Building the Future

Imagine that constructing a road would take days instead of months. That roads would last three times as long. That maintenance and traffic disruption are things of the past. And that cable and piping problems as well as the urban water problem are solved overnight.

This may sound like a scenario in the distant future, but nothing could be further from the truth. KWS, a VolkerWessels company, Wavin and Total are working on the development of plastic roads, also known as the PlasticRoad. Every component of the PlasticRoad is being designed to make its application completely circular, with the goal of using recycled plastic as much as possible.

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Concept

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Prefabricated and modular

The PlasticRoad concept consists of a prefabricated, modular and hollow road structure made from (recycled) plastic. The prefabricated production, the light weight and the modular design of the PlasticRoad make construction and maintenance faster, simpler and more efficient compared to traditional road structures.

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Hollow design

The PlasticRoad has a hollow space that can be used to (temporarily) store water, thus preventing flooding during extreme precipitation. The hollow space can also be used for the transit of cables and pipes, thus preventing excavation damages. And there are numerous other conceivable applications, including the installation of sensors or the electric charging of vehicles.

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Sustainable

The PlasticRoad is a completely circular product that is made from recycled plastic. It has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional road structures thanks to the longer lifespan and the reduction of transport movements involved in its construction.

Our long range objective is a PlasticRoad that is…

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3x

LONGER

The expected lifetime of the PlasticRoad is two to three times as long as that of traditional road paving.

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70%

FASTER

The expected construction time of a new road will be reduced by approximately 70%.

lichtgewicht

4x

LIGHTER

The PlasticRoad is four times as light as a traditional road structure.

 

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100%

CIRCULAR

The PlasticRoad is 100% circular and is made from recycled plastic as much as possible.

 

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Collaboration

KWS, a VolkerWessels company, Wavin and Total are working on the development of the plastic Road. Three companies, each contributing its own expertise and experience to the development of this innovative concept.

KWS is the market leader in road construction and the production of asphalt in the Netherlands. It knows the market well, which is becoming more demanding in terms of sound reduction, flooding, nuisance, longevity and sustainability. These requirements inspired the idea of the PlasticRoad. As a market leader in the recycling of plastic, Wavin is the perfect partner to introduce its knowledge and experience in the field to the project. Another added value of Wavin in this collaboration, is their specialisation in making plastic products for rainwater drainage. Total has extensive knowledge in the field of plastics as well. The company makes important contributions to the project with regards to improving the properties of plastics, the recycling of plastics and the available production techniques.

The consortium is currently working hard on the business case and is investigating the best way to produce the PlasticRoad. The development of a first prototype will start soon. Once the PlasticRoad meets all the technical, environmental and safety requirements, a pilot installation will be built to perform practical tests.

  • "Together with Wavin and Total, we now have a vast pool of knowledge, experience and resources, and can take concrete steps in the development of PlasticRoad. We expect to have a first prototype completed by year-end 2017."

    Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma
    The inventors of PlasticRoad

  • "Wavin and Total believe in the PlasticRoad concept and I have every confidence in a constructive and successful collaboration."

    Rolf Mars
    Directeur of KWS

  • “Being part of the development of PlasticRoad fits in the strategy of Wavin to provide innovative plastic solutions for the building industry. This is a great chance to develop a new way of road building together with other market leaders in this business.”

    Jan Willem Viets
    Directeur of Wavin Nederland

  • “We are delighted to be working on this promising flagship project and to share our expertise in polymer solutions and recycling processes. This agreement is aligned with our commitment to using renewable and recycled sources and reducing the carbon footprint for the markets we serve.”

    Xavier Bontemps
    Senior Vice President for Total’s Polymers Business Unit:

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Media

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Frequently asked questions

What is the PlasticRoad concept?

The PlasticRoad is a road made of recycled plastic. It is prefabricated and features a hollow space that can be used for various purposes. This includes water storage, transit of cables and pipes, heating roads, generating energy etc. The PlasticRoad elements allow for circular reuse.

