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Plastic May Soon Be Part Of California Roads (And That’s A Good Thing)

Plastic pellets in a pile inside a Vista office park building on July 8, 2020.

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Plastic pellets in a pile inside a Vista office park building on July 8, 2020.

California is moving toward a future where plastics may help build the roads people drive on.

Chris Sparks, the president and CEO of MacRebur, recently put little granules of plastic waste into bags at a Vista business park.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

“You can see that we already put .9 kilograms into this,” Sparks said.

That plastic waste is the key ingredient for his company’s asphalt, asphalt that could be widely used in California, and possibly the rest of the nation in just a couple of years.

“We’re identifying manufacturers and certain folks in the industry that have this sort of byproduct. They are dumping it in landfills,” Sparks said. “We’re working with them to eliminate the fees that they’re paying, tip fees to dump this material. Saying, 'Hey let us take that. We can use it for something productive. Take it out of the landfills and save you some money.'”

RELATED: How The Coronavirus Has Impacted Plastic Pollution

Reported by Erik Anderson , Video by Roland Lizarondo

The plastic granules replace oil in the sand and stone slurry created to make the road material.

Putting it in the road keeps plastic out of the waste stream.

The idea came from local students at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista.

And the product has already been tested in the field. There is a road on the UC San Diego campus that was built with the plastic material.

If Senate Bill 1238 is passed, the state’s transportation department will begin looking and the product and setting standards for its use.

“Through this bill we are seeking to expand current state efforts to reduce the cost of road construction and increase the strength and durability of our roads, all the while finding alternative uses for waste plastic otherwise destined for a landfill,” said State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego.

Caltrans could have standards ready by 2023 and that means the product could be used to build and repair roads all around California.

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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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