Would You Drive Your Corvette on Plastic Roads?
Laudable concept holds a lot of promise, but needs to overcome some big logistical questions.
Have you noticed this video as it made the rounds on Facebook and other social media? PlasticRoad! It promises the world: waste plastic bottles will be recycled, it’ll help prevent flooding, and it’ll last 2-3 times as long as normal roads. Before you get too worried, take solace in the fact that your favorite back road won’t be in peril anytime soon. First, though, we’ll explain how the concept is supposed to work. Three companies are involved in the effort: KWS, Wavin, and Total. They are leaders in road construction, asphalt, and plastics in the European market.
The video describes a process that allows them to recycle waste plastic into a durable, lightweight, modular road surface. It’s noted that less heavy equipment will be needed to deliver and construct the roads. Replacement would be easier than a traditional road since damaged sections could quickly and easily be swapped out for new pieces. Not that replacement will frequently be necessary since the life expectancy of the PlasticRoad will be “2-3 times longer than a regular road.” The video finishes by saying the concept is “simple, efficient, low cost, easier construction, easy to repair, lightweight, sustainable, and contributes to a circular economy.” Then it adds, “It’s a revolution in how we build roads.”
The company admits that the leap from concept to actual use will take answering some key questions. Like, how do you join them together, keep them grippy in the cold and wet, and what kind of plastic will be used. You see? Just minor little details.
In all seriousness, the company has some big hurdles to overcome. They’ve set their sites on a bike path for their initial prototyping. On their website, they say, “At this time, our aim and focus is to first apply the PlasticRoad as a bike path. Based on the findings of the pilot, we will develop the concept for other and increasingly higher-grade applications. We will examine which applications are feasible. This includes residential streets, through roads, provincial roads, highways and maybe even airports. These are scenarios for the longer term however.” (Emphasis ours).
No doubt road technology will change at some point, and we cannot wait for the day potholes and road debris are left behind, but we’re thinking it won’t be anytime soon for the plastic road.