French company Vinci has built the world’s first stretch of motorway made entirely from recycled road materials.
The “fully recycled road” is a kilometre long and is part of the A10 motorway between Pons and Saint Aubin in southwest France. It was built by two subsidiaries of Vinci Construction, Eurovia and Vinci Autoroutes.
“The old materials are fully reprocessed to make the new roads at a mobile factory [edit: a plant movable to any site]. The old supplies are then made into the new road,” Eurovia Communications Director, Maxence Naouri, told FRANCE 24.
Vinci said that most of resources used were then ground down from previously built roads and that extracts from quarries were not used at any stage. This therefore lowered the company’s use of natural resources, its carbon footprint and “reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50%”.
Naouri explained, “The trucks did not need to drive to and from the quarries, greatly reducing our CO2 output.”
The construction of the mobile plant was central to the project’s success as it had previously been impossible to produce asphalt mixes with 100% recycled content outside of regular plants. As a result, the 3,000 tonnes of material used for the kilometre of road were created on site.
This is of course not the first time recycled materials have been used in road construction. In Southern India, the potential for recycling waste into road material has been recognised for a long time. For example, reusable plastic is harvested at landfill sites to sell to road maintenance firms. The plastic is then piled into the often giant potholes that riddle Indian roads before being soaked with petrol and set on fire. The plastic melts into the holes, fills them up and then hardens.
A British company, MacRebur, realised the international potential of this plastic solution and came up with “the innovative idea to take a mix of waste plastics, pelletise them and add them into the making of an enhanced asphalt road”. Since 2016, the MacRebur solution has been using plastic to build roads from as far afield as Australia to Dubai.
Last month, the city of Zwolle in the Netherlands launched the world’s first bicycle lane composed of waste that would normally be discarded. This involved old plastic bottles, festival beer cups, cosmetic packaging, and plastic furniture. Still in its pilot phase, the bike path contains 70% recycled plastic along its 30 metres. The city hopes to create a bike path made entirely of recycled plastic in the future. What makes this bicycle lane particularly unique is that it is modular and pre-fabricated, which means that it can be installed easily anywhere in the world.
New road feels like old road
However, this new French road is different as it is the first time a motorway has been entirely made out of recycled roads. This research project won the ‘Route to the Future’ award by the French Environment & Energy Management Agency.
Motorists have reported no noticeable change driving on this new surface. The new road feels like the old road.