September 2019 — At the Starting Gate!

It’s been much too long coming, but here it is: the first Plastic Up-Cycling newsletter.

Your plastics up-cycling team has two members so far:

  • Scott Rosin ( plasticupcyclingscott@gmail.com )
  • Katharine Valentino ( plasticupcyclingkat@gmail.com )

Contact either of us with your questions or concerns, and most especially with your offers to help us establish Lincoln County as a leader in converting discarded plastic into useful and durable products.

We have three projects to tell you about:

  • Plastic Roads
  • Plastic to Fuel
  • Precious Plastic

And one issue: our sponsorship.

Plastic Roads Project

The technology to create “plastic roads” involves replacing some of the bitumen in the asphalt mix with plastic otherwise destined for landfills. In India, where the first plastic road was built in 2002, major floods, recurring heat waves and a steady stream of cars and trucks have proved the durability of these roads. In Australia, Bahrain, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, roads, driveways and car parks have been or are being built using this technology.

Tentative conclusions are:

  • All types of plastic can be processed.
  • Minimal or no washing is needed.
  • The roads are more water resistant and less likely to crack than conventional roads.
  • The roads last three times as long.
  • They provide good traction.
  • Potholes filled with the plastic mix last longer than the roads around them.
  • Cost savings can be realized both initially and in maintenance.
  • A significant amount of plastic can be removed from the waste stream.
  • A business that builds or maintains roads can benefit from the good public relations resulting from resolving at least some of the plastic problem.
Our Stakeholders and Participants

We have identified the following stakeholders and participants:

MacRebur, “the Plastic Road Company”

MacRebur in our choice to partner with local stakeholders in the production of products that extend and enhance the bituminous binder used in asphalt.

Two MacRebur products are under consideration:

  • MR6 — For intersections, roundabouts and slow moving, heavy vehicle areas, where deformation resistance is critical.
  • MR8 – For car parks, driveways and local roads, where sustainability and economics are the primary drivers.

MacRebur has contracts and successful histories with countries across the world. In the U.S., trials of its products are now nearing completion in California, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. CEO Toby McCartney has told us that he is now talking with 72 people all across the U.S. about contracts to produce or distribute MacRebur products. We are the first from the Pacific Northwest, however.

See more about MacRebur at https://www.macrebur.com/.

Road & Driveway

Road & Driveway Co. is our local asphalt producer and road builder. Rob Wiener, general manager, says he loves the idea of repurposing what would otherwise be waste material. He has been helpful in pointing us to sources for more information about incorporating waste plastic into the requirements for roads that must be met in Oregon. The Road & Driveway

The Road & Driveway website is at https://roadanddriveway.com/.

Oregon Department of Transportation

ODOT writes the standards for the types and allowable percentage of recycled materials that can be used in the asphalt production process. The department requires two things before including a new material in the standards:

  • Successful laboratory testing of the MacRebur products by an independent research facility
  • Successful trials of roads in Oregon built using plastic-road technology
Oregon State University College of Engineering > Civil and Construction Engineering

The OSU Asphalt Materials Performance Laboratory is where tests will be conducted to evaluate the impact of adding MacRebur products and waste plastics to asphalt. A testing plan and budget are being prepared for us.

Lincoln County Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC)
We have an offer from an experienced (and successful) grant writer who is a member of SWAC to help us with a Department of Environmental Quality grant. The deadline is in early October.

We will be requesting funds for a small amount of MacRebur product, for the laboratory testing of asphalt mixed with that product, and for an actual road test.

Plastic-to-Fuel Project

We are working with Willie E. (Skip) Rochefort, Ph.D., AIChE Fellow, at the University of Oregon School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering on a project to convert plastics to fuel. Our contribution will be to establish a small local site and work with our local waste-management companies to provide the plastic. Skip’s project now sits in his laboratory: a reactor that is no more than about 6 feet by 6 feet and that converts plastic into a diesel additive.

The advantages of a plastic-to-fuel solution to the problem of plastic waste are:

  • All types of plastic can being processed.
  • Minimal or no washing is needed.
  • Labels on bottles and the wood and other vegetable matter in beach wrack does not need to be separated out.
  • The only byproduct is gas, and that byproduct will be fed back into the process, lessening the cost of the gas used as the power source.
  • A significant amount of plastic can be removed from the waste stream.

A business that has provided the location for a reactor can benefit from the good public relations resulting from resolving at least some of the plastic problem.

Later versions of Skips reactor will be larger but will never be larger than is necessary to satisfy the needs of a local smallish community. The idea is to stay small and inexpensive, keeping plastic out of the waste stream and avoiding the costs our waste-management companies have had to incur to transport plastic to a landfill in Salem.

Precious Plastic Project

As we write this first newsletter, Precious Plastic is just a notion. Well, just a notion for us, but it is well established just about everywhere in the world except the North and South Poles.

What is it? As described on the website at http://preciousplastic.com/, Precious Plastic is “open-source machines, tools and infrastructures to fight plastic pollution from the bottom up. For free.” A number of products can be made with this equipment, but perhaps the most interesting use for it is to feed 3-d printers. For free.

As soon as school starts again and Career Technical Education teachers become available, we will be talking with those who have 3-d printers. We want to get small grants to put Precious Plastic equipment into local schools. CTE students will then have the opportunity to collect Type 2 plastic (think bottles), feed that into Precious Plastic equipment in their classrooms and create useful durable products.

At the very least, this project will serve to educate students in possible alternatives to tossing plastic in trash cans. At the most? I wouldn’t put it past our middle- and high-school students to come up with some very creative, sustainable and environmentally sound widgets. We might even encourage a couple of students to become entrepreneurs or scientists or….

Our Sponsorship

Until yesterday, our work was being done as an exploratory effort under the auspices of the Newport, Oregon, Chapter of Surfrider Foundation. However, our projects cannot be classified as any of the organization’s single-use plastic source-reduction programs such as Ban the Bag or Ditch the Straw. Instead, our projects address already existing and future single- and multi-use plastic waste (8 billion tons of it exists now in the ocean now, for example).

Today, we find ourselves looking for another 501(c)3 organization. If any of you reading this newsletter know of a nonprofit that might like to sponsor our work, please let us know. We will not be asking anyone at a sponsoring organization to do any work; we just need sponsorship to operate as a nonprofit and to qualify for most grants.