Dow has teamed with dairy brand Shiny Meadow to construct China’s first road made with recycled plastic milk bottles. The project gives hard-to-recycle plastic a second life and helps keep plastic waste out of the oceans, landfills, streets and rivers.
The “Milk Bottle Road” used more than 6,000 used milk bottles and other plastic waste and is located at the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) Xuhui campus. Although milk bottles are easily recycled, recyclers often reject milk bottles due to the high contamination rate caused by milk residue.
The collaboration is aligned with Dow’s sustainability commitment to stop the waste by enabling 1 million tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships by 2030. Research has found that China is the top source for plastic waste, with an estimated 3.53 million metric tons of it ending up in the ocean annually. To help stem the tide of plastic waste, Dow is working with governments, brand owners and non-profits across Asia to find new sources for hard-to-recycle plastics – including plastic roads.
“This project shows the creative solutions we can come up with when we collaborate with partners to create a sustainable system to advance a circular economy,” said Bambang Candra, Asia Pacific commercial vice president, Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics.
The polymer-modified asphalt (PMA) road was enabled by Dow’s ELVALOY™ RET asphalt modification technology. In addition to ensuring hard-to-recycle plastics don’t go into the environment, PMA roads have a number of benefits – including lower carbon emissions and a longer life. That’s because the reduction in the use of bitumen makes the roads more durable and lowers energy consumption during construction, which in turn, reduces greenhouse gas discharged.
Demand for this technology is growing throughout the Asia-Pacific region, where plastic roads have already been constructed in India, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam. In India, Dow worked with government officials and waste collectors in Bangalore and Pune to bring together the people and materials needed for 40 kilometers of roads – diverting 100 metric tons of waste from landfills. That’s equivalent to 25 million flexible pouches.
“Hard-to-recycle plastic are often discarded in landfills and waterways without consideration for its value in other applications,” Candra said. “Using our materials science expertise, we’re looking for innovative ways to help bring a new purpose to waste bottles and empower brand owners and other in the value chain to reduce plastic waste.”