Plastics releases results from asphalt research project
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Plastics releases results from asphalt research project

The results are promising for recycled polyethylene film.

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The Plastics Industry Association (Plastics), Washington, has released promising results from its New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) for Film Asphalt Project in partnership with the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT).

According to a Plastics news release, extensive testing shows that a new asphalt formulation using recycled polyethylene (rPE) film recovered from retail locations could achieve many of the same benefits of traditional polymer-modified asphalt formulations, including improved performance, decreased cost and increased lifespan of asphalt. The new formulation represents a sizable end-market opportunity for recycled mixed films.

According to Plastics, the association partnered with NCAT to conduct tests using federal and state transportation standards, a necessary step before large-scale implementation across the U.S.  

“Plastics is proud to have worked with NCAT, and all of our project partners, to produce the most comprehensive set of data on the effects of rPE in asphalt. We’re making our research publicly available in an open-source format,” says Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of Plastics. “The entire plastics industry is working to demonstrate the application of recycled material.”

Research has shown that even in small amounts rPE could improve properties such as stiffness and resistance without cracking due to low temperature or fatigue. According to Plastics, with the right blend of rPE and a reactive copolymer additive, new asphalt formulations match the effectiveness of traditional styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymer (SBS) at less cost.

“As a leading institute for asphalt research, NCAT was well equipped to work with our plastics industry partners to develop new formulations that can use recycled plastics,” says Fan Yin, assistant research professor at NCAT. “This not only creates a new and important end-market opportunity but lays important groundwork for further testing around improving the lifespan and performance of roadways using recycled feedstocks, creating an environmental win-win for the asphalt industry.”

Based on successful lab-scale research on the latest rPE formula, Plastics is now working with several companies to use it on privately funded roadways and parking lots. 

Asphalt research with NCAT is just one component of Plastics’ larger New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) project, an effort across the entire plastics supply chain to develop new end-markets for postconsumer recycled plastic. Across the globe, attention is focusing on recycled plastics in road projects.

Download the latest report here.

View reports and presentations on all recycled plastics in asphalt research conducted to date by Plastics here.

Request the Phase I Asphalt Testing Report here.