Green infrastructure: The PlasticRoad

When it comes to redesigning transportation in hopes for a greener future, it’s not just about the cars we drive but about our infrastructure, too. Infrastructure includes the buildings, roads, bridges, and other underlying, fundamental framework and facilities that we rely on every day.

Some companies are rethinking infrastructure with renewable practices in mind. VolkerWessels is a Dutch group of companies headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands. We’ve already discussed some innovative Dutch infrastructure—like wind-powered trains and a solar road—but now KWS, a VolkerWessels company, is introducing their “plastic” road.

The company calls PlasticRoad “the ideal sustainable alternative to conventional road structures.” The company’s long-range objectives would make regular roads a thing of the past, surpassing regular road construction efficiency in categories across the board.

Regular road construction v.s. PlasticRoad

So how does the PlasticRoad compare to regular road construction? First of all, it would be faster.

The company expects that the construction time of a PlasticRoad would be 70 percent faster than traditional road construction. Elements of the PlasticRoad construction process steer away from traditional processes, and the company says it would make road construction easier too.

Construction in progress. Photo from PublicDomainPictures.net
Construction in progress.
Photo from PublicDomainPictures.net

The road wouldn’t be paved like asphalt or concrete, it would be prefabricated, meaning it would be built offsite and transported for easy on-site construction. The company says the pieces will be easy to transport, assemble, and maintain, accelerating the construction process.

Giving PlasticRoad the green light?

And how is PlasticRoad more “green” than what’s been done in the past?

Perhaps the greenest part about the PlasticRoad is that it would be 100 percent “circular,” which means that it would be made from recycled plastic as much as possible. If PlasticRoad gets the green light, recycled plastic could be used for something as important as the roads we drive on!

It would also be four times lighter than a traditional road structure, in part because of its hollow design. The PlasticRoad has a hollow space that the company says can be used to temporarily store water, therefore it can prevent flooding during extreme precipitation. The hollow space could also be used as a space for cables and pipes, thus preventing excavation damage.

PlasticRoad: The facts

Here’s how the PlasticRoad will pan out down the road:

The company says that PlasticRoad would have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional road structures thanks to its longer lifespan; PlasticRoad is expected to last two to three times longer than traditional road paving. PlasticRoad, the company claims, would require no maintenance, as the road would be “virtually impervious to conditions such as weather and weeds.”

Worker working. Photo from pexels.com
Worker working.
Photo from pexels.com

Plastic Road: The future?

The PlasticRoad team says, at the moment, they’re working on a prototype of the PlasticRoad and hope to have the first pilot location (somewhere in the Netherlands) by the end of 2017. The company says the first PlasticRoad will be a bike path, perhaps similar to what we saw with the SolaRoad, but if all goes well, why stop there?

As technology continues to advance around us, maybe it’s time we start asking for more functionality from our infrastructure. The team behind PlasticRoad hopes to solve various societal problems including plastic waste and extreme precipitation. Maybe more companies could take the initiative to provide more efficient methods and increased functionality in regards to our infrastructure.

Are these things you would keep in mind as a transportation or civil engineer?

Related links

(Video) PlasticRoad on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/188098899

(Press release) VolkerWessels introduces the PlasticRoad: https://en.volkerwessels.com/en/news/detail/volkerwessels-introduces-the-plasticroad

PlasticRoad project explained: https://en.volkerwessels.com/en/projects/detail/plasticroad

Traditional road construction: http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,1607,7-151-9615-129011--,00.html

By Hannah Postlethwait, Go! Staff Writer