Recycled plastic is finding its way into roadway projects across the US. Proponents say the presence of plastics makes for more durable roads and less rutting, but the practice of using it has yet to be widely accepted as officials wait to see whether the formulations stand up to usage over time.
In areas as diverse as Oahu and Staten Island, departments of transportation are paving roads with asphalt mixed with recycled plastic.
On October 28, two public roads on Staten Island became the first in New York to be paved with an asphalt mix, which used 214,534 plastic bottles. The project was a collaboration between the New York City Department of Transportation and MacRebur, a British waste-plastic road company.
On October 11, paving began that will use 195,000 plastic bottles to apply 1,950 tons of modified asphalt on a road in Oahu, Hawaii. The Hawaii Department of Transportation is using the asphalt mix in a pilot program, along with researchers at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and Hawaii Pacific University, as part of its sustainable transportation initiatives.
And earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation showed its first completed paving project using recycled plastic. On a half-mile of a road at Ridley Creek State Park, PennDOT used polymer from plastic bags for the binding agent, mixed with millings from the road surface. The project was funded through the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Plastic slowly spreads
Paving with mixes of recycled plastic bottles has occurred in a handful of other states in the past few years.Caltrans reported its first state highway section repaved with recycled plastic in 2020. The $3.2 million project spanned 1,000 feet of Highway 162 in Oroville, California.
Virginia got its first recycled-plastic road in 2021 in Chesterfield County. Like the Staten Island project, it also worked with MacRebur to pave less than a mile with recycled plastic.