What are the main advantages of the PlasticRoad?
  • A lightweight prefabricated construction
  • Faster construction (months shorter) and less maintenance time
  • Higher quality and a longer lifespan (homogeneous and prefabricated)
  • Little to no maintenance required. The material is virtually impervious to conditions such as the weather and weeds.
  • The innovation is considerably more sustainable. The goal is to make the PlasticRoad out of 100% recycled plastic and to make it fully reusable. It is perfectly in line with the Cradle to Cradle philosophy and the principles of the circular economy.
  • Double use of space. The hollow space in the design can be used to store water or as space for cables and pipes.
  • The possibility of constant (traffic) safety and water drainage
  • Everything on and around the road can be prefabricated (road markings, guardrails)
  • The concept offers opportunities for further innovation. Examples include solar heated roads, light poles and traffic loop sensors.
  • Contribution to the social problem of plastic waste
How new is this concept?

The concept has never been seen before in this form and with this choice of materials. This leads us to conclude that the concept is truly unique. The idea for the concept was conceived by Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma, who have since been made available to lead the project and make sure we have our first pilot in 2017.

How was the idea conceived?

The idea was conceived by looking at the problems that municipalities, provinces, regional water authorities and contractors (like us) deal with. This includes societal problems such as plastic waste, extreme precipitation, consolidation of the subsoil, an increasing need for mobility, and a crowded subsurface. At the same time there are increasingly stringent requirements for future roads. For contractors, asphalt is a good and decent product to build roads. However, our clients are increasingly demanding more functionality from roads. That raises the question of whether our traditional asphalt is still the answer to these increasingly stringent requirements. Roads should have an increasingly longer lifespan, shorter construction and maintenance time, be more sustainable, achieve ever-higher noise reductions and also be financially competitive. What does it take to fulfil these requirements? These questions and conditions inspired the idea of the PlasticRoad.

When do you expect to build the first PlasticRoad?

At the moment we are working hard on the business case for the PlasticRoad. We are researching the best way to produce the PlasticRoad. As soon as the idea proves feasible, we will build a prototype. Several municipalities, provinces and regional water authorities have already shown interest and offered a pilot location to test the PlasticRoad. Once the PlasticRoad meets all the technical, environmental and safety requirements, a pilot installation will be built to perform practical tests. Our goal is to realise a pilot at the end of 2017. Initially, the PlasticRoad will be used as a bicycle path.

Of which partners does the PlasticRoad consortium consist?

The PlasticRoad consortium consists of the following three partners: KWS (part of VolkerWessels), Wavin (part of the Mexichem group) and Total.

KWS is the market leader in road construction and the production of asphalt in the Netherlands. As an all-round contractor, KWS performs the construction of large, complicated and multidisciplinary (infrastructural) projects as well as small projects for local governments and private individuals.

Wavin is the European market leader in the field of plastic pipe systems and has a large market segment and product range within the field of sustainable rainwater management. Since 2012 Wavin is part of the Mexichem Group, the Latin American world leader in the pipe system and petrochemical industry.

Total is a global integrated energy producer and provider, a leading international oil and gas company and the world’s second-ranked solar energy operator with SunPower. Its activities span oil and gas production, refining, petrochemicals and marketing. In the field of polymers, Total combines key areas of expertise in catalysis, processes and products to provide high performance and durable solutions for its customers. Total supports initiatives that reduce its carbon footprint including the use and development of renewable biosourced and recycled feedstocks, in line with its commitment to better energy.

Why has Total been chosen as a partner?

KWS has chosen to partner with Total because of their enthusiasm for the concept and Total’s immediate pledge to be involved. Total was also chosen because of their vast knowledge in the field of plastics. This expertise includes knowledge in the areas of improving the properties of plastics, recycling plastic and the available production techniques. Like VolkerWessels, Total is also a financially strong organization that places great importance on innovation.

Why has Wavin been chosen as a partner?

KWS has chosen to partner with Wavin because they responded immediately when they heard that KWS was looking for partners for the concept. Wavin was also chosen because of their vast knowledge in the field of plastics. This expertise includes knowledge in the areas of improving the properties of plastics, recycling plastic and the available production techniques. Wavin is market leader in the recycling of plastic and has extensive experience with converting the recycled material into its own products. Another added value of Wavin is that the company is specialised in making plastic products for rainwater drainage.

Why is Total participating in the PlasticRoad project?

This agreement is aligned with our commitment to using sustainable and recycled sources and to reduce the carbon footprint of the markets we serve. We recognize that waste streams containing plastics represent a significant and often unused opportunity to further reduce the carbon footprint of our polymers.

Why is Wavin participating in the PlasticRoad project?

