If you can make a plastic road in New York City, can you make it anywhere?
The Big Apple is in the middle of a fast-track trial using plastic waste mixed with asphalt to lay down city streets.
NYC's Department of Transportation is working with British waste plastic road firm MacRebur on two streets in the borough of Staten Island, on Rice Avenue and Royal Oak Road, to measure how the plastic-asphalt roads hold up.
According to a news release from MacRebur, the companies are testing three different mixes of unrecyclable plastics with asphalt, along with one test segment of traditional asphalt, to see how they perform.
MacRebur makes a plastic waste additive that replaces part of the bitumen binder in the roads.
"Having worked with the team at NYC DOT for just over a year, it's refreshing to see such enthusiasm about new technology and products for use in asphalt," said Roddy McEwen, international business officer at MacRebur. "Whilst trials sections such as these typically taking up to three years from start to finish, we have worked together to begin trials within just four months — with a long-term goal of utilizing local waste for local roads."
The company, which has worked on roads around the world, says it has diverted the equivalent weight of 214,000 single-use plastic bottles from landfills and says the surfaces have saved 7,300 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Those benefits aside, the plastic roads will have to pass muster with Rutgers University in New Jersey. MacRebur said a team from Rutgers, which it called one of the leading U.S. universities in asphalt research, will test and monitor, with results expected by the end of the year.
NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in the announcement that he wanted to see how the road mix held up in the city's weather.
"Using recycled plastic waste has the potential to solve our growing plastic waste problem and improve the quality of our streets by cutting carbon emissions and reducing potholes," he said. "We are excited to partner with MacRebur on this promising pilot and look forward to monitoring how its asphalt mix performs in New York City weather."