100pc renewable plastic roads aim to tell tarmac to hit the road

20 Jul 2015

Tarmac could be done for in the near future with the news that a 100pc renewable plastic road concept is in development that will be three times as durable as standard roads and can be made hollow.

Simply called PlasticRoad, the Dutch plastic roads creation is a joint effort between the city of Rotterdam and a construction company called VolkerWessels that will see in the initial stages the development of a prototype model of a plastic driving surface.

In terms of concept, the one laid out by the project (pun entirely intended) on its website shows it being a largely environmental effort to take vast amounts of waste plastic and give it a new lease of life.

According to IEEE, the group particularly wants to take the vast amounts of plastic from the planet’s oceans – approximately 8m tonnes per year – and use it for PlasticRoad.

Once the plastic is harvested, it can be manufactured relatively cheaply in a nearby factory and laid end-to-end like a Lego set, with each interconnecting section for fast construction.

Plastic Road concept image

Could generate electricity

Equally impressive is the fact that each of these sections, while being capable of supporting road traffic, can be made hollow to support the cables of broadband networks, water pipes and any other infrastructure requirements.

Additionally, the team behind PlasticRoad says it could even offer the possibility of energy generation through charge created by the tyres running overhead.

The concept is still very much in the early developmental stage, with Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision saying: “The next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. 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.”

The development of a new road surface to replace tarmac has been investigated for a number of years now, with one of the more recent concepts proposed including one of a road made entirely of solar panels housing LEDs to give directions to motorists.

Plastic Road concept image with hollow

Road at night image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic