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ʻEwa road will be the 1st made of recycled plastic in Hawaiʻi

recycle asphalt construction
Zoe Dym
/
HPR

Fort Weaver Road in ʻEwa will be the first road made of recycled plastic in Hawaiʻi.

The state Department of Transportation is partnering with Oregon-based plastic manufacturing company Pacific Geosource. The goal is to create asphalt made of at least 50% recycled plastic.

plastic asphalt pellets
Zoe Dym
/
HPR
The plastic asphalt pellets from Pacific Geosource.

Asphalt is currently made with 20% to 40% recycled material.

The DOT is also working with professors from the University of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Pacific University to study the road’s durability and environmental impact.

The universities will observe the road over the next two years and monitor how long the asphalt lasts, and how much emitted microplastics there are compared to regular asphalt.

"The manufacturer has already done some testing on this recycled plastic in asphalt. And they reported that they found no increase in microplastics leaching compared to their control asphalt samples," said Jennifer Lynch, the co-director of the Center for Marine Debris Research at HPU.

"If the results rule out environmental pollution concerns, then the state of Hawaiʻi can scale up a sustainability program in which plastic from marine debris taken out of our ocean could be recycled into our roads here," Lynch explained.

The plastic used in the roads is currently sourced from the continental U.S., but if the pilot project is successful, the plastic will come from Hawaiʻi oceans and consumers.

The transportation department expects to complete construction in ʻEwa in several weeks.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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