Cumbria trailblazes by trialling ‘plastic road’

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A new plastic road is to be trialled in Cumbria before being introduced in other areas if it proves to be successful. Cumbria is the first county in the UK to trial the innovative product which, it is claimed, will be used in the creation of stronger and more durable plastic roads.

The plastic used comes from recycled plastic waste and forms a substitute for bitumen in a standard asphalt mix. The material is known as MR6 and is produced by a local firm, MacRebur, the directors of which are based near Eaglesfield in nearby Dumfries and Galloway. The firm’s founder and Managing Director, Toby McCartney is a former pupil of Dalston’s Lime House School near Carlisle.

The company was pleased to secure a £1M investment from Virgin following a successful entry into Richard Branson’s 2016 Virgin Voom competition in the “start-up” category. By reducing the use of bitumen in asphalt, the carbon footprint associated with road construction can be reduced. In addition to being greener, the new recycled plastic product is also more cost effective because less ongoing road maintenance work is required due to its strength and longer lifespan.

MR6 was trialled by Cumbria County Council early in December. It was used in the resurfacing of a demanding section of road at a junction on the A6 close to Calthwaite. The road is used by significant numbers of heavy goods vehicles and had previously failed to stand up to the demands of the traffic going to and from a water bottling plant and a sand quarry. It is hoped that the new product will prove to be more durable in this location than conventional asphalt.

Plastic waste recycling in Cumbria has provided the materials for use in the A6. Not only should it make the junction stronger and more resilient, but it should reduce the occurrence of pot holes. Toby McCartney explained that, in addition to advancing innovation in road maintenance and construction, Cumbria County Council also hopes to reduce the amount of plastic being dumped in landfill sites through the use of the new product.

MR6 has previously been used successfully on private roads, but Cumbria’s trial is the first time that a public highway will benefit from the new product. It has generated interest from many different parts of the world and plans are in hand to use it in repairs to road surfaces throughout the UK following underground cable works by Virgin Media.

Compared with the standard asphalt that is currently used in the UK, the new product offers reduced raw material costs, lower road maintenance costs and reduced costs for plastic waste disposal.

Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s member for Highways and Transport said that he was delighted that Cumbria was the first council in the UK to trial the new surface. He expected that the product would provide a more sustainable and stronger solution for filling pot holes and surfacing roads.

The trials will be monitored over the next six months, and provided that they are successful, plans to extend the use of the new material on other roads in Cumbria will be developed in 2017.

Video courtesy of  Macrebur.

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