Plastic is proving to be a double-edged sword for the human race. Sure, it's cheap to produce, relatively durable and able to be shaped into just about anything. Unfortunately, it's also shockingly long-lived in the environment after it's been discarded; it leeches all kinds of gross stuff into the soil and water and don't even get me started on six-pack rings and seabirds.
Because of plastic's bad aspects, people are working to find new uses for the stuff rather than just sending it to landfills or recycling it through conventional means. One of these uses that we've talked about is as a prototype binding agent for asphalt called Neo. Well, now Neo is being put to the test in downtown Los Angeles.
According to an announcement by TechniSoil, the company behind Neo, it pulled up part of First Street between Hope Street and Grand Avenue (right by the famous Disney Concert Hall) and repaved it using this recycled plastic binder. This particular piece of road was chosen because it's real, real busy, and sees a great deal of wear and tear and deformation from use, including deep rutting from heavy vehicles like buses.
Now, the Neo binder is unique because it replaces a significant amount of petroleum that is typically used in conventional asphalt binder with recycled PET plastics. Each lane mile uses the equivalent of 150,000 plastic water bottles, and as a bonus, the Neo pavement is claimed to be up to 60% more durable than conventional asphalt.
This pilot project is being overseen by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services (aka StreetsLA) and TechniSoil. Its end goal is to see if incorporating Neo into future paving projects in LA -- a town that has a lot of shockingly bad roads, considering we don't have a freeze/thaw cycle -- is feasible. The whole project also ties into Mayor Eric Garcetti's Green New Deal for LA and could also lead to significant cost savings for the city, thanks to its increased durability.
"Los Angeles is where the world comes to test its best ideas -- where the latest innovations in sustainability find a proving ground, a laboratory, and a home built into the very fabric of our city," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in a statement. "With this technology from Neo, we can move closer to our most ambitious climate goals, improve the way we deliver high-quality city services, and pave a path to a greener future."
In addition to the binding agent, the Neo paving process uses recycled asphalt that's been ground off of the road surface, which further reduces waste and negates the need to use virgin, hot-mix asphalt that is super energy-intensive to make, has to be trucked in from a production facility and is stinky and gross. The latter is important because, as a resident of DTLA, I assure you that it's plenty stinky and gross all on its own.