Innovation That Matters

The roads are paved with plastic milk bottles | Photo source Shisalanga

Recycled plastic milk bottles used to repave roads in South Africa


Shisalanga Construction uses high-density polyethene, a thick plastic that is turned into pellets at a local recycling plant

Spotted: In an effort to tackle the waste problem in South Africa and to improve the quality of its roads, Shisalanga Construction has started using recycling plastic milk bottles to make roads.

Shisalanga uses high-density polyethene, a thick plastic that is turned into pellets at a local recycling plant. The pellets are then heated at 190 degrees celsius until they dissolve, and are mixed with additives. They replace six per cent of the asphalt’s bitumen binder, so every ton of asphalt contains roughly 118 to 128 bottles.

The compound is said to be more durable and water-resistant than conventional asphalt, and able to withstand temperature as high as 70 degrees Celsius and as low as -22 degrees Celsius. Although the cost is similar to existing methods, the company believes that there will be significant financial savings in the long run, as its roads are expected to last longer than the national average of 20 years.

In August 2019, Shisalanga Construction became the first company in South Africa to pave a section of road in KwaZulu-Natal, with reused plastic. Two months later, they had repaved more than 400 metres of road, using asphalt made with the equivalent of almost 40,000 recycled two-litre plastic milk bottles. Moving forward, the company has applied to the South Africa National Roads Agency to lay 200 tons of plastic tarmac on the country’s main N3 highway between Durban and Johannesburg.

As one of the many creative solutions to preventing plastic waste, the idea originated in India 17 years ago and has been tested in areas across Europe, North America and Australia.




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