Willmott Dixon to use non-recyclable plastic in new roads at Bristol housing development

A new housing development in Bristol will feature roads made with the equivalent of 150,000 plastic bags of non-recyclable plastic waste originating from the construction phase of the scheme.

As the plastic melts into the mix, there are no microplastics present

As the plastic melts into the mix, there are no microplastics present

Construction firm Willmott Dixon has agreed a deal to create a second life for non-recyclable plastic used during the construction of the Ashton Rise development in Bristol.

The company is working with waste management company ETM, plastic road company MacRebur and Gworks Surfacing to incorporate plastic construction waste into the asphalt used on new roads in the area.

The plastic will replace bitumen, a carbon-intensive material found in asphalt. The non-recyclable plastic would otherwise have been sent for incineration or landfill. By placing the material into the roads, the equivalent of 150,000 single-use plastic bags will be given a second life.

Willmott Dixon’s managing director in the South West, Neal Stephens, said: “This innovation is also complemented by low-carbon heating, which is also being installed at the site, making Ashton Rise a highly sustainable development with individual homes making lifetime carbon savings of 23.5kg.

“By showcasing these innovative solutions to support carbon waste reduction, we hope to inspire other developers.”

The scheme will also save 1.6 tonnes of carbon emissions. The asphalt will also be more flexible, reducing the number of cracks and potholes that will emerge. As the plastic melts into the mix, there are no microplastics present.

Willmott Dixon is amongst the big-name businesses within the construction sector that have jointly formed a task group aimed at creating an industry-led framework for net-zero buildings. Convened by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), the group will see representatives from the coalition of companies examine and debate what the term “net-zero carbon” should mean for new buildings in the UK.

Specifically, the group will debate whether carbon-neutral construction and supply chains should be a requirement for a building to be classed as net-zero, in addition to direct operational emissions.

Innovative roads

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees added: “This innovative approach will set Ashton Rise as the benchmark for new, environmentally friendly residential developments as residents will drive on some of the greenest tarmac in the country. It’s the introduction of innovations like this that will help drive us forward towards achieving our environmental goals as set out in the One City Plan.”

It's not just construction waste that can be used in new roads. Another potential solution to this waste challenge comes from Tarmac, which has developed a new asphalt technology capable of recycling end-of-life tyres into road coatings.

The system breaks tyres down into two kinds of small particles called ground tyre rubber and crumb rubber modifier, which are then mixed with hot paving grade asphalt to modify its composition.

Tarmac claims that every kilometre of road surfaced with the innovative material would divert 750 tyres from landfill or incineration. It is currently undertaking a string of large-scale, real-world trials of the material, with one of the most recent applications having been made in Coventry as part of a deal with Coventry City Council and Balfour Beatty.  

Matt Mace



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