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CSIR and industry collaborate to advance adoption of waste plastics in road construction in SA

Publication Date: 
Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), as well as the plastics and road industries, is working on a demonstration project to evaluate the feasibility of using waste plastic in local road construction.

The project aims to identify different low-value plastic waste types, meaning waste plastics that are not currently attractive to the South African recycling sector, and evaluate their use as a binder/bitumen modifier in asphalt road surfacing, according to South African standards.

Contact Person

David Mandaha

012 841 3654 / 072 126 8910

dmandaha@csir.co.za

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), as well as the plastics and road industries, is working on a demonstration project to evaluate the feasibility of using waste plastic in local road construction.

The project aims to identify different low-value plastic waste types, meaning waste plastics that are not currently attractive to the South African recycling sector, and evaluate their use as a binder/bitumen modifier in asphalt road surfacing, according to South African standards.

Georges Mturi, senior researcher and manager of CSIR’s Advanced Material Testing Laboratories says the idea is to support industry and government in finding new and local end-use markets for waste plastic.

“These requirements ensure that roads are built using quality materials that comply with proven performance criteria, in order to produce durable roads,” says Mturi. “As such, any new plastic materials or plastic-modified materials utilised in the local industry must be incorporated into road specimens and tested for compliance to the set criteria before they can be implemented in South Africa.”

Saied Solomons, Sabita CEO says, “Unless we are targeting the specific waste problem that we have in South Africa, there is no other need to use plastic material in our roads. It is also not sensible to use recycled plastic that is already recyclable in plastic. This is the general view of the asphalt road industry, which is also participating in this project”.

The use of waste plastic in road construction is not new. The technology has been used both in Africa and internationally, including Australia, Canada, Ghana, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

However, the South African road construction industry is governed by strict national standards and specifications to ensure the performance of road pavements.

Standards and specifications differ from country to country, as a result of differences in legislative and environmental conditions, especially with regard to traffic loading and climate. This, he says, restricts the direct implementation of waste plastic technology from one country to another. Such technology would need to be refined and modified accordingly to make it ‘fit-for-purpose’ for South Africa, as per the existing set criteria.

CSIR expert Prof. Linda Godfrey, who manages the DSI’s Waste Research Development and Innovation Roadmap Implementation Unit, which funds the demonstration project, says the intention is to make sure that this technology is implemented in a responsible manner in South Africa. “At a time when there is so much attention on the leakage of plastic into the environment, it is important that this technology is implemented in a way that does not cause further environmental harm; for example, through the generation of microplastics from the wear and tear of these road surfaces. We want to support the growth of the waste and recycling sector in South Africa by providing credible evidence to support decision-making,” says Godfrey.

The 15-month project, which commenced in March 2019, involves both laboratory work to evaluate the feasibility of using recycled plastics according to South African standards, as well as a demonstration phase, which will test the application of the technology on a stretch of road, using the CSIR’s Heavy Vehicle Simulator.

Dr Henry Roman, Director of Environmental Services and Technologies at the DSI says, “It is envisaged that the success of this project could pave the way for the adoption of this technology nationwide. This could provide an avenue towards job creation in the sorting and processing of waste plastic material. We invite road owners and municipalities, as well as asphalt producers, to partner with us in identifying road test sections for trials during the implementation phase of this technology adoption”.

Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics SA adds that the demonstration project is one of a number of projects and initiatives that the plastics industry is currently involved in, as part of its drive to end waste plastic in the environment. “The creation of the South African initiative to end plastics waste, is a collaborative forum and action group involving the full packaging value chain. Part of the focus will be on supporting and developing projects similar to the demonstration project on road construction,” notes Hanekom. “But we have to ensure that our decisions are evidence-based and that we find scalable South African solutions for plastic waste in the environment.”

Mandy Naudé, CEO of Polyco states, “While Polyco is encouraged to see the willingness of various municipalities to explore innovative end-use solutions to help them address their waste management challenges, it is imperative that the long-term impacts are determined and addressed prior to their implementation. Our aim, through working with the CSIR on this Plastic Road development project, is to present a scalable and legally compliant solution that can be widely implemented as an acceptable end-use market opportunity for difficult-to-recycle materials in South Africa.”

For technical enquiries, please contact Georges Mturi 012 841 2234 / 083 210 0198

ENDS

Issued by David Mandaha, CSIR Media Manager, 012 841 3654 or 072 126 8910.

About the CSIR:

The CSIR is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. Constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1945 as a science council, the CSIR undertakes directed and multidisciplinary research, technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development to improve the quality of life of all South Africans. For more information, visit www.csir.co.za.

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