A new RMIT University-led project will see new roads at ten sites contain recycled material, including hard-to-recycle soft plastics, demonstrating “a viable circular-economy solution to the nation” according to the university.
The project – which is supported by the Australian Research Council, Austroads and ten Victorian councils – will use post-consumer and industrial waste plastic to improve the performance of asphalt.
All up, the ten sites will use up an estimated 21,000 kilograms of recycled plastic, though represent a tiny fraction of what could be reused across several hundreds of thousands of kilometres of road across Australia, according to RMIT Associate Professor Filippo Giustozzi.
The team will also produce best-practice guidelines on the use of recycled plastics in asphalt roads.
“These guidelines will enable local governments, which control 80 per cent of the nation’s roads, to begin widescale adoption of this innovative recycling solution,” said Giustozzi.
“If Australia’s 537 local governments each used a small amount of recycled plastic in the many roads they resurface each year, then nationally we’ll have created a large end-market for recycled plastic.”
According to the statement, extensive lab tests by RMIT for transport agency collective Austroads have shown the asphalt mixes are mechanically, chemically, and environmentally sound.
The team’s latest study, published in Science of The Total Environment, showed mixtures had 150 per cent less cracking and 85 per cent less deformation under pressure testing compared to regular asphalt.