PlasticRoad project - Credit : ©VolkerWessels

Plastic paves the way

Posted on 29 October 2015.

The Dutch construction company VolkerWessels has developed a 100% recycled plastic road. The city of Rotterdam is already planning to test this brand new technology.

Estimates predict that the lifespan of VolkerWessels’ plastic roads will be tripled - and they will be easier and faster to build.

Known as PlasticRoad, roads are produced from plastic waste collected from the depths of the ocean and from incineration plants. The plastic is recycled into prefabricated road sections in the factory and then assembled on site - like Lego! At the end of its lifespan, the material could even be reused to produce new sections. A perfect illustration of both the cradle to cradle philosophy and circular economy principles.

Apart from having a lower environmental impact, plastic has many advantages over asphalt. Despite an initial cost well above that of standard roads, which are cheap and reliable but highly polluting, recycled plastic roads eventually work out cheaper, because they last much longer. According to VolkerWessels, they are more resistant to corrosion, require little maintenance and can handle temperatures as low as minus 40°C and as high as 80°C with ease. Estimates predict that the lifespan of VolkerWessels’ plastic roads will be triple that of conventional roads. But there are still more advantages… they are easier and faster to build - just a few weeks instead of several months - and they have a hollow space that can be used for electric cables, pipes, storm water collection systems and traffic sensors, thereby paving the way for many other innovations.

PlasticRoad is still at the concept stage and will face a number of challenges before it can be put into circulation. But what about fire resistance or increased groundwater levels? Road safety in bad weather? To answer these questions, the VolkerWessels team wants to build a prototype and test it. Perhaps in Rotterdam? The Dutch city is already planning to build a recycled plastic road. After creating the world’s first solar cycle track, the Netherlands are the trailblazers yet again! If tests are successful, the first large plastic roads could appear within three years.