A trio of European companies is testing a bike path made from recycled plastic in Zwolle, Netherlands.
The project, called PlasticRoad, launched this month as the first step in building entire roads from recycled plastic. Wavin, which makes plastic piping, built the bike path in partnership with energy company Total and engineering company KWS.
Zwolle's recycled plastic bike path is less than 100 feet long. It contains sensors that measure the path's durability, the number of cyclists biking on it, and the temperature. According to Fast Company, another bike path made from recycled plastic will be unveiled in a second Dutch town this fall.
PlasticRoad's design includes prefabricated, modular sections, which are light and can be installed quickly. According to the project leaders, the design reduces the length of time it takes to build an entire road from months to days.
The recycled plastic is weather resistant and can last much longer than asphalt. According to PlasticRoad, the road's carbon footprint is also lower than that of concrete or asphalt because it does not require introducing new materials that can add to the footprint. The road also has a hollow space that can store pipes, cables, and rainwater to prevent flooding.
Gert-Jan Maasdam, a director of technology at Wavin, told Fast Company that the bike path was made from post-consumer waste that would otherwise have been discarded. The pilot project is focusing on using items like plastic bottles or cosmetic packaging, which have little value after being used. PlasticRoad did not respond to requests for comment about the bike path's cost.
Humans produce about 300 million tons of plastic each year, which is a significant threat to the environment. Plastic takes a long time to decompose, and most of the plastic we produce is dumped into oceans, beaches, and other natural habitats.
For now, PlasticRoad is using 70% recycled plastic, with goals to use fully recycled plastic one day. The team behind the road would eventually like to implement the design in parking lots, sidewalks, and entire streets.
In the meantime, the project leaders will use the pilot to address potential feasibility issues associated with using recycled plastic for road building. Plastic on its own, for example, is not very stiff and may not provide enough traction as a road. If initial experiments show that the plastic is not enough, PlasticRoad leaders may add sand or crushed stone to the road's surface.