Vancouver: Where the Streets Are Paved with Recycled Plastic

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A street scene in Vancouver, British Columbia. The city is testing hybrid asphalt made with recycled plastic that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to street paving by 300 tons per year.

Throughout ancient history, one of the best indicators of whether or not a civilization had its act together was the quality and condition of its road system. The Book of Revelation in the Bible takes this notion to its extreme in its description of heaven, where “the street of the city was pure gold.”

Today, contemporary cities would be ridiculed (and bankrupt) if they tried to meet those heavenly expectations. As Kristine Lofgren explains in Inhabit(November 25, 2012), Vancouver, British Columbia is experimenting with a road material that makes a whole lot of sense considering how much there is to deal with: recycled plastic. The city has teamed up with Toronto-based GreenMantra, which produces hybrid asphalt that uses recycled plastic as a binder. The plastic allows the asphalt to flow at a much lower temperature than regular asphalt, requires about 20 percent less fuel to produce than regular asphalt, and also reduces the vapors emitted during the street-paving process.  Altogether, Vancouver city officials are hoping to reduce greenhouse gases by 300 tons per year through the new process alone.

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