Roads paved with recycled plastic milk containers

For some years, the overwhelming presence of plastic waste in the ecosystem has blown up all the alarms, and many companies are looking for solutions to this problem.

One of them is the idea that a South African company has had – use plastic milk containers to repave roads and thus kill two birds with one stone.

The recycling of plastic today is an expensive and very inefficient process, and that is why the general trend is in line with the reduction of its employment and the search for other alternatives. However, something has to be done with the enormous amount of plastic waste, and a company has had a brilliant idea that solves both this problem and an additional one: the poor state of South African roads.

According to the reports from the Federation of South African Roads, potholes cost the country’s road users an estimated $3.4 billion per year in vehicle repairs and injuries.

Shisalanga Construction became the first company in South Africa to lay a road section partly made of plastic. This can be a way to manage plastics waste and improve the quality of the country’s roads, explains the company.

Since August, the company has been using recycled plastic asphalt to build roads in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) on the eastern coast of South Africa. So far, nearly 40,000 recycled two-liter plastic milk bottles were used to repave more than 400-meter section of the road in Cliffdale.

To recycle, the company converts high-density polyethylene (HDPE) – a thick plastic typically used for milk bottles – into granules. These small particles are heated to 190 degrees Celsius until they dissolved and mixed with the additives. The bottles make up about six percent of the asphalt’s bitumen binder, and each ton of asphalt contains about 118-128 bottles.

Shisalanga claims that this process produces less toxic emissions and that the asphalt improved with this system is more durable and more resistant to water and withstand temperature changes than traditional asphalt, CNN reports.

It remains to be seen if the idea triumphs and spreads throughout the country, but at the moment, it seems a very promising initiative. A similar project is also running in Los Angeles. It is building the road from recycled PET bottles.