You might soon be driving on roads made of recycled plastic

Make it happen
by Drei Laurel | Mar 12, 2019
PHOTO: Aris Ilagan

Here’s an idea: How about instead of letting plastic waste end up in oceans, forests, and wherever else any air-breathing, food-eating human would rather not have it end up, we use it to build roads instead?

This is exactly what the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) plans on doing. This week, the company announced that it is working with materials science company Dow Chemical to turn hard-to-recycle plastic waste into an alternative raw material for asphalt.

“This initiative is part of our push toward greater sustainability. Two years ago, we announced our major water sustainability project: to cut SMC water use by 50% by 2025,” SMC president Ramon S. Ang recently said in a statement.

“Recently, we reported that we beat our 2020 intermediate deadline of 20% reduction, by two years. Last year, we announced another initiative, and that is to address solid waste pollution. This project is part of that goal,” he added.

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In a statement, SMC says using recycled plastic will provide roads with better durability and improved skid resistance. These benefits are on top of lower costs and, of course, reduced waste.

“Developing roads using plastics that would have otherwise ended up in landfills or our bodies of water is an environment-friendly method of disposing of scrap plastics,” Ang said. “We can help our environment and at the same time improve the quality of our infrastructure projects. We are eager to begin this initiative.”

According to SMC, Dow Chemical has already worked on projects that have utilized plastic to modify the properties of bitumen, which is used in producing asphalt. This has been tested in India, Indonesia, and Thailand. To kick things off, SMC plans to try out the alternative asphalt in small municipal roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.

“While we are proud to be the first-mover in this area, we are very hopeful that we won’t be the last or the only ones,” Ang continued. “The research is there and available to everyone, and we’ll be glad to share our own processes and experience. At the end of the day, this kind of innovation will benefit the same environment we all share.”

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PHOTO: Aris Ilagan
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