Last updated: 10:25 AM ET, Thu July 16 2015

Could Tomorrow's Roads Be Made of Plastic?

Travel Technology | Donald Wood | July 16, 2015

Could Tomorrow's Roads Be Made of Plastic?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The focus on preserving the environment has never been greater, and in that spirit, one company in the Netherlands is testing a new road surface made up of recycled plastic.

Paul A. Eisenstein of is reporting Dutch construction and engineering company KWS Infra is developing a project it calls PlasticRoad, a new road surface that can reportedly last as much as three times longer than typical pavement and can withstand temperatures ranging from -40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

The plastic material used in the road construction would be produced by using recycled waste, such as water bottles, soft drink bottles and the massive amounts of plastic floating in the ocean right now.

Instead of being forced to lay down asphalt in time consuming ways by using huge machinery, the new plastic roads would utilize prefabricated segments that could snap together like Lego pieces on the job site. This would make building the roads easier, and it would also be much simpler to make repairs if a damaged section could simply be removed and then replaced.

The plastic road segments will feature hollow channels built in that will allow for utilities to run through them, including electric lines, water pipes and even rain drainage. Add in the fact that the material used would be recycled plastic that would allow construction crews to not use asphalt and its harmful fumes, and this is an environmentally friendly idea that is catching on overseas.

The city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands may only just be starting the research and testing stages of their investigation into the sustainability of this idea, but it’s a good beginning. Officials must not only test the material’s durability and longevity, but also whether or not it will be safe to travel on in all kinds of weather.

Cities all over the world continue to look for ways to recycle items and add the material into the roads—several American companies are using ground-up chunks of old tires in asphalt—and this is just the latest concept pitched.

KWS Infra says it will likely be at least three years before the technology will be ready to be utilized in a major project. For now, though, it’s just a great idea with plenty of promise.

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