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Building firm using waste plastic for roads

By Calum MacLeod

Construction firm Springfield Properties, which is developing homes in Dornoch, is on track towards making its developments more environmentally sustainable after becoming the first UK housebuilder to use waste plastic to build a road on a housing development.

The new road surfacing material contains waste plastic, and will be used initially on a section of road at the Moray based company’s Linkwood Steadings development in Elgin.

The product reduces the amount of bitumen needed in the asphalt mix. For every tonne of bitumen replaced, the road surfacing carbon footprint is reduced by a tonne of carbon dioxide. The new surface looks like a traditional road, but thanks to the flexible properties of plastic, it has increased durability and longevity.

For the project Springfield teamed up with Lockerbie company MacRebur, which had developed and patented a way to use waste plastic which would otherwise have gone to landfill or incineration to build roads.

Springfield Properties’ North managing director, Dave Main, said: “Last year, Zero Waste Scotland reported that non-recycled plastic was costing Scotland £11 million a year. They also stated that 20 million plastic bottles were littered around Scotland and that 120,000 tonnes of plastic waste was produced by Scottish households alone.

“The road in Elgin accounts for 20 tonnes of recycled plastic, the equivalent to 17,042 plastic bags or 6000 plastic bottles, which would otherwise have been consigned to landfill or incineration.

“Potholes are an increasing and costly problem which plastic roads could help to address. Between 2014 and 2017, there was a 52 per cent increase in reports of potholes in Scotland alone. MacRebur’s plastic roads have been through rigorous tests to meet British and European Standards and are up to 60 per cent stronger than our current roads, which should improve driving quality and reduce maintenance costs.”

Springfield, which is currently involved in developments in Buckie, Forres, Elgin, Nairn and Dornoch, hopes to use the material in its future projects, as well as inspire the wider industry to consider switching to the environmentally friendly asphalt product. Springfield has committed to working with local authorities across Scotland to raise awareness of the benefits of using recycled plastic in roads and facilitate their introduction.

MacRebur's contracts manager Sarah Lakin said: “We are very proud to add Springfield to our growing list of clients and welcome them onboard as the first housebuilder in the UK to use waste plastic in their roads and we look forward to working with them again. We also hope this pioneering project will inspire other developers in Scotland to follow Springfield’s lead as our product is available across the country as well as the UK and abroad.”

Springfield has implemented a number of green polices in recent years, including the introduction of cabling for electric vehicle charge points.

Springfield Properties chief executive Innes Smith commented: “Exploring ways to protect the environment has been a Springfield focus for some time now and over the years we’ve implemented a number of green policies. Last year, we stopped using plastic cups in our offices and installed electric car charging points for our staff. This led to the installation of cabling for electric car charging points in all our private homes.

“Encouraging our staff is an important part of the Springfield ethos. This includes taking the time to explore new ideas our employees may have. These ideas can come from anywhere – ideas about roads don’t just have to come from the civil engineering team – this one came from marketing.

“Dale has taken this project forward with support from Dave Main. Now we have our first recycled plastic road in place which gives our customers a more durable road and helps with the current plastic waste epidemic. We already have our second stretch of private road planned and going forward, we will be discussing recycled plastic roads with local authorities with a goal to using plastic roads on all of our developments across Scotland."

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