Innovation That Matters

Ecopals adds plastic waste to asphalt to strengthen roads and reduce the need for petroleum-based materials | Photo source Paul Fiedler on Unsplash

Non-recyclable plastics added to asphalt for stronger, more sustainable roads

Mobility & Transport

The additive improves the longevity of roads and reduces construction and maintenance emissions

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Spotted: Through the improvement of road construction materials, startup Ecopals has set an annual goal to take 1.5 million tonnes of plastic out of circulation and reduce carbon emissions by 1.8 million tonnes in Europe alone. Using non-recyclable plastics that would otherwise be burned, Ecopals created EcoFlakes, an asphalt additive made from a mix of waste materials and streams. Using EcoFlakes in asphalt improves road longevity and reduces the need for virgin materials and petroleum-based products such as bitumen.

A pilot site at Fraunhofer ICT has been in-situ since 2011, providing the partnership of Ecopals, Fraunhofer ICT, and the University of Kassel with 10 years of performance data. The team has found that adding EcoFlakes to roads improves overall resistance to cracking and increases strength at high temperatures, while also maintaining the expected flexibility of the road at cold temperatures.

And for each tonne of asphalt with EcoFlakes added, 6.6 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide emissions are prevented. Ecopals currently seeks feedback from users on the optimum time for mixing materials in the dry and wet stages, and the company is working with local partners in the global south to spread the use of the technology.

From a carbon-negative road repair process to the addition of plastic milk bottles to repaving materials, communities worldwide are seeking to improve the sustainability of millions of kilometres of road. 

Written by: Keely Khoury



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