How Plastics are Paving the Way to the Future of America’s Infrastructure
In many areas throughout the country, the infrastructure on which Americans rely—bridges, railroads, buildings, and more—is in need of repair. Environmental damage, years of overuse, and the need for more energy-efficient solutions has created a challenge for those in charge of fixing them. And the solution they keep coming up with again and again? Polymers.
As engineers are finding that polymer-based materials are actually helping to strengthen other materials used in construction applications, and that post-consumer plastics (plastics recycled into new plastics) create a green solution, their use in roads, bridges, and buildings is growing significantly, as seen in this article. Furthermore, as experts are seeing that infrastructure damaged by weather events—such as Hurricane Sandy—are in need of a stronger fix, plastics are proving to be sturdier than concrete, wood, and even steel.
As technology and innovation advance, so too do the methods used to incorporate plastics into construction. Recent technology has created more economical and eco-friendly paving techniques with polymers, while the use of advanced thermoplastics has led to bridges capable of carrying more weight. Remarkably, a community even created plastic lumber by collecting used soda bottles, which led to various uses.
These methods have multiple environmental benefits and long-term cost savings (many proving to last decades longer than traditional alternatives). However, it isn’t only in the long-term in which money can be saved. Many of the polymer-based building materials have proven to have maintenance-free characteristics that require easy installation, saving money from the very beginning.
It isn’t just private companies and small communities that are realizing the obvious benefits. The U.S. Army is getting behind the movement, and universities, such as Rutgers University, are, according to an article on the subject, “leading the charge to recycle and repurpose consumer plastics” and use them for the nation’s infrastructure.
From pavement to seawalls, and new bridges to decades-old railroads, many are now discovering the power and potential of plastics.