The Netherlands could become the first country to pave its streetswith plastic bottles after Rotterdam city council said it was considering piloting a new type of road surface touted by its creators as a greener alternative to asphalt.
The construction firm VolkerWessels unveiled plans on Friday for a surface made entirely from recycled plastic, which it said required less maintenance than asphalt and could withstand greater extremes of temperature– between -40C and 80C. Roads could be laid in a matter of weeks rather than months and last about three times as long, it claimed.
The company said the environmental argument was also strong as asphalt is responsible for 1.6m tons of CO2 emissions a year globally – 2% of all road transport emissions.
Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, said: “Plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance.”
The plastic roads are lighter, reducing the load on the ground, and hollow, making it easier to install cables and utility pipelines below the surface.
Sections can be prefabricated in a factory and transported to where they are needed, reducing on-site construction, while the shorter construction time and low maintenance will mean less congestion caused by roadworks. Lighter materials can also be transported more efficiently.
Mars said the PlasticRoad project was still at the conceptual stage, but the company hopes to be able to put down the first fully recycled thoroughfare within three years. Rotterdam, a keen supporter of sustainable technology, has already signalled its interest in running a trial.
Jaap Peters, from the city council’s engineering bureau, said: “We’re very positive towards the developments around PlasticRoad. Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.”
Mars said the idea had huge potential for future development, such as heated roads or ultra-quiet surfaces. He said: “As far as I know we’re the first in the world [to try this].
“It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry, we’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions.
“Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea. It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”