Jan 14, 2022 - News

Iowa puts recycled plastic roads to the test

A photo of Iowa roads.
Sections of Northeast 22nd Street in Des Moines are being used to test the NewRoad recycled plastic mixture in asphalt. This is after five years. Photo courtesy of New Village Initiative Advanced Materials Group

Iowa is testing a new recycled plastic mixture in asphalt in several spots across the metro in hopes of extending the life of roadways.

Why it matters: Inclement Iowa weather, like today's Saskatchewan screamer, can take a serious toll on our roads.

  • Taxpayers could save tens of millions of dollars in future annual road expenses if the experiments work.

State of play: More than 300,000 pounds of the additive known as NewRoad was used in metro road projects last year, the equivalent of 15 million water bottles.

  • The first metro-area test using the patent-pending technology was launched five years ago in an Iowa Department of Transportation project along Northeast 22nd St.
  • Preliminary results show a heavily traveled section near the Polk County Jail is holding up better than an adjacent portion that used conventional asphalt, Matt Miller, a construction technician with the DOT, told Axios.

What they're saying: NewRoad's Florida-based developer, New Village Initiative Advanced Materials Group (NVIAMG), claims its product can lower road costs as much as 30%, while simultaneously diverting plastics from landfills.

  • Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon are already using it at some of their DSM metro projects, said Perry Beeman, a spokesperson for NVIAMG.
  • It's also being tested in Pennsylvania and used in Minnesota and Florida, he said.

The intrigue: The plastics technology is also being used in concrete, which NVIAMG said makes the material as much as 63% lighter while maintaining its structural strength.

  • Its building materials are cheaper and more resistant to fire, earthquakes, and hurricanes, according to the company.

What's next: The Des Moines test site shows the road is more durable and "you'll probably start seeing more of it," Shane Fetters, a field technician for the Iowa DOT, told Axios this week.

Editor's note: Beeman is a former journalist who worked with Axios Des Moines reporters Jason Clayworth and Linh Ta in previous jobs.

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