Dutch cyclists can now ride down a recycled plastic bike path

When it comes to recycling plastic waste, the Dutch are a pretty inventive bunch. We’ve seen office furniture fashioned from waste recovered from Amsterdam’s canals by folks in boats made from plastic trash, street furniture made from the stuff in the capital too, and household waste recycled into a temporary pavilion for Dutch Design Week. Now the first cycle path constructed using recycled plastic has opened in the municipality of Zwolle in the northeastern Netherlands.

The PlasticRoad concept is the brainchild of Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma from engineering firm KWS, who first sketched an outline in 2013. But it wasn’t until 2016 that KWS partnered with pipe manufacturer Wavin and oil/gas giant Total to move the project forward.

On September 11, a two-lane bike path made using recycled plastic was opened to cyclists. It’s 30 meters (100 ft) long and runs between Lindestraat and Verenigingstraat in Zwolle and is said to contain the equivalent of 218,000 plastic cups or 500,000 plastic bottle caps. The collaboration does admit that the pilot bike path doesn’t use 100 percent recycled plastic, but that’s the eventual aim of the project.

The PlasticRoad comes in prefabricated modular blocks that are reported lightweight and easy to install with space underneath already in place for pipes and cables. The design allows water to drain away quickly, with the facility to temporarily store run-off under the surface in times of heavy rainfall.

The designers expect the PlasticRoad structure to last three times longer than traditional road surfaces, though this remains to be seen, and it’s projected that the surface won’t suffer from cracks and potholes. It’s created to be circular too, which means that the plastic could be recycled at the end of its operational life.

In order to collect data on how it’s performing, sensors have been installed in the area to monitor such things as temperature, the number of cyclists who ride on the PlasticRoad surface and the durability of the bike path.

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