Participating and contributing to the development of the PlasticRoad fits seamlessly into Wavin’s strategy to provide innovative plastics solutions for the built environment. It is an incredible opportunity to develop a new and sustainable way to construct roads together with other market leaders in this business.

What has happened since June 2015, when KWS first came out with the PlasticRoad concept?

Over the last period of time, we have worked hard to answer all the questions we have received, one at a time. The first half year, we took the time to find the right partners to continue the PlasticRoad concept. We succeeded and started collaborating on the project in February 2016 with a consortium consisting of KWS, Wavin and Total.

We spent a lot of time researching the questions related to the engineering of the PlasticRoad. What form can we best apply? Is the PlasticRoad strong enough to function as a road? Which plastics and production techniques are most suitable? What is the optimal design for the road for water management? We have made significant progress in answering these questions and it appears the PlasticRoad is able to meet all the requirements.

What is Infralinq?

Infralinq is a department and independent think tank within KWS that focuses on innovation, sustainability and smarter products.

What are other innovations that KWS Infra is working on?

KWS is working on several (process related) technical innovations.

A recent innovation is Flow With The Glow. A material that works based on photoluminescence and can be used to make road markings and guide rails visible in the dark without electricity. The smart roller is a good example of an innovation in process technology (smarter equipment).

Recent innovations in the field of asphalt are KonwéCity, Sustainable ZOAB and the KonwéFlex. KonwéCity is a noise-reducing asphalt with a longer lifespan and low rolling resistance. Sustainable ZOAB is a ZOAB-mix with 25% PR (recycled old asphalt), and KonWéFlex is a crack-preventing layer of asphalt. Other examples: KonwéBio, KonwéCool, and KonwéClear.

Asphalt is greener and cleaner than some people may think. It is a natural product that consists of stone, sand and bitumen. Our asphalt consists of 50% recycled material. Using the HERA-system, we can even produce asphalt from 100% recycled material.

Which road functions can the PlasticRoad fulfil?

At this time, our aim and focus is to first apply the PlasticRoad as a bike path. Based on the findings of the pilot, we will develop the concept for other and increasingly higher-grade applications. We will examine which applications are feasible. This includes residential streets, through roads, provincial roads, highways and maybe even airports. These are scenarios for the longer term however.

What is the road's expected lifetime compared to a traditional road?

We expect the PlasticRoad to last three times as long as a traditional road structure. However, this will have to be proven in practice. Our expectation is based on the lifetime of other plastic products. This includes plastic manhole covers, plastic decking, plastic bridges etc. We also see great added value in the fact that these roads are prefabricated, which is always an advantage in conditioning the quality.

What about sound? Is driving on asphalt more noisy or less noisy?

We will have to wait and see. PlasticRoad certainly offers a number of opportunities when it comes to noise reduction. With asphalt, we are getting closer and closer to optimal structures for minimising noise pollution. In plastic, it is much simpler to produce this structure than in asphalt. By pressing or printing the structure in the PlasticRoad, we can achieve optimum sound reduction. In any case, sound reduction is not a relevant issue in the pilot (bicycle path).

Won't the PlasticRoad act as a large resonance box?

On a bike path, this will not be a problem in all likelihood. We will have to investigate whether this presents challenges for roads. Sound/vibrations also provide opportunities because the energy can be used to generate power.

How feasible is it to actually produce plastic roads?

KWS Infra believes in the feasibility of the idea and we are making substantial investments in further research into the PlasticRoad. The research will have to reveal whether the idea is feasible in practice.

Wouldn't a plastic road be too smooth to provide enough traction? What about wintertime?

Of itself, plastic is not stiff enough. However, in road construction (asphalt) we have a lot of knowledge and experience in dealing with (a lack of) stiffness. We can use this knowledge to make the PlasticRoad stiff enough. We will first investigate whether we can make the plastic itself stiff enough. If this is not possible, we could also add sand or crushed stone into the surface of the PlasticRoad (by pressing or printing) to provide the required stiffness.

How does prolonged exposure to the sun/UV affect the material?

The civil engineering sector already produces and uses several products that are made of recycled plastic. Examples include timbering, scaffolding, sheet piling, bridges and light poles made of plastic material. These products have no problems with prolonged exposure to the sun or UV-light.

The PlasticRoad consists of prefabricated parts. How will you connect these parts?

There are various ways to connect the prefabricated parts. Further research will have to reveal which method is the most suitable. The choice also depends on the final, optimal design.

