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.

Print Friendly and PDF
SUBSCRIBE TO EHN'S MUST-READ DAILY NEWSLETTER: ABOVE THE FOLD
From our Newsroom

Bayer to replace glyphosate from US lawn products by 2023

'Roundup' manufacturer also sets aside $4.5B for glyphosate-related lawsuits.

Record levels of harmful particles found in Great Lakes fish

"I've been studying microplastics for a long time and this is the study that blew me away."

LISTEN: Brian Bienkowski on amplifying diverse voices through podcasting

"I get a lot of hope in talking to them about where the field can go from here."

Fractured: The body burden of living near fracking

EHN.org scientific investigation finds western Pennsylvania families near fracking are exposed to harmful chemicals, and regulations fail to protect communities' mental, physical, and social health.

Breast cancer: Hundreds of chemicals identified as potential risk factors

Researchers find nearly 300 chemicals linked to breast cancer-contributing hormones in everyday products, and call for a renewed focus on women's exposure risks.

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.