We are living in times where there are unprecedented levels of pollution on the planet because of plastic waste. It wreaks havoc to the harmonious nature of the environment and such effects have detrimental repercussions on human existence. In South Africa, a company is working solidly to ensure that plastic waste is used for something noble.
Infrastructural development in today's world requires cutting-edge innovation and South African company, Shisalanga Construction, has stepped up to the scene by using recycled plastic waste to repave roads. The benefit is double-fold: the quality of the roads is improved and at the same time, the problem of waste is dealt with. Shisalanga Construction laid a section of road that's partly plastic in the KwaZulu-Natal province in August.
The company has since made some noteworthy strides, as it has now repaved more than 400 metres of the road in Cliffdale on the outskirts of Durban. To achieve this, asphalt made with the equivalent of almost 40,000 recycled two-litre plastic milk bottles is used.
The complete process encompasses the use of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is a plastic that is usually used to make milk bottles. This is then recycled by a local recycling plant and turned into pellets. The pellets are heated to 190 degrees Celsius until they dissolve and are mixed with additives. These supplant six percent of the asphalt's bitumen binder, meaning that every ton of asphalt contains roughly 118 to 128 bottles.
The company says, with a high degree of full certainty, that fewer toxic emissions are produced than during traditional processes. They are also of the position that its compound is more durable and water resistant than conventional asphalt, withstanding temperatures as high as 70 degrees Celsius (158F) and as low as 22 below zero (-7.6F). On the issue of costs, there is not much change as Shisalanga's operations cost the same with the existing methods. But in the long run they say that this will be cost-effective because of the better longevity of the roads, which are expected to last longer than the national average of 20 years. And they are buoyed by their current performance, saying that the results have been "spectacular". They say their performance has been "phenomenal".
70% of South Africa's waste is sourced from landfill. Shisalanga's rallying point is that by using this waste for better purposes, a market for such waste is being created since there will be increased business for the local recycling plant. And in that way, the nation can strive towards being cleaner.
Authorities have been impressed, with Kit Ducasse, control technician at the KZN Department of Transport (the department commissioned the plastic repaving) saying that the initiative is working well and that time would fully tell the success of this noble project.
Plastic roads raise concerns such as potential carcinogenic gases created during production and the release of microplastics (tiny particles of plastic) as the roads wear away. But these have been ruled out on the rationale that not undertaking this project will only lead to furthering the national environment waste problem.
This is a pioneering and ambitious project aimed at easing the environmental problems and also improving the quality of roads.
Header image credit - CNN