Scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) are leading a two-year, $342,588 (£274,000) feasibility study into building roads made from plastic waste, funded by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
They say the motivation for the research came after China reduced the volume of waste it was importing from the US, which led to a ‘huge’ amount of plastics with no place to go.
The scientific team suggests the roads wouldn’t be made entirely of recycled plastic, but instead mixed with asphalt for an ideal consistency to keep the road safe for motorists and help it last longer, cost less and avoid cracking.
The project could lead to ‘more durable, sustainable and cheaper roads’ and could offer scientists the opportunity to evaluate the effects of using recycled plastics on the performance of road surfaces.
Sahadat Hossain, Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Director of UTA’s Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability, said: “When China was taking all of the recyclables, it was an $11 billion (£8.8bn) per year industry for the US.
“Materials that were recycled before are now going to landfills, where they are going to occupy a large volume of landfill space for a long time.
“Now that the international market for US recycling materials no longer exists, we need to find and create local uses and markets for recycled plastics. TxDOT is focusing on increasing use of sustainable construction material, and this feasibility study of plastic roads is the agency’s latest effort.”