Our planet is drowning in plastic trash – 6.3 billion tons of it and counting. Plastic takes more than 400 years to break down, so much so that some scientists think that every single piece of plastic ever made still exists. Plastic pollution is a huge, global problem and we are in urgent need to find a solution to it. What can we do with all the plastic waste on our planet? One creative solution is to use it to build roads.
The first plastic road was built in India around 20 years ago. It was constructed by mixing plastic waste with tar. Since then, the Asian country has built more than 33,000 km of roads. In 2015, the government even made a law that plastic waste must be used in constructing roads near large cities – an effort to tackle plastic pollution in the country.
All around the world, plastic roads are gaining popularity. From Ghana to Singapore, countries are using plastic waste to build roads and pathways. Some streets are made entirely of recycled plastic – such as the PlasticRoad in Netherlands. Just 30 metres long, it is made of more than 218,000 recycled plastic cups!
These roads are a convenient way to put our plastic waste to use. According to MacRebur, a company that builds them, each kilometre of road uses an amount of plastic waste equivalent to 740,000 plastic bags! By using this waste in our roads, we can keep them out of our oceans and landfills.
Some studies also show that plastic roads have some advantages over conventional roads. These kind of roads have a smoother surface and are less likely to crack and have potholes. This means that they are likely to last longer than regular roads. In addition, using plastic to build roads also increases their melting point, meaning that the roads are better at withstanding extreme temperatures.
Some experts, however, have concerns about these roads. Because they are still relatively young, it is not clear how durable they will be over the long term, especially as they are exposed to sun and rain. There are also challenges to building these roads. For example, it is important to make sure that the plastic stays inside a path or road, and does not break down into microplastics that go into our soil, water and air.
Plastic roads could be a promising solution to our plastic waste problem, but only if we stop producing so much plastic trash! If we keep creating more plastic waste, we will never be able to manage it in a sustainable way.
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