Virginia mixes old plastic into new stretches of road

Virginia is testing out advanced road surfaces that promise to lower costs and dispose of old plastic.

It’s happening on Old Stage Road, in Chester, Virginia, where two mile-long sections of the road, which were paved in September, contain two types of recycled plastic waste.

Virginia is testing out advanced road surfaces that promise to lower costs and dispose of old plastic. (Courtesy MacRebur)

The modified asphalt provides a better road surface, reduces cost and gets rid of waste plastic, said Toby McCartney, CEO of Scotland-based plastic road company MacRebur, which was involved in part of the project.

He said specific types of plastics must be used along with an activator. “It’s not just a case of chucking in any old plastics,” he said.

“In my opinion, I do see promising performance; however there is a lot to learn still,” said Jhony Habbouche, a senior research scientist at the Virginia Transportation Research Council, which is the research division of the Virginia Department of Transportation. “This project started five months ago and is expected to last for years.”

Habbouche said VDOT is planning four more projects like this one for the Richmond area, though specific roads have not yet been selected.

Habbouche said efforts to include recycled plastic waste in asphalt mixtures date back to 1991 in Virginia, but one key difference now is that there are newer performance tests for the plastics.

Virginia is also looking at potential environmental impacts, such as the possible runoff of microplastics.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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