Most people nowadays acknowledge plastic pollution as a big problem of the 21st century. They are now finding ways to fight the ever-growing amount of waste we produce which can take even thousands of years to break down. Toby McCartney, the engineer who’s taken a pro-active role in this fight, may have found just the perfect solution for plastic waste reduction.
McCartney was inspired by two things when we came up with this perfect idea. First, he realized that any child, including his daughter, shouldn’t grow up in a world where things such as large amounts of plastic in the oceans should be of concern to them. Second, when he was on a trip to India, he saw that the local people there melted the plastic waste and then used it to fill the potholes on their roads. So, these two things led him to start his own company which uses plastic waste to make roads.
More info: macrebur.com
The company, MacRebur, has the details of its origin story on its website:
“The idea was born when our CEO, Toby McCartney, was working in Southern India with a charity helping people who work on landfill sites as ‘pickers.’ Their job is to gather potentially reusable items and sell them to be turned from rubbish into something useful again. Some of the waste plastics retrieved by the pickers were put into potholes, diesel poured all over them, and the rubbish set alight until the plastics melted into the craters to form a makeshift plastic pothole filler.”
However, McCartney knew that the UK councils wouldn’t accept the idea of burning plastic and diesel. So, he found a better way by getting his friends Gordon Reid and Nick Burnett. Together, they launched MacRebur in April 2016. Ever since then, they have worked on developing techniques and formulas to use plastic waste for road construction.
Firstly, they take plastic from commercial and household use. Then, with the help of a granulator, they turn the plastic waste into small pieces of no more than 5mm. Then, their website lists the other details: “Next, the plastic granules are mixed with our activator—it’s this that makes the plastic bind properly into our roads. Our activator is patented and what’s in it is a secret! This blend of plastic granules and the activator—let’s call it the MacRebur mix—then goes to an asphalt producer.”
The company also makes sure to use proper temperatures so that they don’t pollute the nature.
“Well, making asphalt requires heat—usually around 180°C. We make sure that all the plastic we use melts at a temperature lower than this—around 120°C—so it homogenises properly without creating microplastics. It’s for this reason that we can’t use all plastic waste but we can use most things, including black plastic, which is difficult to recycle.” MacRebur reported.
McCartney claims that these roads that are constructed using plastic waste are 60% stronger than traditional ones. They may even last up to three times longer than regular ones.
“We went through about five to six hundred different designs of different polymers that we were mixing in before we found one that actually worked. At the end of the day, plastic is a great product. It lasts for long, which is a problem if it’s a waste product, but not a problem if we want it to last,” McCartney said in his interview with CNN.