Plastic Roads

Plastic Roads

8 August, 2017
Sustainable construction methods
Industries across Southeast Asia are working towards environmentally friendly methods
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In a world constantly threatened by pollution, deforestation and other environmental issues, several industries across Southeast Asia and the rest of the world have taken considerable strides to ensure sustainable growth in as ‘green’ a way as possible.

India's first "plastic" road

While the adoption of environmentally friendly construction dates back to Europe in the 1970s, the idea of “plastic roads” was initially cultivated in Southeast Asia a mere 15 years ago in response to the growing problems the region faced with litter. As technology has improved, so too has the effect and durability of plastic roads, which now run for “21,000 miles” across India alone. ‘Jambulingam Street’, located in India’s southern-most metropolis of Chennai, was completed back in 2002 as one of the nation's first roads made entirely from plastic, as a means of preventing the rampant littering problem faced by the city. In doing so, Chennai has not only adopted a more environmentally friendly approach to construction, but have moreover remarkably prevented visible wear and tear, such as potholes and cracks, making it far safer for drivers and pedestrians.

Advantages

Plastic roads are constructed almost entirely of recycled plastic, along with composites of other “readily available materials”.

While there are yet to be any recorded cases of roads constructed entirely of plastic, the method stands out as a far superior environmental alternative to widely implemented concrete or asphalt roads because they present a unique opportunity to recycle plastic post-consumption. This proves to be extremely cost effective: the use of recycled, post-consumer plastic to construct roads is far cheaper than using asphalt, or concrete.

Given the various chemical and physical properties of plastic, roads can now be designed to meet specific requirements, catering to changes in weather conditions and preventing wear and tear while being an environmentally friendly alternative. For example, plastic roads have been designed with hollow passages, creating space for wiring or plumbing, which in turn allows for heating, methods of power generation and, perhaps most importantly, the prevention of surfaces freezing in winter, making driving far safer.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of plastic roads is that this helps solve the enormous problem of waste management. Most plastic is often discarded into a landfill or simply incinerated, which is extremely environmentally unfriendly. These solutions tend to leak pollutants into the surrounding soil and release pollutants such as carbon dioxide into the air we breathe.

Disadvantages

This unique method of construction is not without its disadvantages, however. Some argue that plastic roads struggle in extremely hot temperatures, essentially melting the materials and resulting in structural hindrances. Despite this disadvantage, plastic roads hold immense potential in societies that attempt to be more environmentally friendly, and we hope so see them used in Hong Kong soon!

By: Raoul Montgomery
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