Plastic Bridges and Roads

Plastic bridge

Who knew that recycled plastics from automobile bumpers and milk jugs could make a bridge strong enough to support a 70-ton tank?

Constructed from more than one million recycled milk jugs (170,000 pounds in total) and scrap plastic from automotive bumpers, the 17 foot, fiberglass-reinforced bridge was installed in the autumn of 2008 near Fort Bragg, NC. To test its “metal,” the U.S. Army drove an M1 Abrams tank across the new plastic bridge. According to researchers at the Rutgers Institute of Advanced Materials, a tank is four-times more difficult to support than a semi.

Military officials claim that a comparable wood bridge would weigh three times as much, require more fasteners, take three times longer to build and cost considerably more. Plastic bridges are built to withstand very heavy loads while requiring little maintenance – most are expected to last at least 50 years.

Given the strong public desire to recycle everyday plastics, and the considerable challenges posed by America’s aging infrastructure, there would seem to be a bright future in store for this technology.

Soon enough, this technology may spread. A team of entrepreneurs has developed new technology that recycles plastics for use in road construction. The plastics repel water, helping to prevent seepage that compromises the integrity of the surface. The resulting surface can help extend the life of roads three-fold. This application has caught the government of India’s attention where the first projects have been widely celebrated.