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California tests recycled plastic water bottles as asphalt replacement

A machine that mixes ground up asphalt and plastic bottles to make a highway.
A machine that mixes ground up asphalt and plastic bottles to make a highway.(Caltrans)
Published: Aug. 9, 2020 at 12:50 PM PDT
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OROVILLE, Calif. (KOLO) -The California Department of Transportation repaved a 1,000-foot section of a Northern California highway using recycled plastic water bottles.

Caltrans is testing the recycled water bottles on highways throughout the state to see if it is a substitute for traditional asphalt. A 1-mile segment of highway will recycle 150,000 water bottles.

“This pilot project underscores the department’s commitment to embracing innovative and cost-effective technologies while advancing sustainability and environmental protection efforts,” Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said in a statement.

The three-lane, 1,000-foot segment is on California 162 between Feather River and Christian Avenue in Oroville, Calif.

Technisoil Industrial of Redding, Calif., developed the process. A recycling train of equipment grinds up the top 3 inches of pavement and then mixes the grindings with a liquid plastic polymer binder, which comes from a high amount of recycled, single-use bottles, Caltrans said. The new asphalt material is then placed on the top surface of the roadway, eliminating the need for trucks to bring in outside material for a paving operation. By eliminating the need to haul asphalt from the outside, this process can significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Caltrans said previous tests show the new procedure lasts two to three times as long as traditional paving.

“California has set ambitious goals for recycling and other environmental priorities, and meeting them requires innovative and cost-effective solutions,” State Sen. Ben Hueso said in the Caltrans statement. “Using waste plastic that was otherwise destined for a landfill will not only reduce the cost of road repair and construction but also increase the strength and durability of our roads. As a leader on environmental justice issues, California is uniquely positioned to transform the transportation industry once again by using this new technology that could revolutionize the way we look at recycled plastic.”

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