A Scottish company has developed and patented a way to use waste plastic in roads and carparks. MacRebur roads are made from plastic bottles and bags and now these roads now can be found from Aberdeenshire to Yorkshire in the UK and from Australia to Dubai.
MacRebur takes plastic waste collected from commercial and household use – the split is about 60 per cent commercial and 40 percent household. The company granulates the plastic waste into pieces not bigger than 5mm. Next, the plastic granules are mixed with an activator which makes the plastic bind properly into the roads. This activator is patented and is a secret! This blend of plastic granules and the activator then goes to an asphalt producer.
In simple terms, asphalt is made of bitumen and stone. But with MacRebur technology, part of the bitumen can be extended with their own mix – reducing the amount of fossil fuel used. The company can do this because it is turning the plastic into its original oil-based state and binding it to the stone with the help of their activator.
It’s not a case of burying rubbish in our roads – in fact, at the end of their life, these roads can be recycled so the plastic waste is used over and over again.
There are no microplastics present in MacRebur because the company uses plastic as a binder, so it melts to create a sticky substance without leaving behind any troublesome particles.
Is this really helping the environment?
One kilometre of road built this way, the company uses plastic that equals the weight of 684,000 bottles or 1.8 million one time use plastic bags. 150,000 tonnes of asphalt has been used in Cumbria annually. If just ten per cent of the asphalt used in Cumbria alone was made using MacRebur, 800 tonnes of plastic waste would be required. That’s more than 500 tonnes of plastic household waste the council collects in Cumbria each year.
Inspiring charity work in India
The idea was born when Toby McCartney, CEO of MacRebur was working in Southern India with a charity helping people who work on landfill sites as ‘pickers’. Their job is to gather potentially reusable items and sell them on to be turned from rubbish into something useful again.
Some of the waste plastics retrieved by the pickers were put into potholes, diesel poured all over them, and the rubbish set alight until the plastics melted into the craters to form a makeshift plastic pothole filler. But if plastic can be turned into a pothole filler, why not turn it into a whole piece of road.