The world’s first plastic bike path in the Netherlands recorded its millionth crossing yesterday. In 2018, the PlasticRoad, made from recycled plastic waste, was a world premiere. After over one and half years of testing, learning and continued development into a design suited for industrial production, the technology is now ready to be launched on the market. Industrial manufacture of the PlasticRoad will start in the first quarter of 2021. The results of the two bike path pilot projects in Zwolle and Giethoorn are so positive that it is now time to take the next step. The PlasticRoad has proven able to handle heavy loads, offers an effective solution for water management with heavy precipitation and periods of drought and holds up under a wide range of conditions.
The people behind the PlasticRoad initiative are exceptionally satisfied with the results of the pilot project and look forward to seeing the first PlasticRoad element roll off the production line. Marcel Jager and Anne Koudstaal of the PlasticRoad team talk about the project: “Working together with our clients, we have proven that our ground-breaking circular concept – a prefab road based on recycled plastic – is feasible in practice. An initiative that started in 2018 with two pilot projects is now ready for industrial production – a feat that we are incredibly proud of.”
Circular bike path
The results of the two 30-metre bike path pilot projects in the Netherlands show that it is possible to construct roads using recycled plastic waste. Each pilot contains about 1000 kilograms of recycled plastics, the equivalent of 218.000 plastic cups. The pilot version of the PlasticRoad already cut CO₂ emissions by some 50 to 70% compared to conventional bike paths made from asphalt or concrete slabs. And next year, this percentage stands to increase even further when the finalised design is taken into industrial production. What’s more: the circular characteristics of the finalised product have been optimised by further developing the road’s structural design – an achievement that has been confirmed by an independent circular audit.
Strong and robust
At the time of their installation, both test roads in Zwolle and Giethoorn were fitted with sensors that enabled 24/7 monitoring of the product’s use and ‘behaviour’. The most important conclusion that could be drawn from the two pilot projects is that the PlasticRoad can also handle heavy traffic. It has become clear from practical tests and data that the PlasticRoad is also a match for heavier loads like garbage trucks and maintenance vehicles. Further improvements to the design mean that the definite version will be more rugged and 2.5 times stronger than the test sections laid in Zwolle and Giethoorn. This makes the PlasticRoad suited for applications like parking lots, and the team is already preparing the first pilot project for this particular application. And the eventual realisation of the first PlasticRoad for cars and other road traffic has become more likely than ever.
Extreme precipitation and heavy showers are becoming increasingly common as a consequence of climate change. In many cases, the current infrastructure is unable to accommodate all the excess water – with flooded streets as a result. The hollow sections under the PlasticRoad’s surface are intended to quickly store this sudden precipitation and then gradually allow it to infiltrate the subsoil. This climate-adaptive solution turns out to work very well in practice. Before the two test sections were installed, both locations used to be affected by water storage problems. But with PlasticRoad, even the heaviest showers proved to have a minimal impact on local storage capacity. The highest water level measured within the PlasticRoad was only 48% of the available storage capacity at the Zwolle test site. The water subsequently infiltrates the subsoil within the next two days – exactly as predicted.
The Dutch Province of Overijssel and the Municipality of Zwolle were the two ‘launching customers’ for the PlasticRoad. These two administrations have jointly taken the initiative to organise two pilot projects with PlasticRoad bike paths. And these projects haven’t just yielded positive data; the bike paths have also been enthusiastically received by their users. “Sustainable infrastructure for our residents and smart use of space – that’s our main focus. To take this to the next level, you need to stick out your neck and strive to innovate. As municipal and provincial administrations, it’s great that we have had this opportunity to work together with innovative parties in our region,” say Bert Boerman, member of the Provincial Executive of Overijssel and Deputy Mayor William Dogger of the Municipality of Zwolle.
Based on the convincing results recorded in the pilot projects, the PlasticRoad team are currently preparing to take the production line into operation. The PlasticRoad is available for order as of today, with initial deliveries being made in the first quarter of 2021. The project can already count on strong interest from the market. Working together with clients and contractors, PlasticRoad will be launching a variety of applications that can help make cities and towns climate-adaptive and carbon-neutral. For example, the PlasticRoad planning includes bike paths, parking lots, pavements and schoolyards. The team will initially be focusing on clients in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries, after which they expect to scale up to markets in other parts of the world.
The PlasticRoad is an initiative of KWS (a VolkerWessels company), Wavin and Total.