PlasticRoad upcycles post-consumer plastics into modular road pieces that have greater longevity than conventional road surfaces and can withstand extreme temperatures.

KWS has partnered with Wavin and Total to create PlasticRoad, a new modular road system made from recycled plastics. Rather than being landfilled or incinerated, post-consumer plastics are recycled into prefabricated pieces of road. There are numerous benefits of plastic roads: The creators of PlasticRoad estimate that their lifespan will be three times that of conventional asphalt roads, and their lightness means they can easily be transported, installed, and replaced. Further, PlasticRoad can tolerate extreme temperatures as low as -40℃ and as high as 80℃.

The modules themselves are also designed to maximise circularity, convenience and durability. Using prefabricated pieces dramatically reduces the amount of time taken to build and repair roads – if a section of road is damaged, it can be quickly removed and replaced with a new unit, while the damaged piece is shredded and recycled into a new piece. In fact, the solution developers estimate that it is 70% faster to construct PlasticRoad than asphalt roads, therefore reducing road disruption. What’s more, their hollow structure allows storage of cables, pipes and can effectively drain to avoid road flooding.

The first PlasticRoad was launched in the Dutch city of Zwolle in September 2018. It is a 30m bicycle path made from the equivalent of 218,000 plastic cups, or 500,000 plastic bottle caps. The company has since installed another in Giethoorn in November 2018 and is exploring the potential to utilise the technology in parking lots too. 

Why you should care

Although asphalt (also known as bitumen or tar) is recyclable, it still a non-renewable petroleum-based product. Meanwhile, of the 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic ever created, less than 10% has been recycled. PlasticRoad is an efficient use of existing plastic resources and helps to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

How the Global Goals are addressed

Industry, innovation and infrastructure

PlasticRoad is a more sustainable, resilient and resource efficient material for road construction than conventional materials due to its lightweight, modularity, durability and water drainage benefits.

Sustainable cities and communities

Building plastic roads leads to less heavy transportation vehicles in the construction phase, resulting in lower particulate emissions, and could also be a solution for urban waste management. 

Responsible consumption and production

PlasticRoad is designed with circularity in mind because each module is made from recycled materials and is entirely recyclable, hence avoiding waste generation.