contact us to find out more about what we do or to get a free estimate on an upcoming job.