Plastic Surgery

Los Angeles roads may soon be paved with recycled plastic

The corner of First Street and Grand Avenue will be the test site for “plastic asphalt.” (Wikipedia Commons)

Technisoil, a company specializing in “Innovation for Modern Landscapes,” is currently in conversation with the City of Los Angeles about a new method of using recycled plastic to pave its roads. By the end of this year, a portion of the street near the corner of West First Street and North Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles will become the test site for what may soon become the city’s new asphalt.

To make the material, known as “plastic asphalt,” Technisoil will transform shredded recycled plastic back into an oil, which will then become the binder in an otherwise traditional method of street pavement. According to the city’s Department of Street Services, the application of plastic asphalt could reduce material costs by 25 percent, and its high level of durability would significantly reduce maintenance costs over time. “This is an exciting technology and a sustainable technology,” said Keith Mozee, assistant director at the Department of Street Services. “And it’s something that we believe going forward could be game-changing if we deploy on a large scale.”

The proposal to replace Los Angeles’ roads with plastic asphalt comes at a time when the city’s waste crisis has never been worse: Last March, China officially stopped accepting the city’s waste and California lawmakers rejected a bill to partially phase out single-use containers last September. With the city’s landfills full to the brim, the Department of Street Services is hoping to put much of their waste to good use. However, the exact percentage of waste diverted for street production cannot be predicted unless the test run on First and Grand is proven viable and plastic asphalt is introduced into the city’s road paving program. Los Angeles would become the first major U.S. city to use plastic asphalt, but its very first application in the country was on a small street of the University of California at San Diego campus last November.

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