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This California Highway Has Just Become the First State Road Made From Recycled Plastic in the US

This may look like just an ordinary stretch of newly-paved road, but it’s actually being hailed as the first mile of recycled plastic highway on a state road anywhere in the U.S.

Using more than 150,000 single-use plastic bottles, sustainable landscaping company TechniSoil partnered with state transit officials to repave the one-mile stretch of three-lane road in July.

According to CalTrans (California Department of Transportation), which already has slated the material for use throughout the state, the eco-friendly road formula has been shown to be 2-3 times more durable than traditional asphalt pavement.

Not only is the formula more durable, Technisoil officials say the procedure generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than the process currently used by Caltrans.

Typically, the department repaves state highways by tearing up the topmost 3 to 6 inches of asphalt so it can be ground up and mixed with bitumen—a sludge-like binding agent generated by oil refineries. Since this material can only be used as a base for the roadway, however, Caltrans is still forced to import roughly 42 truckloads of hot asphalt in order to finish the road.

By replacing the bitumen with a polymer-based binding agent made from melted plastic bottles, Technisoil’s procedure eliminates the need for imported asphalt and guarantees that the road is made out of 100% recycled plastic in a liquid polymer.

Following the historic completion of the pilot project in Butte County, Technisoil told Fast Company that they have already begun working on launching additional plastic road projects across California.

“We’re excited about introducing a new sustainable technology and helping pave the way for utilization of recycled plastics throughout the state,” said Caltrans District 3 Director Amarjeet S. Benipal.

“This process is better for the environment because it keeps plastic bottles out of landfills and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.”

Local efforts
Elsewhere in the country, Dow Chemical used plastic to pave two stretches of local roads in Freeport, Texas last year, using 1,686 pounds of recycled low-density polyethylene plastic. The company had been testing the plastic roads in Asia, but wants to do more in the US.

GNN has reported on efforts in India and the Netherlands to pave with plastic, too.