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Are you paving with plastic?


April 5, 2022
By Don Horne

In their session for the World of Asphalt People, Plants and Paving Digital Conference last month, Richard Willis of the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) and Dr. Fan Yin of the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) explored what it takes to make asphalt paving part of the solution to the plastic waste problem while still maintaining a quality final product.

“In 2018, I got an e-mail from my mom. It was a Facebook video she had seen talking about ‘the plastic road,’ a road modified with recycled plastic in the asphalt mixtures, and it was going to last longer, it was going to save the oceans, it was going to save the world,” Willis explained in his session (click here for a quick video). “I knew this was going to be a significant effort for the industry when an asphalt contractor in Texas was asked at a hearing, ‘what are you doing about recycling?’”

During his presentation, Willis laid out the broader ins and outs of including recycled plastics in asphalt pavement mixes before turning it over to Dr. Yin, who really got into the details of the concept.

“Plastic is not just plastic. It can come in many different types, grades, processes and conditions,” Dr. Yin told attendees. “They are very different, and can have very different properties, and will affect the properties of our asphalt binders and mixtures when we are adding them into the material.”

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Willis and Dr. Yin help asphalt pavement professionals learn how to approach the topic of plastics in pavement, what to look out for, how it can affect different pavement and mixture processes, and what research shows so far in terms of the effect plastics are having on pavement projects already on the ground, including some experiencing less rutting, but more cracking.