By Lacy Cooke
At Polypro Recycling, we purchase and process plastic scrap so it can be reused by businesses. Recycled plastic is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option with a wide variety of uses.
The following article originally appeared on Inhabitat and highlights a UK company that is using recycled plastics to build durable, cost-effective new roads.
Around 24.8 million miles of roads crisscross the surface of Earth. And hundreds of millions of barrels of oil have been used for that development. Engineer Toby McCartney came up with a solution to that waste of natural resources and the growing plastic pollution problem. His company, Scotland-based MacRebur, lays roads that are as much as 60 percent stronger than regular asphalt roads and last around 10 times longer – and they’re made with recycled plastic.
Our city roads require a lot of maintenance over time as weather deteriorates them and potholes open up. Meanwhile there are around five trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. McCartney came up with an answer to both issues. He turns 100 percent recycled plastic into what he calls MR6 pellets, or small pellets of waste plastic, which replace bitumen, the material used to bind roads together (extracted from crude oil) and sold by oil companies like Shell.
Normal roads are comprised of around 90 percent rock, sand, and limestone, with 10 percent bitumen. MacRebur’s process replaces most of the bitumen, using household waste plastic, farm waste, and commercial waste. Much of the trash would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
At asphalt plants the MR6 pellets are mixed with quarried rock and a bit of bitumen, and a plant worker told the BBC the process is actually the same “as mixing the conventional way with additions into a bitumen product.”
McCartney was inspired to design plastic roads after his daughter’s teacher asked the class what lives in the ocean, and his daughter said, “Plastics.” He didn’t want her to grow up in a world where that was true. He’d also spent time in India, where he saw locals would fix holes in the road by putting waste plastic into the holes and then burning it. He started MacRebur with friends Nick Burnett and Gordon Reid.
MacRebur’s first road was McCartney’s own driveway, and now the company’s roads have been laid in the county of Cumbria in the United Kingdom.