One of the world's biggest chemical companies is now using recycled plastic to build new roads.
The planet has a massive problem with plastic.
On the macro level, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which lies between the coast of California and Hawaii, is made of 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic debris and is twice the size of Texas.
On a micro level, a recent study published in The Guardian found that microplastic pollution has been found “everywhere” they’ve looked, from the UK’s lakes and rivers to U.S. groundwater to the Yangtze river in China and off coast of Spain.
One of the world’s largest producers of the planet’s biggest nuisance, Dow Chemical, has found a practical way to reuse plastic, keeping it our of our landfills and oceans.
In 2017, the company began building roads using recycled plastic and its already saved 220,000 pounds from going into landfills.
It all started when Indonesia, the world’s second-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution, reached out to Dow for a solution to its problem. So Dow helped show the Indonesians how to convert their plastic into roads. The company then carried out similar efforts in Thailand and India.
In February, Dow brought their recycling program stateside by paving two private roads at their facilities in Freeport, Texas using 1,700 pounds of recycled plastic.
In addition to reducing pollution, plastic roads are also more durable than those built with asphalt. A 2015 study out of Denmark says plastic roads can last up to 50 years, three times longer than a traditional asphalt mixture.
Plastic roads are also more resistant to corrosion and weather than asphalt which may reduce the number of potholes.
Conversely, some environmentalists fear that heating the plastic to turn it into roads may release toxic fumes that are harmful to the Earth’s atmosphere.
Dow says its new roads are made with a combination of asphalt and plastic, but it won’t reveal the exact percentage of each material.
Plastic roads would help solve two major problems the United States is facing. It is the world’s twelfth-largest producer of marine plastic and is in need of a major infrastructure upgrade. When the Trump Administration finally gets to infrastructure week, this should be a top priority.