Many, many peoples' trash may become Los Angeles' treasure, as the city is currently mulling a proposal to use waste plastic in the creation of bitumen—the glue that holds asphalt together.
Los Angeles is in talks with Silicon Valley- and Saudi Arabia-based Technisoil, which specializes in alternative landscaping products, to put together a large-scale plan for plastic-based binding agents in asphalt. For now, a pilot will be conducted at the intersection of West First Street and North Grand Avenue in downtown L.A., inhabitat reports.
The city and Technisoil have conducted tests to make sure there is no leaching of plastic into local waterways, and are prepared to expand the program beyond the test site if all goes well. The process has several advantages, including lower cost, a reduced carbon footprint, and inherent durability due to the longevity of plastics—often a downside to their use elsewhere.
This process is already used in some overseas countries, and has been studied by several U.S. municipalities. Technisoil says the resulting asphalt is actually 16 times more durable than traditional pavement because it is more capable of returning to its original shape after flexing. Some western U.S. cities are already using a variant of this asphalt substitute to repair potholes.
A University of Nevada, Reno, spokesperson who tested the material in road repairs says that it is more durable than existing road pavement, and that the surrounding roads will degrade before those pothole patches do. Its only downside, investors say, is that its surface is more slippery than conventional asphalt.
This can be addressed with coatings and by altering the aggregate components (the rocks and other hard material in asphalt) to compensate for its lack of grip. This weakness makes many western climates the ideal testbeds for the material due to their reduced rainfall amounts.