Non-Recyclable Plastics to Pavements
Investigators: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
This proposal seeks to create high-value and high-volume products from plastic waste for bitumen (asphalt binder) replacement in pavements. The bitumen replacement market is a potential repurposing for large quantities of waste plastics. It addresses an urgent economic and environmental need for plastic recycling as well as the transportation industry. With 4-5% replacement of bitumen, this market has the potential to consume 1 million tons of waste plastics out of the 26 million tons that go to landfills in the US. Also, the study goal is aligned with the global emphasis on enhancing transportation infrastructure sustainability. Moreover, asphalt pavements are 100% recyclable; therefore, plastic waste will remain in a recycling circular loop. Plastic waste, from landfill destined municipal solid waste (MSW), will be formulated for incorporation in bitumen that meets specified rheological and mechanical performance. Through manipulation of the chemical and molecular composition of waste plastics, current challenges, including sorting and processing of different plastics, storage instability and compatibility between bitumen and various plastics will be addressed.
The objectives of this study are as follows:
- Develop compatibility and blending methodology of various plastic waste plastic for bitumen modification.
- Investigate the suitability of plastic types and mixed plastics for modifying bitumen.
- Determine the storage stability of plastic waste modified bitumen.
- Perform chemical and rheological characterization of plastic-modified bitumen.
- Quantify environmental benefits using life cycle assessment (LCA) for plastic-modified bitumen.