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In Vancouver’s Push To Be The World’s Greenest City, It’s Now Using Recycled Plastic In Road Asphalt
November 16, 2012
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You know all that stuff that ends up in your blue box for recycling. Well, the city of Vancouver has come up with a new way to use it.

It's experimenting with a new asphalt mix that includes recycled plastics - everything from old plastic milk jugs to yogurt containers to water bottles.

Basically, the plastic is ground up and made into a wax, which is then used as a warm mix for asphalt to be used on city roads.

Peter Judd, the general manager of engineering services in Vancouver, says the idea is a win win.

He says the city is cutting down on plastic from the blue bin, saving energy and helping to cut greenhouse gases.

"We are using about 20 per cent less fuel at the asphalt plant than we would otherwise be using so an enormous saving in fuel costs and enormous saving in the greenhouse gases that are associated with that," said Judd.

in-vancouvers-push-to-become-the-worlds-greenest-city-its-now-using-recycled-plastic-in-road-asphalt-feature1.jpg Judd estimates that with the amount of paving the city does each year, emissions could be reduced by 300 tonnes.

Vancouver is hoping to be the "greenest city in the world" by 2020.

Traditional hot-mix asphalt needs to be heated to about 140 to 160 degrees C to flow onto the road.

By adding the recycled plastic, the temperature can be reduced by up to 40 C, Judd says.

With the asphalt able to flow smoothly at a much lower temperature, workers can put it down on cool days, which wasn't possible before.

And because the asphalt is cooler, Judd says it significantly reduces the vapours that come from paving, which is safer and healthier for workers.

Right now, the new system is 3 per cent more expensive than a typical mix system, but Judd says there are big savings over time - especially as fuel costs go up.

The city is trying out the new mix in several parts of the city, and Judd believes it will be as durable as the mix they use now.

Officials have worked with GreenMantra of Toronto to develop the new material.

Right now, Vancouver gets the recycled plastic mix from Ontario, but officials hope to eventually produce it locally.

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