This startup is using recycled plastics to pave roads


A Scottish startup could be behind the roads of the future, and those roads will be paved with recycled plastic! Over at MacRebur, engineer Toby McCartney and his co-founders have already convinced some regions of the United Kingdom to give it a try—but they hope their green idea goes global.

McCartney’s company, MacRebur, uses the plastic headed for landfills as a replacement additive to asphalt. It turns all of those wasted plastic bags and water bottles into millions of tiny pellets. The resulting patent pending product—MR6—is then used in place of the commonly used asphalt additive bitumen, a material extracted from crude oil.

The folks behind MacRebur say this simple solution solves multiple world challenges:

Bitumen makes up about 10 percent of asphalt roads when mixed with rock, sand and limestone. MacRebur claims MR6 is cheaper to make, more eco-friendly and (stand by for your happy dance) less prone to potholes! McCartney also says that plastic roads are 60 percent stronger and last longer than the crumbling roads we’re used to.

On top of this plethora of benefits, this process could greatly reduce the amount of plastic that winds up in landfills.

The idea was born during a trip to India, where McCartney saw road crews filling potholes with waste plastic and then burning it. With about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in the ocean per square mile—and with enough plastic thrown away to circle the earth four times—McCartney thought he could solve two problems at once!

In a video posted to Facebook, MacRebur says Americans throw away more than 28 million tons of plastic every year—and he proposed that, instead, we put it to good use:

Right now, the bitumen market is driven by construction and infrastructure. It’s selling at a rapid pace, with developing nations building more and more housing and commercial facilities. But the bitumen industry recognizes the environmental push for greener resources in construction.

Clearly, the vision is catching on. In a recent tweet, the company says, “MacRebur is Australia bound—they’re interested in plastic roads!”

Even planes are operating on plastic runways! MacRebur’s product is used at Carlisle Airport in England. MacRebur was also the 2016 winner of the Virgin Media Business Voom competition, earning the opportunity to present its product to mega-investor Richard Branson.

Will you be seeing plastic roads (and fewer potholes??) in your neighborhood anytime soon?


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About the Author
Emily Hanford-Ostmann
I have a background in newspaper and broadcast news writing. When I'm not informing others about what's happening in town...I enjoy running, a great workout class, and finding my next favorite show on Netflix. I also find great joy in clearance shopping.

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