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New asphalt formulation uses recycled PE film

The formulation could achieve many of the same benefits of traditional polymer-modified asphalt formulations, including improved performance, decreased cost, and increased lifespan of asphalt.


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June 17, 2020 by Canadian Plastics

Photo Credit: Stock.adobe

A new asphalt formulation using recycled polyethylene (rPE) film recovered from retail locations could achieve many of the same benefits of traditional polymer-modified asphalt formulations, including improved performance, decreased cost, and increased lifespan of asphalt.

The findings are the result of the New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) for Film Asphalt Project, which is a partnership between the U.S.-based Plastics Industry Association and the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT).

The new formulation represents a sizable end-market opportunity for recycled mixed films, the groups said.

The Washington, D.C.-based Plastics Industry Association partnered with NCAT to conduct a battery of tests using federal and state transportation standards, a necessary step before large-scale implementation across the U.S. “We’re making our research publicly available in an open-source format,” said Plastics Industry Association president and CEO, Tony Radoszewski. “The entire plastics industry is working to demonstrate the application of recycled material.”

Research shows that even in small amounts, rPE could improve properties such as stiffness and resistance, without cracking due to low temperature or fatigue. With the right blend of rPE and a reactive co-polymer additive, new asphalt formulations match the effectiveness of traditional styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymer (SBS) at less cost.

“As a leading institute for asphalt research, NCAT was well equipped to work with our plastics industry partners to develop new formulations that can use recycled plastics,” said NCAT’s assistant research professor, Fan Yin. “This not only creates a new and important end market opportunity but lays important groundwork for further testing around improving the lifespan and performance of roadways using recycled feedstocks – creating an environmental win-win for the asphalt industry.”

Based on successful lab-scale research on the latest rPE formula, the Plastics Industry Association is now working with several companies to use it on privately-funded roadways and parking lots. 

Asphalt research with NCAT is just one component of the Plastics Industry Association’s larger New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) project, an effort across the entire plastics supply chain to develop new end markets for post-consumer recycled plastic. Across the globe, attention is focusing on recycled plastics in road projects.