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December 23, 2019
Disposing of waste plastics has become a major problem for the world, as it continues to pile up in landfills and pollute our oceans. However, a breakthrough discovery has offered a way to recycle this material.
Since the turn of the century, India has been using plastic in the building and repairing of roads. They use a process in which workers add shredded plastic to hot stones to form a thin primer layer. They then add this combination to bitumen, creating a very strong bond. Other engineers have picked up this tactic and started businesses that follow this method. Overall, this process of melting plastic to create a viscous liquid has proven very beneficial.
However, we can’t ignore the fact that plastic is a non-biodegradable material and burning it creates environmental pollution. This factor leads many people to consider, are there advantages of using plastic to make roads? Or does the environmental pollution outweigh the benefits? We cover the pros and cons below.
Plastic roads mainly use plastic bags, cups, and bottles collected from garbage dumps as the main ingredient for its asphalt. To put this in perspective, CNN reports that “every ton of asphalt contains approximately 20,000 single-use plastic bottles or around 70,000 single-use plastic bags.” When combined with hot bitumen, the plastic melts to make an oily coating, and the professionals can lay the mixture on the road just like normal asphalt. The addition of the plastic improves the binding and bonding of the mixture, making it more durable and resistant to cracking. It improves the resistance to rainwater and stagnation in addition to boosting the load capacity the asphalt can withstand. The increasing of boosting all these properties means less asphalt crack repair, pothole filling, and overall maintenance of roads or parking lots. This is a huge cost saving for local municipalities, business, and homeowners that use this new product.
The pros of using plastics in roads and parking lots counterbalance the cons, however, they still exist. As we first mentioned, the fumes that come from burning plastic are a form of environmental pollution. There is also a fear that the toxins within the plastic will begin to leach with the first rain. Leaching is the separating of the bonding materials within the asphalt when it gets wet. Detractors fear that once rainwater hits, toxic materials will seep into the groundwater and pollute the environment. Additionally, breathing the fumes of hot asphalt are a health hazard, and the addition of plastics does not improve this. When chlorine is present in the plastic, heating it has the potential to release toxic HCL gas that makes workers sick. However, once the asphalt cools though, that danger is gone.
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