Caltrans repaves roadway with recycled plastic bottles

First state highway section to use 100% recycled material

July 31, 2020 / 2 minute read
Caltrans repaves roadway with recycled plastic bottles
Image: TechniSoil Industrial / Caltrans

The California DOT (Caltrans) will repave a section of Highway 162 in Oroville this week using recycled asphalt pavement and liquid plastic made with single-use, plastic bottles.

This is the first time the department has paved a road using 100% recycled materials. The pilot project features work on three lanes of a 1,000-ft highway segment. The department is testing the material for later use throughout the state. A 1-mile segment of pavement using this treatment will recycle 150,000 plastic bottles. 

“This pilot project underscores the department’s commitment to embracing innovative and cost-effective technologies while advancing sustainability and environmental protection efforts,” Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said in a statement.

The "plastic" roadway has been found in previous tests to be more durable and last two to three times longer than traditional hot-mixed asphalt pavement. This pilot will be the first test on a state highway.

Caltrans currently has a cold in-place asphalt recycling program that uses large machines to remove 3 to 6 in. of roadway surface and grind up the asphalt while mixing it with a foamed binding agent made of bitumen, a leftover sludge from oil refining. However, the recycled material used in this process is only durable enough to serve as the roadway base. Trucks need to deliver hot-mix asphalt from a production plant miles away and place a final layer over the base.

Using this new technology developed by TechniSoil Industrial of Redding, a recycling train of equipment grinds up the top 3 in. of pavement and then mixes the grindings with a liquid plastic polymer binder, which comes from a high amount of recycled, single-use bottles. The new asphalt material is then placed on the top surface of the roadway, eliminating the need for trucks to bring in outside material for a paving operation. By eliminating the need to haul asphalt from the outside, this process can significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The $3.2 million paving project covers a stretch of Highway 162 between the Feather River and Christian Avenue in Oroville. Lamon Construction Company Inc. of Yuba City is the prime contractor. The construction schedule is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials, and/or construction-related issues.

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SOURCE: Caltrans

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