Plastic Roads - Future Innovations for our highways?

A Dutch company is at the cutting edge of a project that could see roads of the future made entirely from plastic.

The idea of using plastic in the construction of roads isn't new. Earlier this year, we wrote about how India had adopted the idea of mixing recycled plastic with traditional road building materials to make more durable highways, whilst dramatically cutting down on the amount of plastic sent to landfill at the same time.

KWS, the Netherlands based company behind the concept, claims that there are several key advantages to using plastic instead of tarmac for the roads of our future.

Key Benefits

1. One of the more obvious benefits from a recycling point of view is that the roads could in theory be made entirely from recycled plastic. Considering the amount of plastic bottles and containers thrown away each day around the world, that's a real biggy as far as benefits go!

2. The new surface would be far more durable than anything that's gone before. The company predicts that the road could be up to 3 times more durable than a conventional tarmac surface. If their predictions are correct, it would mean a serious reduction in CO2 emmissions over the lifespan of the road.

3. The road comes in bite size chunks; its similarity to Lego means that each modular section simply bolts together. KWS say that this is ideal for replacing small, damaged sections at a time rather than having to close longer stretches of road for conventional repairs  - thus dramatically reducing the timeframe for repair work.

4. As you can see from the picture, the road is hollow and as such, contains a handy area beneath the surface that is ideal for rain water drainage, pipes, electricity cables etc.

5. The roads are far more resistant to the elements meaning that potholes would be a thing of the past. The surface is also able to withstand huge fluctuations in temperature. The road can function perfectly well in temperatures ranging from -40°C right up to 80°C. The surface is also more resilient to chemical spills. 

6. The plastic road sections are much lighter per metre than a conventional road suface. This means that several sections can be loaded onto lorries and transported to their destination at any one time.

7. The roads can be made in a variety of colours so it could spell the end of our boring black roads!

Potential Drawbacks

Aside from all the benefits, the company mentions that one potential issue that has yet to be fully understood is how well vehicle tyres will grip to the surface. Conventional tarmac roads typically offer pretty good grip in most conditions. It's not yet clear how this new surface would act upon car and lorry tyres in rain or snow.

To find out more, watch the video below or check out the KWS (VolkerWessels) website.

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