Scotland-based plastic road manufacturer MacRebur Plastic Road Co. is on a mission to put waste plastics to work in roadways, and it is extending that mission in the U.S.
MacRebur already has a facility in San Diego, where it put plastics that would have gone to landfills into asphalt for roads and parking lots in Southern California. It now is finalizing plans for a new plant in Tampa, Fla.
MacRebur says its process is a solution that can metaphorically kill two birds with one stone, by helping to solve the waste plastic epidemic and to improve the poor quality of roads around the world today.
Tired of the potholes in the road in front of his house, MacRebur CEO Toby McCartney remembered something he'd seen people in Southern India do to fix potholes. They plugged the hole with waste plastic and rubbish from landfills, poured it over with diesel and set it alight, so that the plastic melted and sealed the hole, he said. He wondered whether they might be on to something.
Together with two partners, he started to explore whether the waste plastics in the United Kingdom could somehow be used to strengthen the roads in the U.K. After 18 months of testing and trials, the group came up with a product meeting British and European standards that used nonrecyclable plastic waste from the oceans and landfills mixed with asphalt for road repairs and construction.
The company takes the waste plastics, pelletizes them and replaces part of the asphalt in a road mix, "to create a stronger, longer-lasting road that reduces the road's pothole problem," McCartney said.
MacRebur sells its pellets — called MR6, MR8, and MR10 — into the international asphalt market and is now a trademarked name in 13 countries. The company also has a PCT in place to patent its product for worldwide intellectual property protection.
The company has already laid roads in countries from Bahrain to New Zealand, and it is now planning to expand its operations overseas.
"Plastic packaging is a huge problem in the U.S. and a large contributor to the 80 million [metric] tons worth of waste being produced every year," McCartney said.
"With each mile of road laid using our MacRebur product, we use up the equivalent weight of 1,194,421 one-time-use plastic bags — or put another way, one ton of MacRebur mix contains the equivalent of 80,000 plastic bottles. The U.S. has around 4,071,000 miles of roads, so as we see it, MacRebur products could be the single biggest solution to the U.S. plastics problem."
The company first teamed with the University of California San Diego for projects on the West Coast. It now has agreements that will alow it to expand into Florida soon.