The world’s first plastic bicycle path made of recycled bottles, cups and packaging has opened in the Netherlands, as part of a pilot that could see similar roads open up across the country.
The 30-metre path, made of recycled plastic equivalent to more than 218,000 plastic cups, is expected to be three times as durable as an asphalt alternative.
It also contains sensors to monitor the road’s performance, including its temperature, the number of bikes that pass over it and its ability to cope with the traffic.
The prefabricated sections of cycle path are light and hollow making them easy to transport and 70% quicker to install. Cables and utility pipes are able to be easily fitted inside, and the path is designed to drain off rainwater.
The joint venture between the Dutch engineers KWS, the oil and gas conglomerate Total, and pipe-makers Wavin, was opened this week in Zwolle, in the north-east of the Netherlands. A second path is to be installed in Giethoorn in Overijssel, and Rotterdam is the city most likely to take up the technology.
Its is believed that many of the benefits of the paths will apply to plastic roads.
The path’s inventors, Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma, said: “This first pilot is a big step towards a sustainable and future-proof road made of recycled plastic waste. When we invented the concept, we didn’t know how to build a plastic road, now we know.”
Asphalt concrete is responsible for 1.5m tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, equivalent to 2% of global road transport emissions.
When first announcing the concept in 2015, Jorritsma had said: “You see a bottle; we see a road.”
Earlier this year the EU launched an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act on plastic waste and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
Brussels’ strategy, which followed China’s decision to ban imports of foreign recyclable material, was designed to change minds in Europe, potentially tax damaging behaviour, and modernise plastics production and collection by investing €350m (£310m) in research. Each year, 25m tonnes of plastic waste is generated by Europeans, but less than 30% is collected for recycling.
Some doubts have been raised about the plastic path. Harmen Spek, from the anti-plastic lobby group Plastic Soup has warned that small particles of the plastic could find its way into the living environment due to heat, wear and run-off.