Asphalt is not pretty stuff. It emits 27 kilograms of CO2 for every tonne produced; it absorbs heat and contributes to urban heat island effects. Meanwhile, our mountains of plastic are rising faster than they can be downcycled into lawn chairs and plastic lumber.
Perhaps not for too much longer. A Dutch construction firm, VolkerWessels, is proposing a new form of roadbed made from recycled plastic. According to Gordon Darroch in the Guardian,
The plastic roads are lighter, reducing the load on the ground, and hollow, making it easier to install cables and utility pipelines below the surface. Sections can be prefabricated in a factory and transported to where they are needed, reducing on-site construction, while the shorter construction time and low maintenance will mean less congestion caused by roadworks. Lighter materials can also be transported more efficiently.
They are going to try it out in Rotterdam. Rolf Mars of VolkerWessells' subsidiary KWS Infra, claims that "plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance."
An interesting idea that is probably more logical than paving it in solar cells. It will be interesting to see how this works in cold climates when plastic gets brittle. More in the Guardian.