Plastic roads

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First recycled glass and plastic road in New South Wales, Australia at suburb Engadine

Plastic roads are made entirely of plastic or of composites of plastic with other materials. Plastic roads are different from standard roads in the respect that standard roads are made from asphalt concrete, which consists of mineral aggregates and asphalt. Currently, there are no records of regular roads made purely of plastic.[1] Plastic composite roads, however, have existed and demonstrate characteristics superior to regular asphalt concrete roads; specifically, they show better wear resistance.[2] The implementation of plastics in roads also opens a new option for recycling post consumer plastics.[3][4] Australia, Indonesia, India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many other countries have used technology which can incorporate plastic waste into an asphalt mix.[5]

Initial Development[edit]

The technology was initially developed and patented by Dr. Rajagopalan Vasudevan of the Thiagarajar College of Engineering. He developed an innovative method to reuse plastic waste to construct better, more durable and very cost-effective roads. This method will help in making roads much faster and also will save the environment from dangerous plastic waste. The roads also show greater resistance to damages caused by heavy rains. In an interview with The Better India, he explained, “The advantages of using waste plastics for road construction are many. The process is easy and does not need any new machinery. For every kilo of stone, 50 gms of bitumen are used and 1/10th of this is plastic waste; this reduces the amount of bitumen being used.  Plastic increases the aggregate impact value and improves the quality of flexible pavements.  Wear and tear of the roads has decreased to a large extent.”[6]

The plastic-bitumen road-laying technique covered under a patent held by the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in 2006.[7] Dr Vasudevan has since made it free to use for the greater good. The technology is simple and is described in a dedicated TCE website.

It involves

a) collecting waste plastics, including plastic carry bags, cups, soft and hard foams, and laminated plastics;

b) cleaning it by washing;

c) shredding it to a uniform size;

d) melting the waste plastics at 165°C, and blending it with hot aggregates and bitumen and using this mixture to lay the road.[8]


Since plastic roads are a relatively new idea, construction processes vary. In Jamshedpur, India, roads are created from a mix of plastic and bitumen.[3] In Indonesia roads are also being built using a plastic-asphalt mix in many areas including Bali, Surabaya, Bekasi, Makassar, Solo, and Tangerang.[5]

These roads are made from recycled plastics, and the first step in constructing them is to collect and manage the plastic material. The plastics involved in building these roads consists mainly of common post-consumer products such as product packaging. Some of the most common plastics used in packaging are polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), polypropylene (PP), and high- and low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE).[3][9] These materials are first sorted from plastic waste. After sorting, the material is cleaned, dried, and shredded. The shredded plastic is mixed and melted at around 170°C.[10] Hot bitumen is then added and mixed with the melted plastic. After mixing the mixture is laid as one would with regular asphalt concrete.

So far, no large-scale, systematic approach has been employed to build roads entirely of plastics in Netherlands. On September 13, 2018, the Dutch company Volkerwessels built a bicycle path made of recycled plastic in Zwolle, in the northeast part of the Netherlands. According to the Guardian, "A second path is to be installed in Giethoorn in Overijssel, and Rotterdam is the city most likely to take up the technology." [11][12]

Usage by country[edit]


Chennai was among the first cities globally to adapt the technology in a big way when the municipality commisioned 1000km of plastic roads in 2004.[13] Since then all major municipalities in India have experimented with the technology including Pune, Mumbai, Surat, Indore, Delhi, Lucknow etc.[14]

Chennai: While the plastic roads may be a new concept in many parts of India, Chennai has been experimenting with it since 2011. Chennai has used nearly 1,600 tonnes of plastic waste to construct 1,035.23 kilometres length of roads in recent years, which include N.S.C Bose road, Halls road, Ethiraj Silai Street and Sardar Patel Street.

Pune: Using bitumen technology on waste plastic, the Pune Municipal Corporation constructed a 150-metre stretch of Bhagwat lane at Navi Peth near Vaikunth Crematorium in 2016. The other trial patches in Pune include Dattawadi Kaka Halwai Lane, Katraj Dairy, Magarpatta City HCMTR Road, Kavde Mala Road, Koregaon Park Lane No 3 and Yeravada Sadal Baba Darga Road from Chandrama Chowk.

Jamshedpur: Jamshedpur Utility and Services Company (JUSCO), which is a subsidiary company of Tata Steel, constructed a 12-15 kms road in the steel city as well as Tata Steel Works using plastic road, including a nearly 1km stretch in Ranchi, 500m stretch each in Dhurwa and Morabadi, 3km of roads in Chas and Jamtara each and 500m stretch in Giridih.

