Dutch engineers and designers have become known for their innovative ideas during the recent years. From the self-healing concrete to the world’s first solar bike path, their creations always offer us a unique combination of ingenuity and eco-friendliness. Now, Dutch construction company VolkerWessels plans to pave the roads with recycled plastic bottles instead of asphalt. If everything goes smoothly and the PlasticRoad project is finally implemented, the Dutch city of Rotterdam will see roads with the surface made of recycled plastic already in three years.
It’s a good way to replace asphalt with a more ‘green’ alternative, considering how harmful this material is to the environment. In fact, every ton of produced asphalt emits 27 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere, which makes the total of 1.45 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide a year. Asphalt is also one of the main factors to cause urban heat island effect because of its property to absorb and retain heat. On the other hand, there is another critical problem with tons of plastic trash which are overloading both the land and the ocean.
Thus, using recycled plastic instead of asphalt to pave the roads could help lessen the environmental footprint. But it’s not the only benefit – it would also make the road surface more durable and, as a result, reduce road maintenance costs. According to VolkerWessels, this eco-friendly road surface is able to withstand a great range of temperatures – between -40C and 80C. At the same time, the plastic roads would be light and hollow, which means that there would be some extra space for pipes and cables.
Road construction would also become faster and less costly as there would be no need for on-site construction activities which require numerous staff and long-hour work. Instead, sections of the recycled plastic surface could be manufactured in a factory and then transported to the site. This would make it possible to prevent the pollution caused by roadworks and minimize the transportation of raw materials, which would contribute to reducing the environmental impacts as well.
Despite that the project is still on paper, the company is very optimistic about the future prospects. Rolf Mars of VolkerWessels said that the plastic roads could have a great potential for becoming a platform for the introduction of some other innovations, such as heated roads or ultra-quiet surfaces. In fact, Rotterdam is famous for supporting similar sustainable developments initiatives, so the city officials have already shown their interest in the implementation of the PlasticRoad project.
“Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea,” Mars told the Guardian. “It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”