Plastic scrap -- Management, Waste minimization -- Sustainability
The growing, global plastic waste crisis is sparking a myriad of solutions from disparate fields. One such end-of-use solution is the application of plastic waste for paving roads. This solution is marketed as a win-win option for plastic waste, use the single-use waste material to pave roads and save money, and simultaneously tackle the accumulated plastic waste. Paving with plastic is occurring globally, but has been especially appealing in the global south contexts where waste management infrastructure is lacking, and pressure to do something about the plastic waste is high. However, there are several environmental and social considerations to paving with plastic that are overlooked, such as: where the inherent chemicals in the plastics end up; the environmental impact of road deterioration; the safety of roadworkers; the long-term impact of such projects; discrepancies between recovery vs. end-of-pipe solutions; the downstream emphasis that distracts from critiquing plastic production; and how such projects place the burden of responsibility on citizens and municipalities, rather than on the producers. These ideas are explored in this perspectives piece, as a way to open up more dialogue and research on the caveats of paving with plastics.
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The final published version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2021.1915406
Published as: Conlon, K. (2021): Plastic roads: not all they’re paved up to be, International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, DOI: 10.1080/13504509.2021.1915406