Vancouver first city to use recycled plastic in asphalt

City workers lay down asphalt on Kingsway in Vancouver using a new mix made of blue-box recycled plastics. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

Vancouver will be the first-ever city to use blue box recycled plastics as asphalt mix on the city's roads, in a move engineers say is a green step forward.

Old plastic milk jugs, yogurt containers and other post-consumer recyclable material will be ground up and made into a wax which then used as a warm mix for asphalt.

"It's actually a lot like crayon wax and what we are doing with this is putting it in the asphalt which we are putting down today," explained Vancouver city engineer Peter Judd at a Kingsway paving site Thursday morning.

For asphalt to be laid properly, it needs an additive to reduce the viscosity, or make the material go down smoother.

This mix makes up approximately one per cent of a typical asphalt batch. The raw cost of the recycled plastic is three per cent higher than typical asphalt mix, but there are significant savings over time, said Judd.

"We are using about 20 per cent less fuel at the asphalt plant than we would otherwise be using so an enormous saving in fuel costs and enormous saving in the green house gases that are associated with that," said Judd.

Judd said the new recycled ingredient also allows crews to apply asphalt on cool days, which wasn't possible before.

The city is piloting the mix in several parts of the city, and Judd said they believe it will be as durable as what's currently used.

The recycled plastic mix is now sourced from Ontario, but the city hopes to produce it locally in the future.

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