Friday, July 27, 2018

Am I in trouble over plastic roads?

Apparently I might have dropped my council in it as a result of my innocent enquiry about plastic roads. I wrote a short email to my local representatives to ask whether the council had looked at the use of waste plastic additives in road surfacing and in their reply I was told that:

Several trials around the Country have taken place and the feedback we’ve received so far is that the material has failed due to various such as temperature issues with the mixing of the addictive.  Therefore we’ve decided to hold fire and continue to monitor for further developments.  We do not want to waste tax payers monies on a treatment that may have a shortened design life.
I'm guessing that something is missing between "various" and "such as", but that's how it came. Well, further investigation was required, so I did a search of the internet and couldn't find any related research about failure rates in asphalt using plastic additives. The obvious next step for me was to ask the company about it, and they were let's say surprised.

Reading the LA's response carefully, it seems to imply that the problem isn't with the additive but with the production process. I understand the local authority's need to be cautious, but where's the evidence for failure? If it's the process, then who is monitoring the process in order to get it right? It would be nice if they had responded with some data. All the research I've been able to read points to longer lifetimes for these surfaces not shorter ones. Polymer modified bitumen has been around for some time, but using plastic waste diverted from landfill and recovered from the oceans is new. So the process ought to be within the grasp of industry.

20M tonnes of asphalt is produced in the UK each year and using waste plastic as an additive could recycle 60,000 tonnes of waste that currently goes into landfill. So I think it must be worth pursuing this technology and if there is an issue, then let's see the evidence.

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