Plastic Roads Australia: Is The Use Of Plastic In Road Construction Smart?
We have covered in previous blogs how countries overseas such as the first plastic road in India have been pioneers in roads made from plastic waste. This trend is now in Australia – with the first plastic roads Australia being trialled in Tasmania.
In today’s blog – we will ask whether plastic road construction is actually a good idea – or is it just delaying a problem for another day – i.e. and will the plastic waste issue be easier to solve in the future.
We have covered lot’s of issues with plastic in recent blogs – and have argued that a reduction of plastic is the only long term, truly sustainable solution for the environmental wreckage caused by plastic. For this reason – we are sceptical that plastic roads Australia will really be a good solution.
Plastic roads Australia: Why is plastic waste such a problem?
We have said it many times – but always worth saying again. The major issue with plastic is that it pretty much lasts forever – i.e. once used and thrown away -it basically stays intact for 1000s of years.
This is why it causes such big issues in the seas and oceans. Even something like a drinking straw – that is used for a few minutes can cause damage for ever.
The only real way to get rid of low grade plastics -is to incinerate them – as is done in countries like Sweden and Japan.
Recycling of low grade plastics is often not all it is cracked up to be – see our blog on this topic here.
Many countries are against incineration for various reasons – but will plastic roads Australia and the use of plastic in road construction be any better.
Note – in this blog – we do not really cover any of the purported benefits of roads made from plastic waste – such as better performance in hot and cold – and of course being longer lasting – we focus only on whether it is a suitable way to treat waste plastic from an environmental perspective.
Are plastic roads Australia a good idea or not?
The ABC covers how a recent trial road has been built from plastic road construction – but is the use of plastic bags in road construction smart or foolish?
“The stretch of road, on Charlton Street in Snug, uses an additive made up of 530,000 plastic bags, 168,000 glass bottle equivalents and toner from 12,500 cartridges in each kilometre.”
“It is estimated the road would last 15 per cent longer than a regular asphalt road.”
“Single-use glass has also been used, said Stuart Billing, who is the general manager of pavements at road construction company Downer.”
“It can’t be used for recycling back into glass, and it’s crushed down to almost like a sand and we incorporate that at our asphalt plant,” he said.
“We’re able to take what would ordinarily end up in landfill or potentially contaminating our environment and we’re actually able to make use of them.”
The road is built from melted down plastic – which is then added to the road mix.
Conclusion on plastic roads Australia: Is incineration not a better outcome?
Even if the road construction from plastic delays the inevitable – do we not need to sooner or later dig it up and dispose of the product – and will it not then be embedded with glass, stone etc – i.e. almost impossible to incinerate.
Is this actually a better outcome for the environment than incinerating plastic in a modern facility for electricity generation – and hence reducing the need for new carbon fuels.
At Waster – we argue that plastic should be phased out as much as possible – to be replaced by bio-degradable versions as much as possible.
We also believe that society and Australia included will need to take a more positive look at incineration in the mean time.