Sustainability Case Study: Turning Plastic Waste into Roads

Winding road through forest

With the goal of reducing marine debris and advancing a circular economy, Dow is collaborating with local governments and other stakeholders to help turn plastic waste into long-lasting roads in Asia Pacific.

In India, Dow worked with government officials and waste collectors in the cities of Bangalore and Pune to bring together the people and materials needed for 40 kilometers of roads – diverting 100 metric tons of waste from landfills. (That’s equivalent to 25 million flexible pouches!) Volunteers pick up the plastic waste, which is taken to local recyclers, who process the material. The material is then sent to local asphalt plants, where they are used to replace bitumen and added to the asphalt mixture, resulting in roads that last longer than traditional roads.

“This project shows the creative solutions we can come up with when we collaborate with partners to create a sustainable system to advance a circular economy,” said Bambang Candra, Asia Pacific commercial vice president for Packaging & Specialty Plastics. “It engages communities on a local level and provides a new value to plastic litter in those communities.”

In addition to the roads lasting longer, they also reduced estimated greenhouse gas emissions by 30 tons by replacing nearly 10 percent of bitumen that would be used in road asphalt.

In Indonesia, Dow worked with the government and various stakeholders to complete the first plastic road trial in Depok. Approximately 3.5 metric tons of plastic waste material were mixed into asphalt to create a 1.8-kilometer-long road, which covered a total area of 9,781 square meters. The result of the two-month-long project was a highly resistant plastic waste-based road that was more durable and stronger than typical roads.

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held December 2017, plastics waste contamination was recognized as a planetary issue with much of the world’s marine ecology under threat. According to research, plastics waste in Indonesia is estimated to reach 9.52 million tons by 2019, or 14 percent of the country’s total waste. This amount of plastics waste could be used to pave an equivalent of 190,000 kilometers of new roads.

“Companies do not make plastics with the intent of it ending up in the ocean, and we acknowledge the strong role the industry must play in order to help eliminate ocean plastic waste by 2035,” said Candra. “We are extremely pleased with the success of this project and what it promises. The technology behind these new plastics-based roads has proven simple enough for wide-scale application in Indonesia’s transport infrastructure. We are confident it will help manage the sheer volume of plastics waste the country produces.”