California Potholes May Soon Be Repaired With Recycled Plastic

While environmentalists often see plastic as a problem, some lawmakers in California are starting to see the versatile material as a solution. 

The California State Senate Committee on Transportation unanimously voted to fund a study analyzing how recycled plastic can be used to make new roads. The roads would be paved with asphalt made from recycled plastic.

Recycled plastic asphalt has already been used to repair roads in Vancouver, Canada, and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. There was also a small trial of recycled plastic asphalt in the United States at the University of California in San Diego. That small stretch of road, which was laid in 2019, was the first recycled plastic road in the U.S.

Senator Ben Hueso, the lawmaker responsible for the legislation, said he got the idea from a group of students from Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, California. The students contacted Hueso urging him to find a way to limit plastic waste by finding new ways to use recycled plastic. They believe the proposal could “could change the world of plastic recycling.”

“As a leader on environmental justice issues, California is uniquely positioned to innovate the transportation industry by introducing new technology that could revolutionize the way we look at recycled plastic,” Hueso said. “This bill would simultaneously address two of our state’s most pervasive issues – reducing our plastic waste and fixing our roads.”

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate before it heads to a final vote. If the study yields data favorable to the state, California lawmakers won’t have to look far to find a source for the recycled plastic asphalt. 

TechniSoil Industrial, a California-based company, has already started producing recycled plastic asphalt using an enzyme that breaks down the plastic polymers during the recycling process. 

California is home to nearly 400,000 miles of road making them second only to Texas for most miles of road in the United States. If California were to adopt a plan to use recycled plastic asphalt, the demand for recycled plastic could skyrocket. This could benefit the environment and recyclers alike because recycled plastic will become more valuable and municipal recycling centers will be incentivized to encourage more recycling in their cities and communities. 

Moreover, roads in California need all the help they can get. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave California’s road infrastructure a “D” grade in its 2020 Infrastructure Report Card.

While the impact study has yet to even be approved, it certainly seems like this could be a win-win for California. Californians who want to help can do so by making sure to put their plastic in the recycling bins, not the trash.