Image credit: volkerwessels

We all know that Earth has a bit of a trash problem, or rather, humanity has a trash problem…which causes a bit of trouble for our planet.

With more than 7 billion people living on this little world, issues with trash storage and disposal are not really all that surprising; however, it does poes a bit of a problem for city engineers (and anyone who is even tangentially concerned about the state of our biosphere). Fortunately, there are a number of nations that are attempting to come up with solutions to the world’s garbage issues.

Case in point, a Dutch construction company known as VolkerWessels recently proposed a new way to take the trash out: By making Plastic Roads. That’s right, VolkerWessels hopes to create our roads and highways entirely from recycled plastic.

It may sound like an absurd idea; however, it obviously has some merit, as it quickly attracted the attention of the Rotterdam city council (located in South Holland), and they just offered VolkerWessels a location that they can use to test their new road. Like the solar roadways recently installed in the Netherlands, the trial will involve roads that function as bike paths. Ultimately, this is because bicycle paths are smaller and experience less wear and tear, making them ideal for test runs and corrections.

Even then, the construction of this road is expected to take some three years (as the factories will need to be made etc.), which means that it will be some time before we know how reliable and cost effective they really are.

A Promising Future?

Image credit: volkerwessels

Unlike roads that are made of the traditional asphalt, PlasticRoad will be constructed and assembled at the factory. This means that engineers can allow space for any necessary features (such as required signage, traffic lights, and pipelines), which will make on-site assembly much quicker and easier than our current road systems.

According to the company, these roads will not have many of the concerns that come with similar projects, like the previously mentioned solar roadways. They will not require the maintenance required with solar panels, and they will be able to handle a lot of harsh treatment (such as heavy weights and temperature variations).

The team asserts that the roads will be able to survive temperatures as low as -40 degrees and as high as 80 degrees Celsius (-40 and 176 degrees Fahrenheit). In fact, they assert that the road will last three times as long as a normal road. This expected lifespan, which is at least fifty years, is based off of the lifespan of other plastic products that are currently in use (such as sewage pipes and plastic platforms).

This obviously means that less time will need to be spent on repair work, which means less traffic jams.

And that’s not all. These plastic roads will also be “unaffected by corrosion.” Moreover, once the plastic road wears out, VolkerWessels hopes to recycle it again in order to build a new PlasticRoad (however, they are still investigating just how much of the road will be safe for reuse).

The Problem?

Of course, it’s not all happiness and butterflies. To begin, there could be a (potentially) serious issue with noise pollution, where the roadway essentially acts like a resonance box (thanks to the construction of the interior). VolkerWessels addresses this concern by noting that this should not be a real issue with a bike path, and that, based on the results, they will be able to tweak the design for larger operations. Additionally, they claim that the sound created could be used to generate energy.

Others have noted that the road may be hazardous, as it will be exceedingly slippery; however, the company claims that roughness will be built into the road itself i.e., it will not be a smooth surface; rather, sand (or a sandy pattern) will be applied in order to ensure the road is safe for travel.

And in spite of these difficulties, we know that similar ideas have met with some successes. For example, Jamshedpur, India has reportedly paved some 50 kilometers (30 miles) of roads with recycled plastic.

In any case, it is an inspiring idea and, at the very least, investigating this avenue may lead to more viable technologies and ways of dealing with our garbage.


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