Construction of South Africa’s first plastic road gets underway

The Kouga Municipality, together with a Scottish company and SA civil engineering experts, will build the first 'plastic road' in Africa.

The construction of South Africa’s first plastic road could mean the end of potholes, create jobs in the region and contribute to saving the planet.

In a statement issued earlier this year, Horatio Hendricks, Executive Mayor of Kouga Municipality, said the local authority would be joining hands with a Scottish company and South African civil engineering experts to build the first “plastic road” in Africa.

“The backlog in road repairs for our region is estimated to be more than R500 million. While Kouga is strong financially, we simply do not have the rates base to deal with this backlog decisively,” he said.

“The DA-led Kouga council has, therefore, been looking for innovative ways to slay this giant since taking power in the municipality in 2016.”

The search led Hendricks to Vicky Knoetze, a member of the Eastern Cape Legislature who first introduced the idea of solving some of South Africa’s road problems through plastic roads to the Provincial Legislature in 2017.

Knoetze facilitated a meeting between the municipality and Scottish innovators MacRebur, whose plastic roads have already been put to the test in the United Kingdom and other countries across the globe.

Also present at the meeting were Port Elizabeth-based civil engineering and construction companies SP Excel and Scribante Construction.

“I am delighted with the outcome and that Kouga has agreed to become the first municipality in South Africa and on the continent to put the technology to the test, ” Knoetze said.

She said what MacRebur offered was an enhancement of the asphalt mix traditionally used for the top layer of roads. Plastic waste is processed into pellets and used to replace a large component of the bitumen in a conventional asphalt mix.

Knoetze said it is estimated that up to 1,8 million plastic bags can be used in just one kilometre of road. The road is stronger and more durable, as water, the main cause of potholes, does not penetrate it as easily as with traditional asphalt mixes. It is also more heat resistant, cheaper to build and easier to maintain.

MacRebur turns plastic waste into pellets that replace a significant part of the bitumen, thus reducing oil consumption. Bitumen is extracted from crude oil. The “secret” material used in the construction of their plastic roads has been dubbed MR6.

Hendricks said Kouga was looking forward to the potential benefits of the trial. He said if the trial was successful, the municipality would like to see a factory established in Kouga to produce the plastic pellets used in the construction of the roads, locally.

“In this way it will be a triple win for our people – better roads, less pollution and more job opportunities,” Hendricks said.

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