Ghana, Scaling New Solutions For Plastic Re-Use

An engineer inspects paving blocks made from recycled plastics in a suburb of Accra, Ghana. CRISTINA ALDEHUELA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In our Authentica shops we offer some artisanal approaches to plastic re-use, and have been fans of the concept since a visit to Ghana in 2013. But the plastic problem will not be solved this way because the level of re-use it is not at scale with the amount of plastic needing re-use. Thanks to Ann Parson fo showing a new potential demonstrated in Ghana more recently:

How Paving with Plastic Could Make a Dent in the Global Waste Problem

Roads in which waste plastic is melted down and mixed with paving materials are becoming more common around the world. Although for now they remain a niche technology, experts say the roads could become one of a diverse array of uses for discarded plastic.

A road running through Accra, Ghana’s capital, looks like any other blacktop. Yet what most drivers don’t realize is that the asphalt under them contains a slurry of used plastics — shredded and melted bags, bottles, and snack wraps — that otherwise were destined for a landfill.

The impetus for many similar road projects underway in Ghana was an ambitious plan announced by President Akufo-Addo in 2018. It calls for Ghanaians to strive for a circular model, to recycle and reuse as much plastic waste as they produce each year — roughly 1.1 million tons — by 2030.

Barely 5 percent of the 5,000 tons of plastic that Ghanaians discard each day makes it to recycling facilities. The rest winds up in landfills, illegal dumps, streets, and waterways, or is burned in open pits, poisoning the air. In a developing nation, “it’s difficult to recycle plastic,” noted Heather Troutman, program manager of the Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership. “It’s expensive, complicated, technical, and much easier just to burn it. But if you could put value on recycled plastic,” by turning it into fishing nets, fuel, or paving material, “it won’t get buried; it won’t get burned; it won’t make it to the ocean.”

First appearing in India two decades ago, plastic roads are being tested and built in more and more countries as the world’s plastic pollution problem becomes more acutely felt. India has installed over 60,000 miles of these roads. The technology, meanwhile, is gaining ground in Britain, Europe, and Asia. Several countries — South Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States, among them — have built their first plastic roads only recently.

A growing number of studies say that roads containing waste plastic have the potential to perform as well or better than traditional roads. They can last longer, are stronger and more durable in respect to loads and rutting, can tolerate wide temperature swings, and are more resistant to water damage, cracking, and potholes. The technology also has the potential to reclaim anywhere from a small to a sizeable amount of plastics from landfills and random dumping, researchers are finding, while providing a significant amount for road paving and repair. In a small nation like Ghana, where only 23 percent of roads are presently paved, waste plastic could go a long way.

Read the whole story here.

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