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Roads: Materials

Department for Transport written question – answered on 4th February 2020.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what plans he has to deploy (a) blended recycled plastic with bitumen and (b) other new technology to create more durable road surfaces.

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The Government is committed to exploring innovative ideas and processes for constructing, repairing and maintaining road surfaces. The Department for Transport is aware of a number of initiatives, both here in England and overseas, in which recycled plastic and other waste product materials are added as a binding mix to asphalt. Technological innovation in road maintenance processes can also improve efficiency and reduce waste by recycling existing road material.

As part of a Live Labs research programme, the Department for Transport, in conjunction with the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) and private partners, announced in January 2019 that we were providing Cumbria County Council with £16 million to extend a trial for the selection and testing of recycled plastic in surfacing and structural treatments on the Local Road Network for which they are responsible. This trial will assess the suitability and durability of the plastics additives from minor patching work and pothole repairs through to major resurfacing.

Elsewhere, on the Strategic Road Network, Highways England is committed to investing in innovation to help meet the economic, environmental and efficiency challenges we face in our changing world. Its Innovation Designated Fund provides £150 million in the first Road Investment Strategy for innovation capital projects to discover and implement emerging technologies, new materials and ways of working. Highways England currently has no plans to deploy blended recycled plastic with bitumen in road surfaces, but it continues to investigate its potential for future use.

A trial of asphalt containing Ground Tyre Rubber was successfully completed along the M1 motorway in May 2019. By including a small amount of Ground Tyre Rubber into the asphalt surface it can present a good opportunity to re-cycle tyre rubber at its end-of-life, while not undermining asphalt properties and performance.

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