Dutch Town Debuts World’s First Plastic Bicycle Path

The town of Zwolle – in the north-eastern part of the Netherlands – is now host of the world’s first bicycle path made from recycled plastic. The 30-meter bicycle road contains an equivalent of 218,000 plastic cups and is 3 times more durable than a regular asphalt way. The road is manufactured with a significant amount of recycled plastic but will ultimately be made from 100% recycled plastic.

PlasticRoad plastic bicycle road

Inventors of the PlasticRoad, Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma riding their bikes on the plastic bicycle path in Zwolle.

The concept is the brainchild of Dutch construction company Royal VolkerWessels. Fellow Dutch company Wavin and French-based Total joined the company to put the idea into production under the name PlasticRoad.

Modular capabilities

Because of its modular capabilities, the plastic bicycle path is 4 times lighter than a regular asphalt road and 70% faster to install. Reason for this is that the road can be placed on a sandy surface without any additional foundations. This saves 2-3 layers of asphalt, reducing the impact to the surroundings and less CO2 emissions. Asphalt concrete is responsible for 1.5 million tons of CO2 emissions a year.

The prefabricated modules are hollow and the inside can be fitted with cables and pipes, including sewage pipes and water drainage systems. The sections also contain sensors that monitor the road’s performance, its temperature, the number of bicycles using the road and the durability of the road. This technology makes it the world’s first smart bike lane.

Another added value to prefabricated modular roads is that road markings and guardrails, for instance, can be placed on the road deck prior to its actual installation. The road marks will be painted with special paint that glows in the dark.

Future applications

A second bike road will be installed in the Dutch town of Giethoorn. This location will be used to test additional features, like solar heated roads and light poles that get their energy from the moving traffic on the path.

The Netherlands 2nd-largest city, Rotterdam, will likely be installing the plastic bicycle roads on a grand scale.

The PlasticRoad partners are looking beyond bicycle paths made from recycled plastic. They want to use the same technique to parking lots, train platforms and sidewalks.

Encourage innovation

The province of Overijssel and municipality of Zwolle were keen to pilot this project. They see the PlasticRoad as a solution for future challenges and ambitions toward achieving a circular economy and infrastructure. The parties hope that it will pave the way for further developments and encourage entrepreneurs to come up with other innovative and sustainable ideas.

100% recyclable and reusable by 2030

Globally, 350 million tons of plastic are consumed every year. Much of it ends up on landfills or is incinerated. Europeans, alone, generate 25 million tons of plastic waste, of which only 30% is reused or recycled. Therefore, the European Union (EU) have drafted a plan that focuses on reducing plastic waste within the EU. They want to ensure that every bit of plastic waste on mainland Europe will be recyclable or reusable by 2030. In order to achieve this, the EU will be investing € 350 million in research towards the modernization of plastic production and collection.