Asphalt specialist MacRebur claims integrating waste plastic bags in road surfaces cuts down on landfill, emissions and improves safety
Construction of the "UK's first" highway made partly from waste plastic is now underway in Carlisle, where asphalt specialist MacRebur is working with Cumbria County Council to cover just over 3,000 square metres of the road network.
Covering Lowther Street in Carlisle city centre, MacRebur expects to use approximately 240,000 single-use plastic bags that would otherwise have gone to landfill as a raw material for the project, processing, granulating and combining the waste material with asphalt for use in road construction and surfacing, it explained.
The use of plastic in asphalt has a number of benefits, according to the firm, including better resistence to contraction and expansion caused by changes in the weather, reducing cracks and potholes. And, as well as diverting waste plastic from landfill, the process also replaces some of the bitumen used in the asphalt, thereby reducing the use of fossil fuels and cutting the overall carbon emissions from highway construction, it added.
"After first starting trials in January 2019, it is brilliant to see the first waste plastic highway take form in Carlisle," said MacRebur CEO Toby McCartney. "Implementing waste plastic roads across the country would provide a real opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of road construction."
The construction follows months of extensive trials in Cumbria taking place as part of the ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme, which brings together local authorities with private sector partners to support the adoption of innovative and digital technology across the local highway network. The project received £22.9m of Department for Transport funding in January 2019, with Cumbria receiving £1.6m as one of eight projects selected to carry out real world tests using new technology on local roads.
Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet Member for Highways, said the local authority was investing around £150,000 in the resrufacing project on Lowther Street, which he said would "make journeys smoother and safer for drivers".
"Working with our contractor Hanson, Cumbria is leading the way in the construction of plastic roads and there is a genuine worldwide interest in this ground-breaking material," he said.
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