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Sturgeon County to test-drive roads made from recycled plastic

Part of NAIT research project
2810 CountyBriefs01 plasticeprfeat 060 dr
FUTURE HIGHWAY? — Sturgeon County council voted Oct. 27, 2020, to test-drive experimental asphalt from NAIT made from post-consumer plastic waste. The bottles shown in this St. Albert recycling plant are an example of such waste. The asphalt was scheduled to be deployed in 2021. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

Sturgeon County residents will get to test-drive roads made from recycled plastic next year as part of a NAIT research project. 

Sturgeon County council agreed Oct. 27 to chip in $30,000 of in-kind support to the Asphalt Paving Applied Research Project. 

A partnership between the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Lafarge Canada and GreenMantra Technologies, this project is part of a 10-year, $10-million collaboration with Inter Pipeline called Plastics Research in Action, which aims to find ways to turn waste plastics into new products. 

The project seeks to test the performance of asphalt made with post-consumer plastic waste, council heard from utilities manager Jeff Yanew. Other teams had tested this asphalt in warmer climates, and the NAIT team wanted to see how it held up under Alberta weather. 

Yanew said NAIT had asked Sturgeon and Strathcona County to test their experimental asphalt. The county would likely deploy test strips of it in an industrial park and on a lower-traffic road next year. 

County council voiced enthusiasm for the project, with Mayor Alanna Hnatiw noting that it fits in well with the county’s plastic industries and the federal government’s recent moves to ban certain single-use plastics

“This is innovative work and I’m more than happy to be able to support it.” 

Little information about the project was available as of press time. Inter Pipeline is expected to unveil more details on it on Nov. 19.  

Recycled plastics in roads has been around for decades but has yet to catch on in the industry, said Hugh Donovan, St. Albert resident and now-retired head of the City of Edmonton’s road materials testing and quality assurance lab, in an email. The City of Edmonton first used it back in the 1980s when it ground up Fisher Price toys to use on Terwillegar Drive, and had several road mixes that used non-recycled plastics.  

Donovan said many road departments have toyed with recycled plastics in asphalt, but few have studied its long-term performance. Researching this technology is definitely a good idea. 

“It’s a nice idea, and it might work, but prove to me that it is something that will provide a benefit to the pavement and not just (something to) get rid of something we can’t get rid of anywhere else,” he said. 

Strathcona County is scheduled to vote on this project sometime in November, said county spokesperson Jennifer Moncion.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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