According to the Dutch construction firm KWS – a VolkerWessel company, “asphalt is responsible for 1.6m tons of CO2 emissions a year globally, making up two percent of all transport emissions.” Their solution to the problem: to develop a revolutionary plastic road made up of recyclable materials that is not only lightweight but also capable of withstanding temperatures between -40°C (-40°F) and 80°C (176°F).
Using the principles of a circular economy, KWS’ groundbreaking concept drastically reduces road construction and maintenance times, solves municipality drainage issues, and will last three times longer than traditional roads. ‘Plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance,’ Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, told The Guardian. With a goal of using recycled plastics “as much as possible,” PlasticRoad’s carbon footprint is exponentially smaller compared to a paved road.
“Together with Wavin and Total, we now have a vast pool of knowledge, experience, and resources, and can take concrete steps in the development of PlasticRoad. We expect to have a first prototype completed by year-end 2017.”
– Ann Koudstaal & Simon Jorritsma, Inventors of PlasticRoad
KWS, Wavin & Total
Choosing the Dutch city of Rotterdam as the test site, three innovative companies plan to work on PlasticRoad. Considered to be the dream team of recycled plastics and urban road construction, KWS, Wavin, and Total plan to launch their concept in by the end of 2107. According to Jaap Peters, from the city council’s engineering bureau, 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,” Peters told UK’s Daily Mail.
Opportunity for Further Innovation
KWS’ prefabricated, modular, and hollow road, lasts 3x’s longer than traditional roads, construction time is reduced by 70%, and the materials are 4x’s lighter.” Using high quality recycled plastic materials and requiring little to no maintenance (put together like LEGO’s), the PlasticRoad concept allows for easy access to cables and pipes. This would solve a rather large percentage of urban water issues and at the same time, offers the opportunity for further innovation: solar heated roads, light poles, traffic loop sensors, electric vehicle charging.
The future of urban road development will rely heavily on eco-friendly sources. By looking at the problems facing urban planning, whether it’s plastic waste, extreme climate change, subsoil erosion, or overpopulation, the need for a more functional, yet longer-lasting road is rather apparent. “Roads should have a longer lifespan, shorter construction, and maintenance time, be more sustainable, achieve higher noise reductions and be financially competitive,” according to KWS.