Print Friendly and PDF
Where does your recycled plastic go? Perhaps into future highways.
www.washingtonpost.com

Where does your recycled plastic go? Perhaps into future highways.

An article in Monday's Washington Post proposed that the plastic recycling problem could be solved by using the recycled plastic to make roads.


This is a quintessentially bad idea. It threatens to become a prime example of how today's solutions can become tomorrow's problems if you don't think it through.

For this to make a difference, it would have to go to scale, with massive numbers of roads being made of recycled plastic. If it didn't go to scale, it would become a boutique band-aid, allowing us to feel good about a faux solution but not really solving anything.

Here's tomorrow's problem if this gets implemented: Roads degrade because they get abraded by vehicular traffic. That becomes massive amounts of micro and nano plastic particles… plastic dust. Storm run-off would carry it into the waste water system or directly into surface waters.

Air currents would transport it in the wind. Sooner or later a lot of it would wind up in the oceans. And ultimately in our poop. It would become even more of a problem than what we have today.

Exactly how much of a problem would depend upon what mix of polymers were used and what additives might be in the plastics, as that would determine the particles' toxicity.

It's terrifying to think about, frankly.

Become a donor
Today's top news

What will it take to give babies a phthalate-free start in the world?

It is currently impossible to have a completely phthalate-free neonatal intensive care unit in the U.S. Health experts say that needs to change.

From our newsroom

WATCH: Pete Myers and Tyrone Hayes reflect on tremendous progress in the environmental health field

"It isn't one scientific finding that accomplishes a structural change in science. It's a drumbeat — one after the other — for decades."

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

LISTEN: Gabriel Gadsden on the rodent infestation and energy justice connection

“What it really comes down to is political will and resource allocation.”

Listen: EHN reporter discusses EPA's new proposed air pollution limits

Kristina Marusic joined Pittsburgh's NPR news station to discuss the proposed new rules

Racist beauty standards leave communities of color more exposed to harmful chemicals: NYC study

"How do you change centuries of colonialism and racism that have always uplifted light and white skin tone and features?”