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Roads made from waste plastic set for Bristol housing development

Construction company Willmott Dixon has announced that it is using non-recyclable plastic in the roads at its new Ashton Rise housing development in Bristol.

An image of the roads being laid

Willmott Dixon is working in partnership with waste management company ETM and plastic road surface manufacturer MacRebur to install the new ‘green’ roads.

Embracing the circular economy, waste from the construction process is being incorporated into the new roads – ETM collects any non-recyclable plastic from the Ashton Rise construction site, which is then processed by MacRebur to create asphalt.

According to the company, this technology will stop the equivalent of 150,000 single-use plastics bags from being incinerated or going to landfill, whilst also saving 1.6 tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere.

The plastic roads are the latest step in Willmott Dixon’s mission to become more sustainable – the company was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development earlier this year for achieving a 61 per cent reduction in carbon emissions intensity and for ensuring that all sites and offices are powered by 100 per cent clean renewable energy.

Neal Stephens, Managing Director for Willmott Dixon in the South West, said: “This innovation is complemented by low-carbon heating which is also being installed at the site, making Ashton Rise a highly sustainable development with individual homes making lifetime carbon savings of 23.5 kilogrammes.

“By showcasing these innovative solutions to support carbon waste reduction, we hope to inspire other developers.”

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees commented: “This innovative approach will set Ashton Rise as the benchmark for new, environmentally friendly residential developments as residents will drive on some of the greenest tarmac in the country.”

Rees suggested that the new roads represent a step towards Bristol’s One City Plan – the city’s targets for a ‘fair, healthy and sustainable city’ by 2050, saying: “It’s the introduction of innovations like this that will help drive us forward towards achieving our environmental goals as set out in the One City Plan.”

MacRebur’s CEO Toby McCartney added: “Sustainability is a key part of the Ashton Rise development so it’s fantastic to see our technology being used here to repurpose plastic which would otherwise have gone to incineration or landfill for the roads and footpaths across the sites.”

Plastic roads

Plastic waste is increasingly being used as a sustainable alternative to the fossil fuel bitumen used in road surfacing.

Lockerbie-based company MacRebur is expanding the use of its technology, having recently been granted £1.6 million by the Department of Transport to extend its trial of plastic roads in Cumbria. This funding comes as part of the government’s ‘Live Lab’ projects, which will see MacRebur work with Cumbria County Council to carry out trials of its technology to fill potholes.

Explaining that MacRebur's roads do not contain microplastics, McCartney said: "There are no microplastics present in any MacRebur roads, and independent testing has been carried out to make sure of this. This is because the plastic is used as a binder, melting to create a sticky substance without leaving behind any troublesome particles."

Cumbria was the first council in the UK to trial MacRebur’s technology, after the company secured funding from Richard Branson following its win in the 2016 Virgin Media Business Voom competition. The first trial of the product consisted of a £200,000 resurfacing scheme for the A7 near Carlisle, using plastic pellets equivalent to 500,000 plastic bottles.

Enfield Council also announced last year that it would be working with MacRebur to resurface roads using asphalt made from recycled plastics. After a successful trial of the product, the council secured funding from Transport for London to resurface more roads throughout the borough.

It’s not just UK councils that are turning to plastic as a means of road surfacing – MacRebur has been working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, and is planning to set up an international distribution network to bring its technology to roads around the world. 

McCartney added: "Since it's launch in 2016, MacRebur has gone from spending months testing and trialling to create the perfect product, to now selling licenses and factories all over the world.

"MacRebur products have been used in some of the world's most iconic locations, including the sweeping driveway of the famous Gleneagles Hotel and the Swiss village of Zermatt. The team has grown from three members of staff to 13, and it is their mission to help change road standards so that waste plastics are included in every road laid and pothole filled."

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