The Dutch Found a Brilliant Way to Recycle 50 Billion Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles are a huge environmental concern for the millions of barrels of oil used to produce them, and a number of other reasons. The Netherlands though have found an ingenious solution for recycling all that leftover plastic – roads.

Yes, the Dutch are going to swap asphalt-paved roads for plastic ones. Dutch construction company VolkerWessels will repave roads in the city of Rotterdam with a surface made of recycled plastic bottles over the next three years. The newly developed surface is able to withstand a great range of temperatures – between -40C and 80C – lessening the need for road repair.

Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, explained that because the plastic roads would be lighter and hollow they would allow for more utility cables and piping below the surface.

Besides being more durable than asphalt, the plastic roads could also be put in place much quicker, because they could be manufactured at a plant and transported to the construction site. The company’s main selling point for the new construction innovation of course is the positive environmental impact.

People love their bottled water, but producing all of those bottles is incredibly destructive. Americans alone go through around 50 million plastic bottles a year, and the United States U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent. Finding a productive use for all those plastic bottles in something like infrastructure is incredibly valuable. Mars also makes a strong argument for the plastic roads by pointing out the environmental impact of producing all that asphalt. “Plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance.” Asphalt production is responsible 1.6m tons of CO2 emissions a year globally – 2% of all road transport emissions.

The plan for paving Rotterdam’s streets with plastic doesn’t yet have an official launch date, but Mars is confident that Rotterdam is the right city to show the world the potential of paving with plastic. “Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea. It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”

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