Roads in the United States are traditionally paved with asphalt that uses mixtures of crushed rocks and petroleum-based oils, such as bitumen. With a global plastic-waste crisis that effects the land we live on and the oceans we swim in, companies around the world are battling this crisis by replacing bitumen with recycled plastics.
India has recycled plastic into asphalt since the beginning of the 21st century by paving more than 60,000 miles of plastic-infused roads throughout the country.
MacRebur, a U.K.-based plastic polymer manufacturer, said it was inspired by India’s ingenuity with plastic and has advanced plastic-based asphalt into the United Kingdom Mac- Rebur said 20,000 single-use plastic bottles or about 70,000 plastic bags are used in every ton of its asphalt.
Although this is innovative, Dr. Julian Mills-Beale, associate professor of civil engineering and construction management at California Baptist University, said nothing comes without a catch.
“Car tires slowly mill the road they are driving on and project particulate matter into the atmosphere that we all breathe, potentially causing cancer. Plastic asphalts need to be tested gradually and con- servatively before knowing the potential health risks,” Mills- Beale said.
Mills-Beale said he plans to test plastic asphalt by opening a construction lab at CBU in the beginning of 2019.
Jake Reade, project manager for Matich Corporation, has many years of experience in the paving industry and acknowledged the health concerns raised by Mills-Bealein saying that compared to the dangers posed by regular asphalt, the health concerns are not any different when using plastic in asphalt, and are nothing to worry about.
Both Reade and Mills- Beale said when the end goals of big business and science coincide, health-risks and pollution should be addressed and averted.
Using plastic in asphalt to help the environment may sound admirable but unknown health risks could arise from doing so.
Hannah Ruston, freshman music education major, said she wants to know the possible health risks but also supports the use of plastics in asphalt.
“Possible health risks may be discouraging to people but you do not hear about people getting sick from asphalt. So I think if (plastic asphalt) gets rid of more plastic instead of it being wasted, then it is a really good idea and cause,” Ruston said.
Plastic use in asphalt is a new practice with little data behind its use in the United States which limits its use. In the next 10-to-15 years, plastic-infused asphalt maybe be seen in Riverside as more data arises.