We sometimes get the feeling that the Netherlands is like a Think Tank for countries – they just come up with some of the most creative ideas ever. Now, they’ve tackled a very important part of the infrastructure: road paving. They want to use recycled plastic, and they want to do it soon – in less than three years.
A few advantages of paving the roads with recycled plastic are evident – it’s eco-friendly, it’s easy to lay down, and it would eliminate the problem of getting rid of the plastic. But is it sturdy enough? According to Dutch construction firm VolkerWessels, not only would it require less maintenance and last longer, but it would also better withstand extreme temperatures.
The idea of using plastic for pavement is not new – in fact, regular old asphalt uses a lot of recycled material, including tires, glass and blast furnace slag, but generating this mixture has an extremely high carbon footprint – The recycled plastic surface, meanwhile, can be constructed off-site. The recycled plastic surface, meanwhile, can be constructed off-site and generates way less emissions.
The idea is still in its concept stage, but the company seems confident in their idea, hoping to implement it in the city of Rotterdam within 3 years.
“It’s still an idea on paper at the moment,” VolkerWessels’ Rolf Mars told The Guardian. “The next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry, we’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions. Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea,” added Mars. “It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”
Another advantage of plastic paving is that it’s lighter, reducing the load on the ground, and hollow, which means that cables and utilities could be installed under it – potentially even heating, which would be very useful in the winter months. Jaap Peters, from the city council’s engineering bureau also expressed faith in this project:
“We’re very positive towards the developments around PlasticRoad. Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.”
Rotterdam, like most of the Netherlands, seems determined to implement major sustainable policies. They also want to become the most sustainable port city in the world and have a number of green policies adopted already, and many other planned. Some of the more remarkable ones include green roof programme, for example, which absorbs water during heavy rainfall, as well as a plan for a tidal park that will improve the ecology of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt river delta and provide extra protection for the banks of the city, according to Science Alert. Personally, I can’t wait to see this implemented.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.