How do you recycle the equivalent of 1,8 million single use plastic bags, and resolve South Africa’s pothole problem? Roll out plastic roads, of course!

That’s exactly what the Kouga Municipality in the Eastern Cape is in the process of doing – and the benefits to road users are manifold.

Plastic road in Jeffrey's Bay

Besides the obvious implications to the environment, plastic roads cost less to install and maintain. They are water proof, resistant to extreme heat and cold, and have an average life span of 50 years.

Global phenomenon

The concept of a plastic road isn’t a new one. Several years ago, companies in Scotland and the USA pioneered the idea of breaking down plastic waste, and adding it to asphalt.

Now, there are thousands of kilometres of plastic roads all over the world, from Australia, the UK and New Zealand to India, Turkey, Slovenia and now South Africa.

A viable use for non-recyclable plastic

MacRebur, the Lockerbie-based company partnering the Kouga Municipality in their ground-breaking endeavour, uses non-recyclable plastic waste to substitute the bitumen binder in asphalt.

Thousands of tons of disposable nappies, plastic packaging, grocery bags and bottles, destined for local landfills, are reprocessed, and given a new life as a key ingredient in a flexible road surface, known as Plasmac.

How the process works

The secret to MacRebur’s success is the close chemical relationship between tar and plastic. Both are derivatives of oil, and, as such, can easily be melted down together.

The resultant mass is then dried, and processed into pellets using an extrusion machine. Pellets are supplied in bulk to asphalt manufacturers, and added to the asphalt.

The plastic-enforced asphalt road surface is then installed using the same techniques, and equipment, as a standard road surface.

1,5 tons of plastic per 1 km of road

According to MacRebur, approximately 1,5 tons of plastic is used for every kilometre of road. In real terms, that’s the equivalent weight of 684,000 plastic bottles, or 1,8 million single use carrier bags, that doesn’t end up in our rivers, oceans and landfill sites!

At the end of life, plastic roads can be recycled to create a sustainable cycle where plastic waste is used over and over again.

Advantages of plastic roads

What are the main advantages of installing plastic road surfaces in South Africa?

Besides using fewer materials, plastic roads are 60 percent stronger than standard surfaces. They also last up to three times longer, and require little to no maintenance.

Plastic-enforced road surfaces can withstand extreme temperatures, ranging from plus 40 to minus 40 degrees Celsius.

More importantly, the pellets in the bitumen create a waterproof ‘skin’ that stops rain and surface water from percolating into the lower levels of the road.

Low cost, low carbon roads for Africa

For road users in and around Jeffrey’s Bay, an environmentally friendly and premium quality road is a few months from completion – and that means no more dodgy potholes to negotiate!

If all goes according to plan, plastic roads may soon be a low cost, low carbon feature right across South Africa!

Whether you build a conventional road or a plastic road in South Africa, you’ll need a reliable motor grader. At KH Plant, we supply high-quality, reconditioned Caterpillar graders to clients across Sub-Saharan Africa. Call or contact us online.

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