Streets Ahead: making roads out of recycled plastic

We’re all well aware of the almost taboo consumption of plastic. But whilst we dutifully take the bottles, tubs, and packaging out to be collected each week, how many of us put thought into our recyclable waste’s journey from there on?

According to, “NZ is way behind the rest of the western world in waste management. … It is likely that only 50% of what you think is being recycled is actually recycled.
“Compared to other developed countries, NZ has a vague and scattered approach to achieving zero-waste status.”

So what can be done to combat our waste plastic problems?
One interesting innovation making waves in the past year has been the concept of plastic roads. Dutch firm VolkerWessels has unveiled plans to repurpose used plastic by fabricating roading.
As well as the obvious positive environmental impact this would have, there are other benefits:

  • better withstand extreme temperature
  • prefabrication, essentially meaning less construction time
  • can allow for better drainage as well as better configuration for electrical wires
  • lessen reliance on carbon-intensive asphalt production

Whilst only a concept at this stage, Rotterdam, Holland is considering a trial.

I was truly shocked when reading the statistics on New Zealand’s plastic waste. In 2006, we sent 3.156 million tonnes of waste to landfills (Ministry for the Environment (MFE, 2007)). Whilst there has been some improvements to reduce this amount, projections show that the annual amount of waste disposed to landfills will reach 3 million tonnes of waste within the next 10 years.

It’s time we marry the ‘number 8 wire’ mentality with our ‘clean green’ image and consider innovative ways of reusing our plastics. With increased infrastructure construction a big part of NZ’s future, repurposing plastics into roading achieves just that.


If you would like to learn more about where your recycling waste goes, or tips on how to reduce such waste, visit