MU, MoDOT test use of recycled plastic in road resurfacing material

MU, MoDOT test use of recycled plastic in road resurfacing material

The project will use over 10 tons of polyethylene-based plastic scrap to resurface a two-mile section of Stadium Boulevard.

A new pavement mixture made from recycled scrap will be tested on Stadium Boulevard near the University of Missouri (MU), reports the Missourian.

The asphalt pavement, which incorporates polyethylene-based plastic scrap such as grocery bags and drinking straws, is a product of the Mizzou Asphalt Pavement and Innovation Lab located in the MU College of Engineering.

Mike Schupp, a district construction and materials engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), said they expect to start laying down the mixture on Aug. 19. The test strip will then be monitored for several years to determine how it holds up under various weather conditions compared to more traditional pavement.

According to Bill Buttlar, the MU lab director and Glen Barton Chair in Flexible Pavements in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the pavement overlay should last for at least a decade.

The test section will also include an area paved with a mixture made from chemically modified recycled ground scrap tire rubber.

“We thought we’d put it side-by-side with the scrap plastic, which is newer, to see how they work relatively,” Buttlar told the Missourian. “And then we can study the overall sustainability of both solutions.” A standard pavement mixture will be applied as a control section to compare to the other two mixtures.

MoDOT Pavement Engineer Jason Blomberg said using alternative recycling materials could provide a more sustainable pavement solution for the future. If successful, the pavement solution could help recycle tons of scrap.

“There’s not only a reduction of solid scrap materials but it also lowers the energy to construct a pavement, which lowers the overall carbon footprint of the whole construction process,” Blomberg said. “It’s a win-win for the environment.”

The idea for the pavement mixture came from conversations between Buttlar and Jim Fitterling, an MU alumni and chairman and CEO of Dow, a global materials science company.

Buttlar said the lab has been working with Dow for approximately two years to develop the pavement mixture. He said similar projects have been tested in Asia with varying degrees of success, but that MU aims to improve the product to meet U.S. standards.

The resurfacing of sections of Stadium Boulevard started in mid-July, the Missourian has reported. Schupp said MoDOT hopes to finish most of the project by the time MU begins its fall semester.