Plastic Road Lasts Ten Times Longer Says Inventor


Scottish engineer Toby McCartney had an epiphany one day when his daughter’s teacher asked what grows in the ocean. “Plastics!” she replied. McCartney had spent time in India and seen how roads in that country were repaired by putting waste plastic into potholes and burning it. He took that idea and invented the plastic road.

MacRebur plastic road

Together with friends Nick Burnett and Gordon Reid, he started a new company called MacRebur that uses 100% recycled plastic as a substitute for the bitumen normally used to pave roads. Ordinarily, asphalt roads are about 90% rock, sand, and limestone mixed with 10 percent bitumen.

MacRebur takes waste plastic, farm waste, and commercial waste and turns it into pellets called MR6. Those pellets replace most of the bitumen when the new plasticized asphalt is made. McCartney says the process results in a plastic road that is 60% stronger and last up to 10 times longer than a normal asphalt road.

McCartney’s driveway was the first time the plastic asphalt was used. Now, his local county of Cumbria is using MacRebur asphalt to pave new roads in the area.

While Elon Musk is changing the world of automobiles, Toby McCartney is changing the roads those vehicles will drive on. Not only does his process keep plastics out of the ocean and lower the amount of petroleum needed to make roads, it can save communities millions of dollars by making roads that need to be repaired or replaced less often.

A plastic road is also being tested in Vancouver, which has embarked on a campaign to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. GreenMantra, a Canadian company based in Toronto, has developed a process that uses a mixture of recycled plastic to make a binder to hold the mixture of rock and sand in asphalt together.

The plastics do not need to be heated as much in order to flow properly during the paving process. Lower temperatures mean less fuel is needed to heat the mixture. Less fuel burned means fewer emissions released into the atmosphere during the road-building process.

The scourge of plastic waste is a major environmental concern. MacRebur and GreenMantra are looking at the problem with fresh eyes and seeing a way to keep some of that trash out of landfills and oceans and turn it into new business opportunities instead.

Source: Inhabitat

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Jim Smith

    wow, that is awesome.

    • Steve Hanley

      It’s pretty darn cool, Jim. It won’t take care of all the plastic already bobbing around in the world’s oceans but its a start. Turning trash into cash? That’s an idea we can all get behind.

  • James Rowland

    If I recall correctly, bitumen in roads is about 99% recycled already, and recycled polymers (among other things) are already used as additives. Is this venture really so innovative?

    I’m highly doubtful of this “10x longer” life claim, given that the wear resistance of blacktop comes from the aggregate, not the bonding agent. Rock is already a lot harder than plastic.

    • Steve Hanley

      “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

  • Tadeusz Piskozub

    If it is as good as their webpage says, then I hope it becomes a popular choice fast.

    Where I come from the difference between winter and summer in average temperatures is close to 50 degrees celsius(90F). With the added problem of budget constraints it’s impossible to keep the infrastructure in proper shape.

  • Joe Viocoe

    I’ll wait for peer review and the DOT to verify that claim.

  • Burnerjack

    No mention of friction coefficient. Traction is an important component to the performance envelope of the roadway surface. Hopefully, there is no change or better yet, an improvement in traction over a wide temperature range.
    The only thing better than recycling plastics is to stop producing them.

  • Oleg Eremenko

    Need to make sure the road doesn’t burn. Plastic burns easily.

  • Vilas Khadse

    Good idea but it may pose even more health hazard. Bitumin does not disintegrate into smaller particles while plastic, with the friction will disintegrate into small particles and will be inhaled by the humans, animals which will be hard to contain. The small particles could make a plastic layer on the hot radiator of IC engine car reducing its effectivness. ( Electric cars will be spared) The better way of using waste plastic will be to use it in solid curbs, traffic islands, road dividers etc.

    • kevin mccune

      Thank you , we need to think outside the box here .

  • tony D

    concrete is second behind coal fired power for CO2 emissions. How about jersey barriers made to be filled in place with sand! If injected mold it can be shaped more intricately and be designed to do a better job at crash mitigation (less rollover?).

  • Marlevet Nacorda

    This is pretty cool technology. But I am wondering if this is also applicable for winter? I have read few articles related about plastic roads and I found out that it was first applied in India which happens to have 2 seasons. How about those countries with 4 seasons?