Connecting the prefabricated parts will leave seams. How will you deal with these seams?

Seams play an important role in road construction. Examples are concrete roads and joints. KWS Infra has the necessary experience and knowledge to deal with this. We want to minimise the effects of seams using our knowledge and the knowledge of our partners.

Will the seams form a problem for water storage?

This is something that we will have to take into account when selecting the best way to connect the prefabricated parts.

PlasticRoad is a lightweight construction. Won't the construction start to float when groundwater levels are high?

This challenge is a potential risk that we will take into account in the development of the PlasticRoad. Floating should not occur if we allow the air to leave the construction.

What are the risks of the PlasticRoad concept?

As with any innovation, it is important to take stock of the advantages and disadvantages. Every innovation may encounter problems in its early stages. It will have to be assessed under the current regulations. Of course, it is a significant challenge to make a technically demanding application such as a road out of as much recycled material as possible, but we are striving for a high-quality and safe product. For the time being, we mostly see many opportunities for the development of plastic roads.

Why is the PlasticRoad more sustainable than conventional road structures? (!)

The idea underlying the concept is that the PlasticRoad is produced from as much recycled plastic as possible: plastic that is currently still treated as waste (dumped or incinerated). This allows plastic waste to re-enter the chain at a much higher level and greatly reduces its CO2 footprint. Moreover, the innovation is in line with the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. We also expect it will be possible to recycle a PlasticRoad at the end of its life into elements for a new PlasticRoad (circular economy). The idea is to place the PlasticRoad directly on a surface of sand. This removes the need for a foundation. Additionally, it saves two to three layers of asphalt that no longer need to be produced. First calculations show that a road made out of PlasticRoad elements requires 85% less transport than a traditional road.

Is there enough available plastic?

Plastic waste is a worldwide problem that is getting increasingly more attention. An estimated eight billion kilograms of plastic ends up in our oceans and a great quantity of plastic is still incinerated today. In short, there is more than enough plastic for the construction of PlasticRoads.

How will you get a hold of all that plastic material?

To collect enough material for the production of the elements for the PlasticRoad, we are looking to use the plastic waste that is currently incinerated or dumped. We are also closely following the development of the many initiatives that want to retrieve plastic from the oceans and seas. When these initiatives manage to bring back large quantities of plastic to shore, we will certainly investigate whether this would form an appropriate source for making PlasticRoad elements.

Is the PlasticRoad bad for the environment? Won't friction and wear release (microscopic) plastic particles that are dangerous for human beings and the environment?

Sustainability and the environment are of paramount importance for the consortium. We are investigating to what extent wear will occur. It is a potential risk that we are taking into account. We do not expect that loose particles will cause problems with the PlasticRoad. A wear layer or special coating should be able to prevent this. Research will have to show how durable the material is and what the consequences are. We are looking for the most sustainable option.

Is the PlasticRoad toxic in case of fire?

We can use a fire retardant or fire resistant coating to prevent this. Our aim is also to avoid and minimize possible harmful substances that would be released in case of fire. This is being researched and is a factor in the choice for the right material. We will first be looking into the application of the PlasticRoad as a bicycle path, which significantly reduces the chance of a fire (as there will be no vehicles driving on it).

What type of plastic will you use?

There are many types of plastic and plastic waste, each with different properties. The difference in properties of the added plastic has a large effect on the structural shape and strength of the PlasticRoad. Within the consortium, this question is being handled by the partners Total and Wavin, both specialists in the field of plastic and the recycling of plastic. The research into this question is currently in full swing.

Is it possible to reuse the material of the PlasticRoad?

It is definitely possible to reuse the material, but the degree to which is currently being examined. The idea is that the PlasticRoad is made from ordinary everyday plastic waste. This is what makes the concept so interesting: plastic waste is given a new, high-quality function.

Won't animals nest or settle in the hollow space of the PlasticRoad?

This is a possibility that we will have to investigate. At this time, we do not know whether this might occur. However, in order to avoid this, we will have to design the elements in such a way that it is not possible.

Won't animals gnaw on the PlasticRoad?

We do not expect this because the PlasticRoad will consist of a hard plastic. Hard plastics are generally ignored by rodents. Research will have to show whether this is actually the case.

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News

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Contact

Do you have a question about the PlasticRoad concept? Please check our frequently asked questions first. If your question is not listed, please complete the contact form. We will answer your question as soon as possible.

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