Councils are pushing for soft plastics like shopping bags and packaging to be recycled into roads and pavements. Plastics typically end up in land fill, reusing them in alternative manufacturing process is a great option moving forward.
The more plastic we can keep form landfill reduces the risk of them making the way to waterways and our oceans, endangering wildlife and echo systems.
Australians only recycle 3% of the four billion plastic bags we use each year according to Sustainability Victoria. Kerbside collection often can’t handle soft plastics, but a new practice of melting the bags into road materials to be used as a bitumen additive. This process can also have a 65 per cent improvement in fatigue resistance for roads under stress from heavy traffic.
Collection company’s using special bins in supermarkets send the bags to processing facility’s setup by Close the Loop and Downer to create the bitumen additive.
These soft plastics have a low melting point compared to other harder alternatives and are added to reclaimed asphalt, printer cartridges and glass mix during the manufacturing process. The soft plastics can’t be separated into beads and therefore won’t break down into microplastics.
The major sustainability benefit of the material is the reduced need for virgin materials to create the polymer-enhanced bitumen.
“Polymers have been used to improve on the strength of pure bitumen for around 25 years, but now soft plastics allow us to create a similar product from a more sustainable source,”
“This provides us with the physical benefits of enhanced polymer bitumen for a lower cost.”
Stuart Billing, Downer General Manager – Pavements