Indore: Dating 2014, the Madhya Pradesh Rural Road Development Authority (MPRRDA) has constructed around 35 km of roads in 17 districts with plastic waste.[15]

Surat: The idea of using plastic-bitumen mix was executed in January 2017. The problem of potholes significantly reduced as no cracks developed in areas where roads were layered with waste plastic.[16]

The technology has penetrated deeply and has found application even in far flung areas such as Meghalaya, where a village converted 430kgs of plastic waste into a kilometer long road in 2018.[17]

United Kingdom[edit]

In January 2019, The Department of Transport announced a £1.6 million UK trial of a plastic road technology developed by MacRebur, an asphalt enhancement company based in Scotland.[18]

In MacRebur's process, anywhere between 3-10 kg of waste plastic is used in each ton of asphalt. The aim of the initiative is three-fold: to use the millions of tons of plastic waste currently sitting in UK landfills, to reduce the millions of pounds of government money spent on new roads, maintenance, and pothole repair, and to make roads stronger and longer-lasting.[19]

MacRebur's technology includes the patent-pending MR6, MR8 and MR10, all of which use a carefully selected mixture of polymers, specifically designed to improve the strength and durability of asphalt and reduce the quantity of bitumen required in the mix. The polymers are made from 100% waste materials and are used in the making of both hot and warm mix asphalt. The method of manufacture for these polymers means they contain no microplastics.[citation needed]

Cumbria was the first council in the UK to use the patented asphalt enhancement. Since then, the polymers have also been laid in Dumfries and Galloway, Gloucester, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham and in the Central Belt. As part of the project, research into the technology will be carried out by Gaist, as well as The University of Nottingham, University of Central Lancashire, University of the Sunshine Coast, in Australia and the University of California.[citation needed]


Below are some of the pros and cons of plastic roads.


  • In the proposed model by Volkerwessels, plastic roads can have hollow space built in to allow ease of wiring, connecting pipes, etc.[12]
  • Since plastics come with various chemical and physical properties, roads can be engineered to meet specific requirements (e.g. weather and wear resistance)
  • Plastic roads can be built from waste plastic --- the majority of which is usually put into landfill, incinerated, or polluted into the environment. Land-filling and incinerating plastic are both problematic methods of managing plastic waste. Plastics in landfills can leak pollutants into the surrounding soil; incinerating creates gaseous pollutants, such as carbon dioxide.[9]
  • Plastic-bitumen composite roads need not be especially discriminating with the plastics used, thus increasing the reuse of plastic. Most plastic waste is not recycled because it is usually mixed with different types of plastic and non-plastic (e.g. paper labels) and, so far, the segregation process is labor-intensive with no easy solution.[9]
  • Using less asphalt saves on cost and resources. Asphalt concrete requires petroleum which is becoming more scarce.[1][20]
  • The addition of plastic in asphalt can reduce the viscosity of the mix. This allows a lower working temperature, which lowers VOC and CO emissions.[4]
  • Plastic-bitumen composite roads have better wear resistance than standard asphalt concrete roads. They do not absorb water, have better flexibility which results in less rutting and less need for repair. Road surfaces remain smooth, are lower maintenance, and absorb sound better.[21]


  • Pure plastic roads require use of compatible plastics because, when melted, plastics of different types may phase-separate and cause structural weaknesses, which can lead to premature failure.[22]
  • Plastics in the road can break down into microplastics and can find their way into the soil and bodies of water. These microplastics can also absorb other pollutants.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Netherlands Company Introduces Plastic Roads That Are More Durable, Climate Friendly Than Asphalt". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Say Hello to the Latest Technology in Civil Engineering: PlasticRoad - Industry Tap". Industry Tap. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "EnviroNews Archives - Plastics Recycling and The Need For Bio-Polymers". Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b "The streets of Vancouver are paved with ... recycled plastic". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Tackling plastic waste problem". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Plastic Man – R Vasudevan creates 5000 Kms of Eco-Friendly Road from Plastic Waste : Plastindia Foundation". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Roads Made of Plastic Waste in India? Yes! Meet the Professor Who Pioneered the Technique". The Better India. 2 February 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  8. ^ Retrieved 23 October 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ a b c "What Happens to All That Plastic?". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  10. ^ "USE OF PLASTIC WASTE IN ROAD CONSTRUCTION.ppt". Google Docs. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  11. ^ "A road full of bottlenecks: Dutch cycle path is made of plastic waste". Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  12. ^ a b "VolkerWessels introduces the PlasticRoad - VolkerWessels". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Plastic Man – R Vasudevan creates 5000 Kms of Eco-Friendly Road from Plastic Waste : Plastindia Foundation". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  14. ^ "All The Cities in India That Use Plastic Waste to Construct Roads - Lucknow, Chennai, Pune and More". News18. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  15. ^ "All The Cities in India That Use Plastic Waste to Construct Roads - Lucknow, Chennai, Pune and More". News18. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  16. ^ "One Lakh Kilometres Of Roads In India Are Being Made From Plastic Waste, Is This The Solution To End Plastic Crisis? | World Environment Day". NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth Swachh India. 5 June 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  17. ^ "This Meghalaya Village Uses 430 Kilos Of Plastic Waste To Construct One Kilometre Long Road | News". NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth Swachh India. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  18. ^, DnG24- (1 February 2019). "£1.6m boost for plastic roads". DnG24. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  19. ^ "ABOUT US MacRebur". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Guidelines for the use of Plastic Waste in Rural Roads Construction". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  21. ^ "Jamshedpur's Plastic Roads Initiative Is A Lesson For All Indian Cities!". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  22. ^ "Plastic recycling". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ Subramanian, Sribala. "Plastic roads: India's radical plan to bury its garbage beneath the streets". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2018.