Asphalt roads may one day give way to plastic roads.
PlasticRoad, a Netherlands company has released a well-engineered version of a road built with recycled plastic. Right now, it is only an idea, but the idea is intriguing.
According to the company, “PlasticRoad features numerous advantages compared to conventional roads, both in terms of construction and maintenance.” PlasticRoad argues that plastic is much more sustainable, and opens the door for a number of new innovations, such as power generation, quiet road surfaces, heated roads, and modular construction. Additionally, the PlasticRoad design features a ‘hollow’ space that can be used for cables, pipes, and rainwater.
Furthermore, any type of recycled plastic can be used, with the main goal, the company says, to keep plastic out of the oceans. Voilà!
According to PlasticRoad, the idea for plastic roads came after the company took a look at all the different road-related problems cities face. Think of everything from potholes to fissures and uneven surfaces. Additionally, asphalt is made with petroleum-based contents, leaving a dubious carbon footprint that has an effect on climate change.
The company is also hoping to avoid a measure of carbon dioxide emissions by switching asphalt roads to plastic ones. The carbon footprint of asphalt totals 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, the company says, so using recycled plastic instead could help cut down on some of those emissions. Plastic roads are also predicted to last longer than traditional roads, meaning that the CO2 associated with regularly replacing the surfaces will also be saved.
The concept may be great, but it is still in the idea phase. No plastic roads exist to be tested in the Netherlands, and PlasticRoad says it still needs to test the idea in a lab to see how it performs under different conditions; whether it’s safe to drive on when wet, for instance. But the city of Rotterdam said this month that it was considering serving as a pilot for the project.
The Netherlands might be an ideal place to test this concept. Last year, the world’s first solar bike lane was built there — a 230-foot stretch of road embedded with solar cells that are protected by two layers of safety glass. In the first six months of operation, the road produced more energy than expected: about 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is enough to power a single small household for one year. As of May, about 150,000 cyclists have ridden over the road.
Here’s to growing and testing great ideas.
Image credit: Plastic road via PlasticRoad